10 Time-Saving Calendar & Scheduling Tips

Nowhere is the line drawn more clearly between 'Industrial brains' and 'Electronic brains' than when it comes to the way people prefer to keep and use their calendars. These scheduling tips will really make your calendar talk to you, whether you use a packaged set, print out a computer calendar because you like the paper 'view' for better planning, or you synchronize your Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) with your laptop and office computer and it never hits paper.

Time Guidelines

Although everyone's situation is different we can learn a lot from the CEOs who are running multi-national corporations. Forbes magazine ran a one-page article based on interviews with CEOs and CFOs about their time guideline practices.

Not one scheduled more than 75% of their time, and the majority scheduled no more than 65% of their time. So you're looking at no more than 2/3 to 3/4 of their daily time being scheduled. Here are the earth-shattering reasons that these world class MBAs came up with for these Time Guidelines.

First, everything takes longer than you think it will. Second, things come up that you've got to deal with right away. (No matter how important what you're working on is.)

And the Third, he told as an anecdote, "You never walk into a meeting when there are millions of dollars at stake having worked right up until the last minute before the meeting. Because no-one else in the room has." Take a break before important meetings: you'll be more creative.

Now, I've never been in a million dollar meeting, but I share these with you because the more I apply these Time Guidelines the better my workday goes.

The Buffer Zone (not to be confused with the Twilight Zone) Allow one hour in-between any meeting's scheduled finish and your next appointment. If you work with someone who schedules meetings in your absence, explain that you want them to hold this line for everyone except your boss and their boss (or perhaps your spouse).

Leaving/Returning from a Trip

If you are returning to work at beginning of the business day, schedule no appointments before noon. Give yourself some time to unpack and thoroughly review your voice mail and e-mail. If you return to work mid-day schedule nothing until the next morning so you have re-entry time to process action items from your trip or meetings.

The reverse is true if you are leaving on a trip: allow at least a half day to prepare for the trip itself, as well as a final review of your in-box and e-mail to make sure there are no 'time bombs' hidden among the rest that can wait.

Auto-Response e-mail

For every day you will be out of the office (or in meetings all darned day again) set up an auto-response e-mail that includes an alternate contact, if appropriate. Even if you're only going to be out for one day, informing every one when you will actually be available, creates more realistic expectations.

Voice-mail Outgoing Message

When you are "Out of the Office" it's best to change your outgoing message on your voice mail as well. Let them know when you will be 'open for business' and who to contact in your absence. Start by saying "WAIT! Listen to this message carefully." Many people skip outgoing messages automatically. Other people simply don't listen to what is actually being said because they've heard it many times before.

Be as specific as possible when referring callers to another source. Give the person's name, phone, e-mail, and/or web address. The more specific you are the more likely it is someone will make the effort to get their questions answered by your alternate. The goal is to keep delivering services, even in your absence. This also whittles down the backlog awaiting your return.

Electronic Calendaring Programs

Most computer calendaring programs are connected to a contact database wherein all the pertinent contact information is accessible. Contact Management Programs are the best generation of their simpler contact/calendar antecedents, and are designed to center all your information about contacts by automating and documenting your communication (e-mail, phone, documents, e-fax, notes, etc.). It is truly a relationship-based way of thinking.

In addition, you can use any contact/calendaring or Contact Management program to quickly set up an easy project management tool that will appear seamlessly on your calendar display window or on printouts.

Enter a new contact into your contact record, using the project name (or code name) for the contact name field. You can now schedule tasks, to-dos, calls, and especially meetings on your calendar associated with your work on the project itself, not with the client or another team member. This allows you to plan for your milestones on various projects, and dedicate time to specific projects on your calendar.

In companies which network their calendars this is an especially important technique, because when someone is looking for an open time to schedule a meeting and your calendar shows project meetings, they are more likely to move on to another date.

Color-Coding Your Calendar (paper or electronic)

Color-coding is highly effective way to keep yourself straight with modern life's many and varied activities. Color-coding will reduce misfiles by as much as 90%, even if you don't change anything else about your filing system.

For those who use a paper calendar/planner, using pencil or erasable pen can be helpful especially if you rewrite your calendar often. I recommend that clients carry two erasable pens in their organizer; black for business appointments and blue for personal ones.

I recommend you use the four-color ballpoint pens for scheduling appointments with categories like black-business, blue-personal, red-travel, green-project action items. Buy plenty of whatever kind of pens/pencils you use to color code your calendar!

Your color-coding doesn't have to be this complicated and if you use one of the many excellent computer calendars around you can automatically color code your entries as they appear on screen and in printout.

I use a Contact Management program called ACT. It includes the option to assign a range of priority colors to any activity. However, since I don't schedule anything that isn't high priority I use the colors for my categories of black-business, blue-personal, red-projects.

Also, I highly recommend the color display PDA's over the black/gray/white displays. The display area of the PDA is limited so having the color provides you with improved visual function. Be careful when using the calendar function to check the day before and the day after the one you are looking at scheduling for any complications in coordinating your activities.

Applying any of these guidelines will help you out some. Applying all the tips that you possibly can, will change the way you work for the better. Just do it!

Time-Saving Calendars and Scheduling Tips By Eve Abbott, Excerpted from her new book, "How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM"

Copyright, Eve Abbott All Rights Reserved.

Eve Abbott's newest book is available online at http://www.organize.com Remember to sign up for more of the Organizer Extraordinaire's time-saving tips. Enjoy free brain quizzes to help you work at your personal best!

"How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM" is an entertaining, interactive guide offering easy, online assessments to help make your own personal organizing solutions match your individual work style.

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