Running Out of Time?

Running Out of Time?

Try These Calendar Management Tips

It seems that with every passing year, time management becomes harder and harder to get your arms around.  With new ways to communicate seemingly appearing daily, the onslaught of message and calendar management seems daunting.  

How did it get this way so fast, and will it ever slow down?  Nope.  

So, you better try and manage it better.  “How” is the question – a few helpful tips:

Schedule as Much in Advance to Control Calendar – You know when things will happen – weekly department meetings; quarterly Board meetings; performance reviews; budget process; a planned vacation; the list goes on.  Put as many of those items on your calendar as possible.  These become the immovables and all other “ad hoc” meeting requests can be managed around these.  My strategy at the start of the year is to lock in as much as possible giving me a high-level view of the year – and the expected key events – as I can.  Before every quarter, I map out all of my business travel.  Most won’t do this that far in advance and this enables me to grab the dates that are most convenient to me.  The more my calendar is developed on my terms, the less stress is created.  Taking the initiative (because most won’t) allows you to compartmentalize your calendar more effectively.

Eliminate Meetings that Add No Value – Back in my corporate life, I remember one week I looked at my schedule on Sunday and I had fifty-one (51) hours of meetings scheduled for the upcoming week.  Granted, I was running five different divisions at that time for a billion-dollar company but come on.  Fifty-one hours?  That was an eye-opener for me to take a look at every one of those meetings and seriously question if they are worth having.  Take a look at your calendar and ask yourself “could I get all of this in a weekly email update?”  Do I even have to be updated that frequently?  Eliminating redundant or unnecessary meetings on your calendar will not only free up your time to attack more pressing issues but relieve the time management stress of the meeting attendees.  We are quick to add meetings yet slow to can them.

Consolidate Meetings – If you can’t outright eliminate a meeting, try consolidating “like” meetings.  I have a project today where I am running two similar divisions but in different geographies.  Yes, there are some division-specific items that need to be addressed but also many items that apply to each division – i.e., how to grow sales.  I am moving to consolidate these weekly meetings to foster a more collaborative approach amongst the teams all while shaving an hour off of the calendar weekly.   Time will tell if the productivity gains will offset the individual requirements of each division, but I will never know until I try.  Give yourself permission to change the status-quo on your calendar to further streamline the overall administration tasks at hand.

Calendarize Project Mileposts – Lastly, “projects” that are known in advance, should be placed on the calendar working back from the due date.  I use the term “projects” loosely because it can apply to any of a number of annual events.  Let’s take budgeting for instance.  Every company generally goes through a budgeting cycle that usually concludes in November or December for the upcoming year.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  Invariably, most companies don’t give their teams enough time to work this process into their daily routines.  Rather, they start the process in September or October and cram it through everyone’s calendar in a compressed time.  Why not spread it out a bit more?  If you set the expectation in January that beginning in mid-July, the annual budget process will begin, then teams can begin to assemble all the necessary initiatives and budgetary items to include in the process throughout the year.  You could have everything ready and complete by October and then the finance team can simply update the numbers in November for the upcoming years budget.  This type of “time shifting” can apply to many annual items, i.e., performance reviews, etc.

Managing your calendar is as simple as taking control of it by leaving as little as you can to chance.  We all know that taxes are due April 15th, but how many of us wait until April to start them?  I map out as much as I can and put it into my calendar to help guide what needs to be completed and when.  Compartmentalizing all of the meetings and projects in advance helps to reduce the stress while improving productivity because the deliverables are mapped out in advance.  Communication is speeding up, not slowing down, so it’s time to do a calendar overhaul.

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John Matthews

John Matthews is the president and CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises and is responsible for the management of all consulting activities for the firm, which include retail consulting for multiunit operations; interim divisional or general management leadership; consumer marketing for companies launching products in the retail sector; and strategic project management. With more than 30 years of senior-level experience and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written Game-Changing Strategies for Retailers, which is available on Amazon. In addition, he has two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing for Retailers and How to Stage a Killer Grand Opening!, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.

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