It’s back-to-school time for many of us. Whether we relish the return to routine, or regret leaving unstructured summer days behind, as leaders we face the challenge of professional and family obligations and activities, while finding time for ourselves. Calendars are the tool to use as tightly or loosely as you need to meet this challenge.
Step 1 is truly embracing the calendar. Paper, electronic, hanging, desk, mobile, there are a bevy of choices available. The key is to find the one that you will actually embrace and use. I gravitate to a traditional calendar format, but my creative thinker husband discovered Chronodex and it works for him.
Step 2 is using the calendar to fit your needs. I use a calendar to outline all my external commitments: client meetings, presentations, networking, parent-teacher conferences, etc. For others, a calendar may better suit outlining internal commitments like thinking or planning time. Another approach is grouping activities and accommodating them over the course of the week: family, personal, work, hobby, ensuring that a chunk of each day or week is dedicated to each grouping. The key is to use a calendar in the way that ensures you get the time you need for your needs, not just your commitments.
Step 3 is unifying calendars. Work teams and family life mean more than one set of commitments and more than one calendar adding to both time and interpersonal conflicts. A master calendar is key, and we recommend both work and home master calendars. Google calendars, with it’s color coding per person, sharing features and mobile feed is a win. We’ve adapted the idea of a wall calendar and hung a secondary computer screen to act as a visual reminder, avoiding out of sight, out of mind.
Step 4 is coordination. Leaders remember at work, but might forget the tool at home. More family or team members involves logistical coordination to ensure commitments are kept. The standing meeting is an effective tool at work and home and key to outlining the future week, avoiding most last minute wrangling, and more importantly, aligning expectations. As the children have gotten older and been involved in this conversation, it helps them understand WHY we can’t say yes to the birthday party and the scout outing if they overlap.
Step 5 is to prioritize the calendar. To meet our juggling commitments key is sticking to whatever’s on the calendar over whatever isn’t. This is particularly challenging for leaders who tend to lend priority to work, but the respect for your time starts with you.
For those that relish routine, these steps feel easy and familiar. For those who prefer an unstructured approach that doesn’t eliminate options, it might appear confining. Fortunately, calendars are merely a tool so use it to build the structure or flexibility you need to meet those obligations and commitments at work, at home and for us.