Everyone is busy these days, but entrepreneurs might take the cake as the busiest people on the planet. There is, however, a difference between being busy and being productive.
Pro tip: You want to be the latter.
The fact of the matter is that you only have so much bandwidth and brain capacity every week, so you need to plan accordingly. Here are a few simple practices I've been using in my calendar to help alleviate stress and make the most of my time without getting burned out.
1. The Arrow Method
This is my own method that I've been using in my calendar for some time now. It's very simple, and the goal is to make your weekly calendar look like an arrowhead--a lot of stuff in the beginning, tapering out to a fine point at the end.
In order to accomplish this, I schedule the majority of my meetings in the beginning of the week, preferably on Monday or Tuesday. These are mostly meetings I have every week--executive meetings, weekly check-ins, financial updates, etc. So I start out my week with a pretty packed schedule, but then the rest of the week is more open. This has three benefits.
- Flexibility. I know Monday and Tuesday will be busy, but if something comes up, I should have plenty of availability throughout the rest of the week.
- Psychological satisfaction. Honestly, it just feels great to look at your calendar on a Tuesday and see only a handful of entries for the rest of the week. Bonus points if you have nothing scheduled for Friday.
- Helps with travel planning. I know that I can't take a flight on a Monday, but any other day (preferably later in the week) is OK and will have minimal rescheduling needed.
2. The 15-Minute Rule
I've set my default meeting time in Google Calendar to 15 minutes. This may seem insignificant, as I can just change the meeting time, but I have found that starting with a 15-minute window forces me to think about how I'll be using my time. I opt to make meetings shorter than I feel necessary as it forces me and my attendees to be concise and get right down to business. Most of the time, we're able to finish things quicker than we anticipated.
3. Themed Days
Depending on your situation, you may benefit from creating "themed days." If you have certain things you do every week, it can be highly beneficial to categorize everything by day. For example, I do all of my executive meetings on Monday--I know that every Monday I am going to be on calls virtually all day. I know what to expect, I know what I need to prepare for, and I also know that I need to be in a quiet place with good Wi-Fi for the majority of the day.
Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach and probably the most famous coach to entrepreneurs on the planet (having coached over 16,000 entrepreneurs), promotes the concept of "free days," which are days where you don't schedule anything. It's logical, yet something most of us don't do. But in order for your company to grow, you need to grow. Scheduling days for you to step away from the day-to-day work in your business allows your mind to reset and come up with creative breakthroughs.
4. Combining and Sharing Calendars
I've connected all of my email accounts into one calendar so I can easily see everything in one place. Not only does this avoid scheduling conflicts, but I can also differentiate between personal and work-related appointments and prioritize things accordingly.
I also have shared calendars with various parts of my team, so I can see when they're free or busy. With Google Calendar, I can have all of these calendars in one place and then filter them as needed.
5. Using the Right Tools
If you've read any of my other articles, you know that I am a huge fan of asynchronous tools and apps. When it comes to scheduling, Calendly is king. Calendly integrates with your calendar(s) and offers a link where people can schedule meetings with you and have the meeting automatically placed in your calendar. This quickly eliminates any back and forth when it comes to scheduling.
Calendly is great because you can customize it to your exact preferences. You can have it avoid back-to-back meetings or give you a 15-minute window between every meeting. You can also set up a few different URLs, like a VIP one that has a more open schedule than the link you send to everyone else. If Jeff Bezos wants to chat with you, he gets the VIP link.
And while the stock Calendly link gets the job done, you can take it a step further and buy your own URL (speakwithX.com), then set up a domain forwarding to your Calendly link. This is easy to remember and will have people in awe of how you've created such a slick system.
My last piece of advice? Get comfortable saying "no." You're the owner, after all, so you decide what's worthy of your time and what makes it onto your calendar.