Block out Calendar Time for All Work and Family – Not Just Meetings and Calls

Block out Calendar Time for All Work

One of the dangers of being an entrepreneur is giving your all to a growing company – to the detriment of everything else. Your work/life balance may slowly shift in a manner that becomes unhealthy.

An increasing number of hours sat in front of a computer screen and buried in paperwork take over, leaving little time for family and friends, and no space to delve into projects and pastimes designed to reinvigorate and give you a break.

There are all manner of methodologies and technologies that enable you to claw back time, be more productive, and improve your life in a more holistic manner. One, though, that people appear to have forgotten about is the humble calendar.

Use your calendar more

Whether you primarily work with a Mac, PC, or mobile device, you probably already use a digital calendar. These apps no longer merely echo paper equivalents, and now have designs on being a hub for your work life. They therefore offer everything from basic niceties like bolting travel time on to remote meeting appointments, to having you link all manner of documents and notes to any given event.

If anything, though, chances are you should be using your calendar even more than you do, to properly figure out the time you have available. A lot of people use calendars only for scheduled work meetings and calls – events that are set to last for a very specific amount of time. The rest of each day is ‘free’ – and can therefore be used for other things.

The snag with such thinking is this free time isn’t really free at all. Instead, it must contain everything else in your work life – and beyond. On that basis, you should add everything from your life to your calendar.

Get everything in your schedule

For daily tasks, create repeating events. This includes personal time like going to the gym, actually having lunch, and family time of an evening. If you have trouble managing email, make it a task twice daily (once in the morning and once in the evening), where you sit down for 30 minutes or so and blaze through your inbox. Don’t have it be something you just do as and when.

With anything else, a deadline is useful only when you have enough time to work on a project. So drag out bespoke blocks of time in your calendar to suit. Naturally, these will in some cases be approximations, but the more you use this system, the better your estimates will become; regardless, it will be a good starting point.

You might think this all sounds rigid, but your calendar will start to take on a different shape. Repeating events will create a framework on which to hang your days. On adding other work estimates, you’ll have a better idea about the actual gaps in upcoming days. This will mean you won’t sometimes spot that you don’t have any meetings on a day that looks empty, schedule one, and only too late realize it’s negatively impacted on your work or home life.

Think of your calendar as a puzzle box

Think of your calendar as a puzzle box

This is all about better balancing work and life, and so ensure you don’t regularly skimp on time for yourself or your family. It’s all too easy to think more hours working is always better, but you should instead be thinking about efficiency. This kind of calendar management is designed to help you not only plan but also visualize the balance you should have in your life. (Coloring calendars for work and home accordingly can further assist with this.)

That said, don’t let your calendar regime add to your stress. Few items should ever be set in stone, and you should think of the framework as one that’s ultimately malleable. Don’t beat yourself up if you skip the odd lunch, or can’t make it home for dinner now and again. But also remember that now you can fully see everything that’s going on in your world, rather than just a smallish number of scheduled events, you can drag items around and make the puzzle blocks of your entire life fit the time available.

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Craig Grannell

Craig Grannell is a technology writer, specializing in helping people get more from their computers and devices. He’s written for a range of publications, including The Guardian, BA Business Life, Macworld, and TechRadar. Although currently immersed in all things Apple, he first caught the technology bug when using a VIC–20 as a kid. He still thinks Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time is a perfectly sensible name for a video game. Connect with Craig on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.