Managing your calendar to support the efficiencies of your work life is a learned skill. There are tactics for controlling your time, your calendar, your clients and your work/life balance. You can learn them, adapt them to your own particular preferences, and then you have to apply enough discipline to maintain them.
In working with my clients recently, this topic has risen to prominence again. They feel scattered and interrupted. They waste time in traveling (especially here in L.A., where we are sensitive to long commutes and lost hours in the car).
So, here are some simple tactics you can adapt to your own needs:
- Create standing meetings with your clients at a regular, confirmed day and time into the future. Allow the client culture to dictate how such meeting schedules will be created, but get them committed on all the relevant calendars.
- Respect your own “best-times.” If you are not a morning person, do not be available in the mornings. Notice when you are at your best, and schedule your client contact during those times.
- Cluster your client meetings into whole days devoted to meetings with several of them, so those days are spent in meetings and not expected to be spent on deliverables, prospecting, and other work commitments.
- If travel time is a consideration, schedule your travel times to meetings to avoid rush hour, and leave some buffer time in case the traffic delays you. The stress of sitting in your car worrying that you are holding up your client or a room full of people will certain affect your excellent performance when you arrive. Leave room for the unexpected. This means you need to slow your pace a bit, to leave that time available.
- When booking multiple client meetings into a selected day, leave buffer time between meetings, not just for travel, but (also) so that you can pause after each meeting, make some notes to yourself or deliver some immediate follow up from the just-concluded meeting, and feel complete that you have handled the meeting and required follow up before moving on to the next meeting.
- Re-confirm all meetings the day prior, by noon at the latest. This can be a simple email or text note (“Confirming ….Still o.k. with you?”), or an automated calendar reminder. But get a response. This means you must ask for re-confirmation directly.
- If you generally have significant follow up work after these client meetings, then cluster the client-meeting days with a “work day at your desk” day in between. Otherwise, you will be working in the evenings to do what could be done during the next day-time.
- Design your availability for the kind of time you need and the kind of tasks and work-product you must deliver. Again, you are the one who must design your availability.
- This design will respect the other issues in your work and life: your non-work obligations (health, family, pro-bono work). Block these commitment on the calendar as if they were client meetings.
- Respect your own work time as if you were your own client. Leave long spaces of time to do deep work, client work, prospecting, marketing.
- If a client cancels a meeting with short notice, take control of the schedule: write back the days and times you are available, with no apology (since you did not change the commitment). Do not invade your own time that was sheltered for another client’s deliverable, or a family commitment. Do not waste a “work day at your desk day” to interrupt that open flow of time to travel and meet with a client who changed the plan: offer him other times that fit more closely with your schedule.
- Schedule phone meetings with clients or prospects when you know you will be at your desk. Tell your caller (at the beginning of the phone meeting) how much time you have before you need to end the call or be somewhere else, so everything can get done, and so the agenda can be prioritized.
- Unless the person on the other end of the phone cannot hear that you are in a car (noise, distraction, etc.), do not hold important client meetings, or early prospecting meetings, from an environment that signals the listener that you are “fitting him in.” You owe your clients and prospect more respect (and they will appreciate you for it). And you owe yourself more attention to your own safety.
- If you can, pick the best time for the tedium of unavoidable administration (with your assistant and for those tasks you must do yourself). This is often Friday afternoons, or Monday mornings. Set aside two hours that cannot be interrupted, and settle in to handle the administration that needs to be completed. Otherwise it will nag at you on the weekends (watch that life/work balance!), or you will not be able to find some critical piece of information later in the week.
- Take a few minutes to enjoy the sense of completion that comes with a clean desk and an organized upcoming week.
Finally, try these tactics and adapt them to your own best practices, and then keep to the discipline they offer until they are second nature to you. You will live a longer and happier life, and get more done with less effort.