Your Calendar Is a Mess

Before you continue reading this, open your calendar and look at it. If you work at a big tech company, there’s an especially good chance it’s a bloody mess. It likely contains small windows of time between meetings. It probably has lots of meetings in the morning. It most definitely has no less than two meetings every single day.

The shotgun calendar

If it does, you’re probably not as happy and productive as you could be. If you manage people and their calendar looks like this, your whole team isn’t as productive or happy as they could be.

Calendar management is an art. One that requires a huge amount of diligence, planning, and trickery. I’m still learning but here’s a few things I try to do for my team and I.

Aim low: Remove 1-2 meetings a week
Obviously, removing a ton of meetings from my calendar is the easiest way for me to clean up the mess. Sadly, it’s also one of the more difficult things to do. This is where I look hard at whether the expectation of me being in a meeting, aligns with the real need of me being there. I’m a realist, so I tried to just remove a meeting or two.

Consolidate meetings back-to-back
Where possible, I try to group my meetings together. I want to avoid crappy 30 minute working windows — It’s impossible to get anything done when shifting context over such a short period of time. I think I do my best work in the mornings, so I try to clear time then to do the work too.

Remove a couple meetings and try to consolidate them in the afternoon

A full day free of meetings
This is a Facebook thing and people love it. We do this on Wednesdays — some of the best work happens here. Give yourself a ‘Wednesday’. My actual Wednesday does have meetings, but only one or two.

Proactively protect your time with “meetings”
Even if you haven’t been able to reduce the number of meetings, or haven’t been able to consolidate that much, you still have moves. I block the time I covet by booking myself during those times. I still get double-booked occasionally, but I try to be ruthless about accepting those. I also save some open blocks so people can book me.

Here’s the thing, if something is really important and my calendar is full, I get an email telling me as much. At this point, I’m able to discuss what it is they want to meet about. I can assess how important it is and decide if I want to give up a block of time or schedule something later.

Yes, those are fake meetings

Do this for your team
If you manage a team, do them a favor: In your next 1:1 sit with them and look at their calendar together. Even if you only make some incremental improvements it will still have a positive impact.

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