As a business owner you have a lot of freedom to set your own schedule, but that freedom doesn’t come without challenges of its own. Namely, being free to decide your own schedule means it’s on you to make sure all the work gets done in a timely manner.
That’s where calendar management comes in. Effective calendar management helps you stay on top of tasks, meet deadlines, and spend more of your time on the things that matter most to you.
When it comes to managing your calendar for business, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, certain methods will work beautifully for some people and terribly for others. The key is to find the calendar management system or method that helps you to be as productive as possible.
What Is Calendar Management?
Calendar management is all about scheduling and planning. More than just writing down upcoming appointments or tasks, managing your calendar involves scheduling time for each commitment you’ve made and then keeping track of your progress and adjusting your schedule as needed. Done well, it allows you to balance and organize both work and personal schedules.
In addition to keeping track of deadlines and events, managing your business calendar means understanding how much time you need to complete your work and how much time you actually have, so you can prioritize accordingly.
There are a few different ways to manage your calendar:
- Traditional pen-and-paper calendars or planners
- Digital calendar apps or software
- Hiring someone to manage your calendar for you
No one method is objectively better than the others; what matters is that the method you choose helps you stay organized and on-task.
8 Calendar Management Tips
To be clear, no software or pre-printed planner will do all the work for you. But with the right tools and some calendar management best practices, you can organize your busy schedule into something much more manageable.
Here are 8 calendar management tips to help you make the most of your time.
1. Schedule everything — including time for managing your schedule.
As the old adage says, practice makes perfect. Proper calendar management is a skill that can be learned, but it takes time and effort to do so. And because it affects your daily life and schedule, it requires daily attention as well.
If you have trouble remembering to use your calendar every day, then the first step is to start building a habit of opening it up first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Use that time to set goals, write out to-dos, and prepare yourself to get things done.
One of the easiest ways to create a new habit like this is to pair it with a habit or routine you’ve already established. For example, if you normally read, meditate, or scroll through social media each morning, try using some of that time to look over your calendar, write out a to-do list, and set a few priorities for the day.
2. Choose a system that integrates seamlessly.
As a business owner, you likely have a lot going on. Probably the last thing you need is one more single-purpose app or software to learn and keep track of daily.
To avoid this, make sure your calendar integrates easily with the rest of your systems. Many project management tools integrate with popular calendar apps like Google Calendar, and can pull your schedule into the tool’s interface for easy reference.
3. Try time blocking.
Think of calendar management as organizing your tasks and appointments into “containers” of time. Whether those containers are as big as an entire day or as small as 15 minutes, the important thing is to categorize them in a way that makes sense to you.
This could mean:
- Blocking out a certain amount of time for each task you need to work on that specific day
- Assigning “themes” to each day of the week by batching similar tasks (e.g. email marketing, lead generation, and client onboarding tasks on Mondays, planning and outlining projects on Tuesdays, etc.)
- Designating certain days or times to focus on each individual client’s work
- Some combination of the above
There’s no one right way to organize your time, but some ways will work better for you than others. For example, if your to-do list is pretty consistent from day-to-day (or week-to-week), themed days and set schedules may make a lot of sense.
If you have a handful of clients and can allot a certain amount of time to each one per week, this will be fairly straightforward to set up as well.
But if you get a lot of last-minute requests or your task list changes regularly, you may need a more flexible time-blocking method.
4. Automate as much as possible.
The whole purpose of calendar management is to help you manage your time better. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with tedious tasks. Whatever calendar management tool you use, take advantage of its automation features.
Can you schedule recurring tasks and checklists for your daily or weekly routines? How about automatic reminders? The more manual steps you can eliminate from regularly occurring tasks, the more time and brainpower you’ll free up for unexpected or complex tasks.
If you use a more manual system for calendar management, such as paper planners or a less robust digital tool, you can still automate the process by building habits. If you have a habit of opening your calendar and planning out your day first thing every morning, then you won’t have to waste time trying to decide what to do first.
5. Work with your brain, not against it.
There’s a lot of calendar management advice out there from people who claim to have found the perfect failproof calendar system. But just because a system works for someone else doesn’t mean it’s also the perfect system for you.
In this digital age, many people have sworn off pen-and-paper planning, preferring to save time by making a few clicks of a mouse or taps of a finger instead of writing things down.
But if you have trouble remembering things unless you physically write them down, don’t feel like a digital system is the only option. Even if it takes you a little bit more time to write out a list, it’s worth those extra few minutes if it genuinely helps you stay organized in the long run.
6. Set reasonable expectations.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to manage their calendar for business — or daily life — is underestimating how long each task or appointment will take. As a result, one delay sets the entire day’s schedule behind.
To prevent this, give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to complete each task. When possible, add buffer time between tasks and appointments in case something takes much longer than expected.
For example, if you schedule one appointment for 1:00-2:00 pm, schedule the next one for 2:15 instead of right at 2:00. That way, if you end up starting a few minutes late, you have a little bit of leeway to stay on schedule.
The key to efficient calendar management is prioritizing. No matter how organized your calendar looks, if you’re focusing on the wrong tasks, you still won’t be managing your time well.
One helpful exercise for setting priorities is the Eisenhower Box (also called the Eisenhower Matrix). In this exercise, you divide your tasks into four categories:
- Important and urgent: Do these tasks first.
- Urgent but not important: Delegate these tasks to someone else so you don’t spend precious time on them.
- Important but not urgent: Schedule time to complete these tasks later.
- Neither important nor urgent: Delete these tasks from your list. If you truly want to do them, you can come back to them once everything else is done.
Prioritizing hinges on understanding the difference between important (needs to be done by you) and urgent (time-sensitive). If you don’t know which tasks fall into which category, it’s easy to get stuck working on the wrong things at the wrong time.
8. Don’t set it in stone.
Let’s face it: plans change. Even the most consistent schedules sometimes get thrown off-course by emergencies. Good calendar management allows you to roll with the punches and adapt to last-minute requests, cancellations, re-ordering of priorities, and other unexpected changes.
Keep your calendar easily accessible throughout the day and check back in periodically to ensure you’re still on track. As things change, you’ll also need to adjust your calendar to reflect those changes.
Sometimes that may mean postponing certain non-urgent tasks until tomorrow. Other times, it may mean shortening the amount of time you have to work on a particular task. You may even end up with extra free time for tasks you didn’t think you would have time to do.
Calendar Management Software & Apps
While paper calendars or planners may work best for some people, digital calendars have more flexibility to move tasks around and integrate efficiently with a digital workspace.
Whether you’re frustrated with your current calendar management app, or you’re looking to make the move from paper to digital scheduling, here are a few apps and software solutions for you to try:
- Apple Calendar: For Apple users, Apple Calendar works across all of your Apple devices, making it easy to access your calendar from anywhere. It can also pull events from other calendar apps so you have everything in one place.
- Outlook Calendar: For users with a Microsoft account, Outlook Calendar syncs with your email, contacts, and other Microsoft features for easy integration and sharing. You can create multiple calendars (e.g. work, personal, etc.) and view them side-by-side or all together.
- Google Calendar: Integrated with your Google account and email, the Google Calendar app has lots of customizable and automated features for calendar management.
- Project Management Apps: Many project management tools like Asana or ClickUp have calendar views to schedule your tasks and projects. They typically integrate with other calendar apps (like Apple or Google) to automatically keep events and tasks in one place. Plus, you can collaborate and view your team’s projects and tasks next to your own.
Again, the key is to be flexible. You may need to try a few different calendar management apps to get a feel for which one works best for you.
Make Time for What Matters
While we all have the same 24 hours every day, how you manage that time matters. Effective calendar management helps you avoid spinning your wheels on tasks that don’t matter, and focus more on things that really need your attention.
Calendar management is essential to managing your time as a business owner, but it’s not the only way to keep your business organized and running smoothly. As you plan your schedule, be sure to allot time for other administrative tasks like organizing client information, managing business finances, and maintaining any equipment, software, or other tools.
Remember, the more you can automate, the better. Take advantage of time-saving tools like project management software, mobile banking, and automatic reminders on your computer or smartphone to help you stay on-task.
The more you make a habit out of calendar management and other organizational tasks, you may even feel as if you’re actually gaining more hours in the day to grow your business and enjoy your personal life. Now is the time to stop letting your schedule run you, and instead to start putting it to work for you.