Research from Microsoft proves that our brains need breaks. The study was clear, back-to-back meetings can decrease your ability to focus and engage. While we intuitively probably knew that, it’s good to see the decrease in mental efficacy actually proven. But it’s also pretty disturbing when contrasted with this study from Stanford University and the University of Gothenburg showing that women tend to have more and longer meetings than men. Are women being held back by their calendars?
In a WFH set up, without a commute or an office, you need to use your schedule as a building, a scaffolding to tell you what to do when. Otherwise, your time bleeds, you work longer hours than ever, likely with diminishing returns on productivity, and your emotional health suffers. As a manager, this is not the behavior you want to model.
6 Tips for the Best Schedule of your Life
Start with your natural rhythms. Use a tracker and figure out when you’re most focused on solo work, when you’re most ready to chat and brainstorm with colleagues, and when you really need to take a moment to recharge. Look at your calendar with this in mind, you can even go so far as creating a private calendar only you can see mapped against these moods to better schedule your days. Then use this to map out blocks of time where you’d prefer to have deep focus time, meeting time, and personal time.
Practice great meeting hygiene. Set the default of your calendar to be shorter meetings. Can you get the information you need to get across done in 20 minutes? Aim for the shortest possible. And always use agendas. Short meetings are only possible if everyone comes prepared. This is great in a hybrid workforce, we should all have more time for focused, solo work, where we can prepare for our meetings in advance. And lastly, assign roles. Every meeting needs a chair and a note taker, to make sure you stay on track and end with action items that are clear to everyone.
Fake meetings. Yes, this is a little sneaky. But if you have a meeting that tends to run on and on with endless chit chat, it’s ok to create a fake meeting directly afterwards or even halfway through to be able to confidently say, “I need to go now, let’s get down to business and walk away with the action items or decisions we need from this time together.”
Map out your personal time in advance. What are your mandatory family and social commitments? And what are the things you’d like to do? This goes along with your natural rhythm as far as eating and workouts are concerned. Don’t be ashamed to take time to eat lunch, workout, meditate, or clock off at 5pm on the dot to see friends for a drink. Setting time aside in advance for these activities allows you to be more productive with the rest of the hours in your calendar.
Commute. In the office, this is easy. But even with a physical commute, deciding how to use that time, that can so often be wasted, should be approached thoughtfully. Do you want to use the time to decompress, entertain yourself, or socialize. Figure out what works for you, schedule it in to your calendar so you can prepare by downloading the tv show you want to watch or planning a catch up call with a friend. For WFH set ups, this commute is even more important. Again, block the time out in your calendar and decide how you’re going to end the day. A walk is a great idea, drawing a physical line around the work day. But you can also meditate, debrief the day by writing down some notes and plans for tomorrow, or watch a sneaky episode of tv before starting dinner. Anything to delineate the time.
Successful calendar strategies can help you stay more focused, more energized at work but also give you the personal life you need. And who doesn’t want more of that?