Ever wondered how to make your calendar work for you? Well, this list is your one-stop shop. Read on for 55 super-practical tips to take your calendar game to the next level. Why 55? Well, when you live and breathe scheduling and productivity like we do, it’s hard to stop once you get started…
Get Started with These Calendar Hacks
If you’re still using a paper calendar, then we bet you’re probably still playing email ping-pong whenever you need to schedule a meeting. An online calendar offers way more functionality than a paper one – think smart scheduling, collaborative calendars, event reminders, and more. Can your Cat of the Month wall calendar do all of that? Stop reading this article, get acquainted with a digital calendar – hint! There’s probably one on your computer desktop just waiting to be discovered – then come back. Why not try Doodle, while you’re at it? We’ll wait.
Keep it Simple!
If you’re using more than one calendar, it’s inevitable: sooner or later, an important event or an urgent appointment is going to slip through the cracks. Stick to one online planner and learn how to make it work for you – this guide is a good place to start.
Sync Your Google Calendar
Don’t forget to sync Doodle’s free online calendar with your preferred calendar software: whatever meetings you schedule through Doodle will automatically appear in your calendar. How easy is that!
Once you’ve chosen a digital calendar to work with and synced it with Doodle to effortlessly keep track of your meetings, it’s time to fill it up with whatever events and obligations are on your online agenda. Before you get carried away with time-blocking and colour-coding (we’ll share more on these hacks later: TL;DR, you can find them here), take a minute to reflect on your scheduling preferences. It’s all too easy to get excited and fill up your mornings with breakfast meetings, only to remember that, actually, you’re not coherent until you’ve had your third cup of coffee at 10am. Reflecting on the kind of timetable that realistically works for you will prevent you becoming overcommitted, overtired, and undermotivated!
There’s no point scheduling an appointment…
…if you can’t remember to keep it. Don’t enter a meeting into your calendar and then forget about it! There’s one super-simple way to make sure your calendar isn’t ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Ready? Here it is:
Set your Online Calendar as your Desktop Background
Every time you log into your computer, you’ll see exactly what you’ve got on for the day, the week, and the month.
Use Event Reminders
To make doubly sure you’re on top of all your obligations, make sure to turn on event reminders – these automatic notifications will keep you on track.
But DON’T Use Default Reminder Settings!
When you have a full calendar, the last thing you need is a barrage of event reminders. Play around with your planner’s settings to customise reminders in a way that works for you. Maybe you don’t need reminders for recurring events. If a reminder 2 minutes before a meeting would be less disruptive than a reminder 15 minutes before, set a shorter reminder time. Then again, some meetings need more preparation – set your reminder to go off, say, an hour before meetings like these.
Don’t Lose Your Flow
Reminders are great…as long as they don’t interrupt your workflow. Sometimes an email event notification is all the encouragement you need to stop deep-thinking work and click over to your inbox. And if you open the event invitation, you might as well go through those other new emails…right? If this situation sounds familiar, avoid the inbox and set up desktop notifications instead.
Prefer All Your Info in One Go?
Some calendars allow you to opt for a daily agenda email in place of receiving reminders and notifications throughout the day. And if you do prefer to see things ‘at a glance’…
Use the Personalised Doodle Dashboard
All your polls and meeting requests are displayed here, in one place. Simple!
Smarter Meetings for Busy People
Use Doodle to Schedule Your Meetings
First things first, get meetings confirmed and into your calendar with a minimum of fuss, using Doodle’s meeting invitation requests. Suggest times, invite participants and let them vote on their preferred times, then select the best option, and let the participants know via a link or an email.
Send Calendar Invites
Once you’ve found the best time to meet, with Doodle Premium you can send a calendar invite to all your participants, so the meeting is automatically entered into everyone’s calendar. Nifty, right? If you want to give it a go, start your Doodle Premium trial. If you’re already a Doodle Premium user, then you probably know that you can also…
Send Reminders and Updates
If you want to send a personalised reminder to meeting participants or update them with any new info relating to your meeting, Doodle Premium let’s you do that, too. Did we mention that trial is free?
Use Doodle 1:1
Premium users also get access to Doodle 1:1, an intuitive tool for setting up one on one meetings. It’s like a regular meeting invitation request, but it’s even more streamlined. Send an invitation with a few possible times, wait for the other person to confirm their preferred time, and then type the meeting into your calendar…wait, did we say ‘type the meeting into your calendar’? We mean, sit back and relax: we’ve already added it in there for you.
Create Recurring Meetings
If your work week always starts with a Monday morning stand-up, or you have a regular feedback session with your manager, don’t waste time entering the same meetings in week after week – set these meetings to recur, and they’ll automatically appear in your calendar.
Adjust your time slots!
Most online calendars use 30 minute and one hour time slots as their default. Unless you change these settings, you’ll find yourself scheduling 30 minutes for calls that should take 20 minutes at most, and an hour for meetings that could be completed in 45 minutes. Customise your time slots to schedule meetings more efficiently.
Schedule Meetings in Chunks
It’s one of the most irritating things about meetings: when they’re poorly planned and organised, meetings can distract from, you know, the actual work that you need to do each day. Research shows that you need time free from distractions to reach ‘flow state’ – and that every time you’re interrupted, it takes on average 25 minutes to find your focus again. Carve out the time you need for tackling complex tasks by scheduling meetings in chunks – say, three meetings one after the other in the afternoon, rather than spaced throughout the day.
Keep the contact info of all your meeting’s invitees in your calendar event, so they’re easy to reach at any time – Doodle Premium does this automatically with calendar invitations. If you’re meeting remotely, add Skype usernames, too!
Use Smart Titles
Labeling every meeting in your calendar ‘Meeting’ isn’t just unimaginative – it’s unhelpful. Give each meeting a specific title, so you can see exactly what’s on your agenda: ‘Budget Update’ or ‘Pitch’ are much more informative than ‘Meeting’.
Don’t forget to note the location of each of your meetings – it’ll save you a last minute scramble as you try and work out where exactly you’re supposed to be.
Time Management Tips You Can Adopt Right Now
Integrate Your To-Do List
Most digital calendars allow you to integrate your To-Do list so you can view the day’s tasks alongside the day’s appointments. It can be tempting to fill up every free slot on your calendar with meetings and social engagements – a glance to the fifteen-point to-do list on the corner of your screen might prompt you to use your time more wisely…
Don’t Schedule Tasks Around Meetings
If you don’t give your daily tasks equal weight with your daily meetings, you may find yourself rushing to finish everything on your list, or cramming a task that usually takes an hour into three 20 minute breaks. Scheduling tasks as well as meetings prevents overscheduling, and gives you a much better chance of actually getting your work done. On that note, why not try…
If it’s good enough for Richard Branson and Michelle Obama, then it’s got to be worth a try. Time-blocking takes the concept of your to-do list and translates it into a calendar format: basically, you assign a portion of time for each task and treat it like you would any other obligation on your calendar. Assigning a time limit for each task means you’re likely to complete it more efficiently; moreover, translating that unrealistic 37-point to-do list into blocks of time might make you reassess which tasks are important and which tasks can be delegated, postponed, or even forgotten.
When it comes to time-blocking, make sure to tackle your most important tasks first. Plans change, and distractions happen, so give yourself the best possible chance of completing your most urgent work each day.
Heard of microscheduling? It’s a system whereby you schedule your time down to the minute – and some productivity experts swear by it. We’re not suggesting you schedule your day in 5 minute chunks like some microschedulers do – but that annoying ten minute break between meetings doesn’t need to be wasted time. Use your calendar to allocate small chunks of time for quick tasks, like sending an email or two.
Work in Batches
Try and complete similar tasks in batches. If you have three employee evaluations to write, set aside enough time in your calendar to complete them all at once rather than working on them at different points in the day. Different tasks require different kinds of focus and call on different sets of skills. Tackling similar tasks at the same time means making less mental adjustments over the course of the day. To help you do this, try and…
Sort Tasks by Types
Think of tasks like writing emails, setting meetings, and making appointments as administrative tasks, think of tasks like brainstorming or writing as creative tasks, and so on. Try and group tasks in your calendar by type.
When arranging meetings, it can be tempting to schedule them back to back – but don’t forget to take your travel time into account. Even if you’re just moving from one meeting room to the next, allowing yourself 5 minutes to get there will keep you from feeling rushed.
Buffer time can be just as important as travel time! If you know your first meeting of the day is likely to be intense and data-driven, while your second meeting involves batting ideas around with a prospective client, leave yourself enough time between the two to get into the right frame of mind.
Forget lunch? Yeah, it doesn’t sound possible to us either. But the truth is, on busy days, it can be easy to forget to eat food, or drink water – you know, all those basic things that keep you alive. You can’t do good work unless you’re well-fed and well-hydrated, so go ahead and schedule some breaks into your day.
Even if we do sometimes forget lunch, there are some things we never forget to do. Important things, like checking social media, or scrolling through kitten memes. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in some light distraction, as long as you don’t let it take over your day. If you know you’re going to click over to your twitter feed, then plan for it! Schedule a ten-minute twitter break, and stick to the time limit! That way your innocent distraction doesn’t turn into a problematic time-suck.
Schedule Do-Nothing Time
In the same way, you should try and schedule in breaks and distractions, you should also try and schedule some time each week to do…nothing. This is your time to think, brainstorm, daydream, relax, switch-off – and it’s just as productive as the time you spend focussing on your work. Do-nothing time is essential for recharging your brain and feeding your creativity.
Mark Yourself Busy
In many workplaces, you won’t be the only one with access to your calendar. Your manager and team might also be able to see it, so they’ll know when you’re available. And any time you’re not in a meeting, you must be available – right? If you don’t have a meeting, but you still don’t want be disturbed, mark yourself busy in your calendar. Your colleagues will know not to interrupt you, and you’ll be able to play Candy Crush – sorry, we mean finalise those budget numbers – in peace.
Don’t Let Work Take Over
Even if you use your calendar primarily for work purposes, consider adding personal commitments (like your partner’s birthday dinner) and goals (a gym visit three times a week) to your calendar. It’s a simple way to try and keep that elusive work-life balance in mind.
Handy Hacks Too Good Not to Share
Categories Are Your Friend!
Are you using your calendar to keep track of work commitments, personal appointments, social events, fitness goals, family birthdays, and more? We hope the answer is yes – and if it’s not, go back and read our 35th tip again, please! But when your calendar is working so hard, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all your commitments. Why not organise them into categories – Work, Social, Family, Fitness, and so on. You can even hide certain categories if you’re finding them too distracting.
What could be better than categories? Colour-coded categories! Assign a different colour to each category and then you can distinguish all your commitments at a glance.
Get a Fresh Perspective
Most calendars offer four standard viewing modes: Day, Week, Month, Year. If you’re viewing in daily mode, it can be easy to get bogged down in short-term goals and lose sight of the bigger picture. Take some time to change perspective: check in with the way your week, month, and year are shaping up, too.
There’s nothing worse than looking at your calendar’s weekend, filled with promising social engagements, when it’s only Monday morning. If you don’t want to be distracted by the thought of Saturday parties and Sunday afternoon picnics when the week has hardly started, you can switch to a work-week view.
Get to Know Your Shortcuts
A real calendar ninja knows all the relevant keyboard shortcuts. Know how we were just talking about changing your viewing mode? If you’re a Google Calendar user, use ‘1’ or ‘d’ to view in daily mode, ‘2’ or ‘w’ to view in weekly mode, and – you guessed it – ‘3’ or ‘m’ to view in monthly mode. And there’s lots more where that came from! Familiarise yourself with your calendar’s keyboard shortcuts and make scheduling even quicker and easier.
Automatically Decline Invitations
In an ideal world, you wouldn’t work outside of office hours. And you wouldn’t accept meeting invitations that fall outside of office hours, either. Maybe your calendar can’t stop you working overtime, but it can stop scheduling meetings after the workday’s over. Simply state your business hours in your calendar, then set the calendar to automatically decline any meetings that fall outside these hours.
Use the World Clock
If you’re doing business with international partners, or you’re working for a multinational firm with offices around the globe, get acquainted with the world clock feature: no more wondering whether it’s too early to call the New York office!
Add Specific Time Zones
You can also add a specific timezone – or multiple timezones for that matter – directly into your calendar view.
Schedule Meetings Across Time Zones with Doodle
World clocks and time zone settings are certainly handy – but when it comes to coordinating calendars with clients and colleagues in different time zones, it’s best not to take any chances. Use Doodle’s time zone feature to seamlessly settle on meeting times with participants in multiple time zones.
Sharing is Caring (for Calendars too)
Share Calendars with Your Team
Turn on sharing settings to let everyone in your team see what your commitments are and when you’re available (don’t forget to mark yourself busy when you don’t want to be interrupted).
And Create a Shared Team Calendar
Having a master calendar, that the whole team can access, with shared deadlines, team meetings, and holidays can help keep everyone on track.
Try Project-Based Calendar
A project-based calendar works on a similar principle to the shared team calendar. If you’re trying to execute a large project, a dedicated calendar can ensure everyone stays on task. Set it so everyone who has a stake in the project can access it, and add in all the relevant meetings, objectives, and deadlines.
Share Calendars with Family and Friends
When you lead a busy life, it can be all too difficult to find time to catch up for dinner with friends – and all too easy to forget to call your grandparents for their golden wedding anniversary. Sharing calendars with your family and friends can help you keep tabs on social and family commitments. And if trying to organise dinner with your three best friends still involves weeks of calendar-wrangling, then don’t forget, Doodle polls are just as useful for setting social meetings as well as professional ones.
Hide Shared Calendars
If you’ve taken our advice, and shared calendars with colleagues, family, and friends – and created a few more dedicated calendars for good measure, then you might find yourself sifting through your friends’ busy dating schedules and your mum’s book club meetings in an effort to get to your own commitments. There’s an easy fix to this one: just opt to hide any calendars you don’t need to see all the time. You can always click on them when you need to check something.
Extra-Credit Calendar Hacks
Look Backwards as well as Forwards
Sure, you’re using your calendar to manage your future – but did you know you can also use it to archive your past? Add notes to key meetings after you’ve had them – what was discussed, what came up in small-talk, any other points of interest – then search your calendar when you want to refresh your memory. Colleagues and clients will be impressed by your powers of your recall, and your calendar is now doing double duty. Win-win!
Considering what to wear in the morning? Ask your calendar to show you the weather. Wondering if Mercury’s in retrograde this month? Find out for sure by adding an astrological calendar. Whatever digital calendar you use, it’s sure to boast a host of interesting extras – make the most of them!
Don’t Forget Holidays
Most calendars will automatically show the public holidays in your region – though, if you’re anything like us, you’re not likely to forget them. But did you know, you can also set your calendar to show holidays in other regions, too? It’s a handy way to keep track of what holidays your international colleagues might be celebrating.
Be Brilliant with Birthdays
Be the employee that brings in cake for the boss’s birthday by adding everyone’s birthday into your calendar – you’ll soon be the most popular employee in the office.
Supercharge your calendar’s functionality with extensions – like the Doodle extension, specifically designed for use with your Google Calendar. Scheduling has never been easier!
And Download a Calendar App
Stay on top of all your commitments and tasks with a mobile app, that lets you access your calendar and all its information on-the-go. May we suggest you try ours? Doodle Mobile not only syncs with your personal calendar, it lets you keep track of all your current doodle polls and create and respond to new ones, wherever you are. Now there’s really no excuse not to be on top of your calendar – happy scheduling!
By Jessica Miller
Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin