I Planned The Perfect Week With Google Calendar
The mother of all time-management tools is none other than the calendar. Yes, that same digital calendar that provides us with a visual outlook of our week, and where we are going to spend our time and energy. Having said that, we do not spend enough time managing our calendar. Our calendar is kind of an asshole — if we don’t know how to manage it, it will manage us. In this post, I will show you my entire calendar and share how I built my perfect week, step by step. But first, here are some common mistakes we make when managing our calendar:
You snooze, you lose.
Three years ago, my calendar was totally transparent. Everyone at work could see it, schedule a meeting with me without checking or coordinating with me first. What happened was that 70% of my time was managed by other people and included: Pro-bono consulting hours with startups, recurring weekly meetings, coaching meetings with my team members, and ‘collaboration’ time. I was managed by other people’s priorities. It got to the point that I felt like I was in a fast-draw match when managing my calendar, I had to shoot first before someone else does, wild wild west style.
I started to set weekly anchors for myself before someone else gets a slot of my time.
Let me clarify, I’m not outright advocating for an open calendar culture, it might not be the right thing for your work environment. But, practicing it forced me to understand a universal fact: In a world where your time is limited and competing priorities vie for it, setting windows for personal priorities allows you to dedicate time to the most important things first.
Separating your work schedule from your personal life is a mistake.
I’ve seen hundreds of calendars of CXOs at big companies. 90% of the time, they manage a different calendar at work than at home. Total separation of the two. When I asked why they do this, I was always answered with the same: “I want to ensure I maintain a work-life balance”. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. It is a myth. What we are really trying to do is find a way to prioritize. The only way to do so is by creating one unified source of truth.
Managing tasks with lists and not with a calendar
When I was starting out in marketing, I had one long list for everything that needed to get done. At times, I was trying to prioritize the list, but it eventually got impractically long and I needed to switch to a task management solution to start over. A year later, I ‘sanity checked’ myself and realized the things that were most important for me to achieve in my role, kept getting pushed back by a week, and then another, until they were at the bottom of the list. I was really frustrated. I then realized that there has to be another way. Think about it — task management applications are designed to capture and record tasks, while the calendar was designed to manage and prioritize tasks.
OK, but how did I plan the perfect week?
As you can probably see, I use Google Calendar as my primary calendar for weekly planning and management.
A few things you need to know about my setup:
1. Color coding. Each color represents a different category I’ve pre-defined. I’ll get back to this. What you can see in this view is a purple color code that shows my meetings, mostly one-on-ones that were scheduled ahead of time.
2. Time-zone view. On the left side, I have a widget that shows me a view across a few different time-zones. There’s also an option to add an additional time-zone. I had Israel and Boston. Here is the full guide on how to do this.
3. Multiple calendars. My calendar is divided into: General calendar, a shared calendar with my wife, a task calendar, and a birthday calendar. However, everything is found under one view. Here is a guide on how to have set-up multiple calendars.
I haven’t ‘set-up’ my calendar yet, and now is the time to plan out my week.
Step 1: Set ‘Anchors’ for tasks and goals
Using the popular task management application Todoist you can set up real-time bidirectional synchronization. In other words, each task you add to Todoist which you define with a date and time will automatically show up in your calendar.
In his book, Professor Dan Ariely writes about scheduling your most important tasks for the first two hours in the day, when our cognitive attention span is the highest. That’s what I try to do, mostly because Dan Ariely said to.
I start the weekly planning with a few important tasks:
- Write an electronic book name Email Warrior
- Get a press release out for a company I work with
- Write a new post for my blog
- Prepare for my Supertools lecture next week
As you can see, in my planning stage I use a split view with Todoist (On the left) and my calendar (on the right). This way I can ensure that the tasks I really want to progress with get the necessary time and attention. The important tasks are also color-coded red, which stands out and signals urgency. Now for phase two.
Step 2: Scheduling time with yourself and for yourself
One of the most important things to do is schedule time with yourself. It forces you to sit and think about the most important things. I schedule at least four hours a week for planning with myself, which are free of electronic devices or notifications; Just me and a whiteboard.
A few ideas on how you can use the time with yourself:
- Brainstorming on your career
- Physical time: Running, exercise, and everything that increases your energy
- Mental time: Meditation, breathing, writing, creating
- Scheduling time: For setting priorities with your significant other and family
- Extra-curricular time: For hobbies, such as piano lessons
- Good habits: Like ‘don’t miss lunch’
- Last, but not least, time to plan the next week
Step 3: Buffer and commute times
John Lennon said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
Our week is very dynamic. No matter how much we plan it, there will always be changes. The question is how much we allow them to affect us. By scheduling in “buffer time” and commute time you can prepare for the week’s unknowns.
Three reasons why I schedule commute times into my calendar:
- To ensure I make it home on time and do not schedule anything past a certain hour
- To track how much time is spent on traveling
- Commute times are great for completing tasks that don’t necessitate access to a computer or immediate cognitive attention. Which is why I do most of my work calls on the road.
Three reasons why I schedule buffer-time:
- For those calls from people who need just ‘a few minutes’ to chat
- People always run late. Buffer time allows you to arrive on time, even if your previous meeting ran late.
- Buffer time helps you space our your schedule, so you can make changes on the go.
Step 4: Scheduling recurring tasks
Here’s the boring part — Those recurring and ongoing tasks, ones that are not cardinally important, but are urgent enough to prioritize into our week. I schedule an hour a day for email time (which we will talk about in the next post).
Step 5: The really important things
I realized what reenergizes me the most is time with my family. Since my son Yalli was born, I try to prioritize family life the most. Totally selfishly, I prioritize it so much that I dedicate one whole day a week for family time.
The idea is as follows: Every week, I designate one day for my partner, it could be on a weekend. The catch is that she needs to fill that day with activities. Additionally, we go over our calendars and try to see when we can schedule things in together, ie: weekly date, bath time with the cutest baby in the world, and other things that energize us during the day. By the way, I am off the grid on this day. I turn off notifications, leave the phone at home, and limit my screen time. Or, at least I try to.
So, after I’ve scheduled in time with my favorite person in the whole world, I present you with
The perfect* week. Tada.
*Perfect, as in during your regular routine. The truly perfect week is on a beach in Thailand somewhere with a watermelon shake in a coconut shell.
And finally, Step 6: The sanity check
After I’ve gone through all the steps, I zoom out on my week. The color codes show me where I dedicated most of my time. I look at how much time I spent on physical health (Green), the most pressing tasks (Red), long travel times (Grey, with a car emoji), meetings with people (Purple). Is everything I scheduled helping me reach my monthly and yearly goals? Do I have enough time with my wife and son(Orange)?
If you want a perfect week planned into your calendar, plan don’t talk.
Translation to English by Toni Hasson 🦸🏻♀️