What’s the most significant barrier to your productivity? Most of us believe it’s the ability to manage both our time and workload.
However, you need the right tools to stay on top of everything on your to-do list. But, that in itself presents another problem. With so many productivity tools and platforms at our disposal, which ones should you utilize? After all, not all of these tools are equal. What’s more, some can be so complex that there’s a steep learning curve.
Fortunately, one of the easiest tools is one that you already possess. And it’s the humble calendar. More specifically, a calendar mobile app.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how you can get more down using your calendar app.
Use the right calendar app.
I get it. Your phone is probably already packed with apps. It’s been reported that there are 80 or more apps on the average smartphone. So, do you really need a calendar app?
Well, first things first. There’s no debate about it. You need a calendar.
Why? Well, calendars promote accountability and help with prioritizing and record keeping. Moreover, calendars can prevent scheduling conflicts and provide structure. In my opinion, those are all important if you want to get more done.
Now, here’s the good news. Your smartphone is already equipped with a calendar app.
With an Apple ID or a Google Account, you are provided with a default calendar app. Additionally, you can create and edit events with either Apple’s iOS Calendar app or Google Calendar for Android and iOS painlessly.
By tapping on the plus (+) button on the screen, you can enter the details for the event. Even better? These apps let you add appointments automatically or from email messages. Furthermore, you can enter a location and adjust how long you are alerted to an event.
Of course, depending on your exact needs, these default calendar apps may not cut it. For example, if your work lives and dies by Microsoft, then Outlook Calendar makes sense. On the other hand, the Calendar app is a no-brainer if you need a calendar to track your time or schedule meetings.
Connect your calendar mobile app with your other digital tools.
What other tools do you have in your productivity toolbox? Well, the average business worker uses 9.4 different applications for daily work.
Whatever they are, sync them up with your calendar app — if possible. The more your tools communicate among themselves, the less context switching you do. For those unfamiliar, context switching is just another word for multitasking. And, despite popular belief, it’s a productivity killer.
As Bard Darrow explains in a Fortune article;
Every time they have to switch apps, they’re spending valuable mental energy on adjusting to a new context. Add this stress to the fact that many employees have no say in which apps and devices they use to do their work, and you have a fast track to burnout.
Furthermore, integration saves you time because you don’t have to enter information into multiple places manually. When you connect Slack with your calendar, you can easily schedule meetings and get regular reminders about calls. You can even integrate all of your calendars together to be in one central location.
Put your calendar app front and center.
It’s natural for people to use whatever’s closest at hand. So the best way to make use of your calendar app is to make sure that it’s easily accessible.
If you’re going old school, that could simply mean displaying a large paper calendar where it’s clearly visible. For example, on your wall or desktop. But what about a calendar app. Ideally, shortcuts should be visible on the mobile device you’re using. And, there’s no better spot than on your phone’s home screen.
It only takes one time for you to make your calendar visible on your phone. And that’s the start of becoming more organized and productive.
Try the “calendar overlay” method.
Some of the most productive people out there are known for scheduling their entire day. While that may sound too restrictive, there’s a good reason for this; it helps you fight back against procrastination.
This concept is sometimes referred to as a “zero-based” calendar. The idea is that if something isn’t scheduled, then it’s a waste of your time and energy.
“I like to think about not just the work I’m going to do during the workday, but I like to think about all the elements of my day,” productivity expert John Zeratsky told NBC News BETTER. “When am I going to take a break? When am I going to have lunch? What am I going to do later in the day to re-energize? It is because I don’t always make the best decisions when I leave that to the moment.”
In his Google Calendar, Zeratsky creates a daily template that contains all the elements for a successful day, which he calls an “overlay.”
By switching the overlay on and off, he can adjust his regular calendar accordingly.
Writing is easier for Zeratsky in the mornings, so he schedules his writing projects into his calendar overlay for the mornings and his meetings for the afternoons.
He can make his overlay fit precisely with his regular calendar when he opens his calendar in the morning. He can, for instance, change the calendar overlay to show his doctor’s appointment in the morning.
“What if I went from working on my writing in the morning to working on that in the afternoon? I can play around with making those adjustments in that template without messing up my actual real calendar,” he explains.
And in his overlay, he will often schedule two events at the same time to avoid procrastination.
Color-code tasks and projects.
“Once you have all of your work data on your Calendar app, you can use color-coding to help you stay organized,” notes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article.
For instance, blue can represent large projects, orange can represent client meetings, and the green represents personal tasks.
“Color coding your Calendar events helps you get a high-level overview of your week with just a glance,” adds Howie. “If you want, you can be more strategic about how you color-code your calendar by using color psychology.”
Set strategic alerts and reminders.
By setting strategic alerts and reminders, you can be more productive and remember what’s most important. Examples could be;
- Starting and ending times for a time block
- Break reminders
- When to meditate, exercise, journal
- Buffers between meetings
- Planning the upcoming week on Sunday evening
The best part? You’ll receive these alerts and notifications directly to your phone. That means you’ll receive them whenever or wherever you are so that you won’t forget.
Case in point, I had a video call this past Tuesday. I was coming back from a doctor’s appointment and nearly forgot. Thankfully, I was back with plenty of time for the call because of the reminder.
Add entries ASAP.
Let’s keep this one short and sweet.
If you accept an appointment, meeting, or event, immediately put that in your calendar. Now, to be fair, if this was through Google Calendar, this is seamless. But, still, to make sure that you follow through with this commitment, make sure you have it scheduled.
The same goes for your priorities. For example, if you block out two hours to complete your most important task of the day, then make sure that your calendar has this blocked out in advance.
The reason is simple. The sooner you get entries into your calendar, the less likely you’ll have calendar conflicts.
Always be on time.
Scheduling an appointment? No problem. Getting there on time? Well, that’s completely different.
While running a couple of minutes may seem harmless, this can have serious repercussions. For one, it can throw your entire schedule off track. For example, let’s say you have a meeting across town and you’re 15-minutes late. This means the start time is pushed back. And as a result, everything else on your schedule also has to get adjusted.
What’s more, it’s disrespectful to others. This can put a strain on your professional and personal relationships. Why would anyone depend on you if you have the reputation of never being on time?
And it can take a severe toll on your life. For example, missing a flight, arriving late for a lunch meeting, or getting to work early leads to missed opportunities, embarrassment, and stress.
Thankfully, as mentioned above, when creating a new event in your calendar app, you can enter the event’s location and adjust how long you’ll be notified to depart.
You can, for example, choose the Travel Time option in Apple’s iOS Calendar. You will be able to find out how long it will take you to get to your destination by car, foot, or other transit methods based on your current or stated location and the distance and travel conditions.
Image Credit: Ono Kosuki; Pexels; Thank you!