How to Use Calendars Effectively and Improve Productivity (Step 10 of 12)

Arriving early looks good, being late looks bad, not showing up… will ruin a career

Physician Zen

Calendars are an integral part of our daily personal and professional lives. When used effectively, they can guide us smoothly through a day with minimum effort. When used ineffectively they can cause stress with missed appointments and deadlines. 

I have found that by using my calendar effectively and showing up when and where I say I will, it has increased my credibility over the years. When you use calendars effectively people will see that you value other’s time and that you are reliable. I have found that this will open many doors for you.  

Conversely, people who don’t use their calendars effectively can sometimes be labeled as undependable, unpredictable, and lazy. You definitely do not want to be in this category.

Think of a calendar as a system to keep commitments to yourself and to others. Everything you schedule in your calendar is sacred and should be performed or deferred appropriately. Therefore, always think carefully before placing anything in your calendar. 

Being a physician, my schedule is quite busy with multiple obligations with work, students, research, personal life, etc. This blog post will focus on ways that I use my calendar to effectively go through my day and stay productive. I mainly use digital calendars, but many of these concepts will apply to physical calendars as well.

Consolidate all Calendars into a Calendar App

I think the first thing to do is to consolidate all your different calendars on your desktop and your smart phone. I have multiple a personal Gmail calendar and an Outlook work calendar. The easiest way is to use a native calendar app such as Apple Calendar or Microsoft Office Outlook Calendar. I personally use an app called Fantastical. 

Consolidating all of your calendars allows you to be able to see all events regardless of personal or work next to each other. Pick the calendar app that works best for you given the type of phone and operating system you use.

The native calendar app on your phone or laptop work well. The best app that I have found and personally use is called Fantastical.

Input Events Immediately and Be Specific

Don’t depend on your mind to remember to schedule something “later” in your calendar. Eventually you will forget to schedule an important item. 

Make it a habit to always schedule any event that needs to be in your calendar immediately when the situation arises. This will keep your mind clear and you won’t forget anything.

Try to be as specific with the title, date, and time as possible. See example below: 

OKAY way to schedule an event:
Event Title: Meet with Nurses
Day: August 2nd

BETTER way to schedule an event:
Event Title: Meet with Nursing Committee re: Sepsis Protocol
Day: August 2nd
Time Start: 8am
Time End: 10am

Sometimes events are scheduled months in advance on your calendar, and by not being specific with the event you will scratch your head months later trying to figure out the context of the meeting.

Also always input the start and end time of the event if possible. Do not wait the day and try to figure out what time the event is supposed to be.

Lastly, try to avoid using the “All day” selections on the calendar app when possible and definitely don’t use your calendar as a checklist. Using it as a checklist will dilute the actual events that need to be attended. 

Tricks of the Trade
If you have a task that can be performed at any point during the day, place that as a task into your productivity app (Step 9)

Place a Location and Note Regarding the Event

After setting the event title, date, and time, the immediate next action to perform is to set a specific location for the event and if needed, a note with any important details you may need to remember. 

So, for the above example, in the calendar app you can state 

Location: Hospital Cafeteria, Room B. 
Note: Important meeting regarding implementation of a physician and nursing led sepsis protocol to improve sepsis care in the Emergency Department. 

Set a Reminder for the Event

So, you put in all of this effort to place an event into your calendar with specific details, the last thing you want to do is to not show up for the event!

I set reminders for events in my calendar which automatically notify me 5, 10, or 15 minutes before the event time. Most calendar apps will have this function. I highly recommend setting reminders, especially for important events which you absolutely can’t miss. 

Schedule and Invite Others

Sometimes being proactive is the key to being productive. While you are inputting the event into your calendar, make sure to invite others that will be involved in that meeting so that it shows up on their calendar as well!

I have found this is one of the best ways to make sure an important meeting among numerous people actually occurs. Also, most calendar apps will send an email notification to all people scheduled for a meeting/event. If the date or time gets changed, the app will automatically notify everyone of the details.

End Meetings with a Follow-up Date

There have been many times when a group ends a meeting and says: “let’s meet sometime next month…”

What happens most of the time is that no one puts anything in their calendar, and nothing is scheduled. 

To avoid that, be the one in the group who asks immediately at the end of each meeting, “What date and time works for everyone to meet next month?” 

It is crucial to schedule the next meeting date and time when all parties are present and have their calendars open. When this occurs, everyone can compare calendars to see what date and time works best and everyone can agree right away. This usually only takes 5 minutes but will save you tons of time.

After all parties have agreed on a date and time for the following meeting, remember to schedule an invitation to all parties using your calendar app!

If you don’t schedule immediately at the end of a meeting, it is extremely difficult to schedule group meetings over email, text, or phone effectively and often times takes up a lot of your time. 

Check Your Calendar in the Morning and Night

I make it a habit to check my calendar every morning, shortly after I wake up. The calendar is like a map of my day that my previous self drew out for the future me. All I have to do now is follow the instructions that my “Smarter-self” told me to do. 

Similarly, before you go to bed take a brief look at the calendar and get an idea of what the next day will look like. This will mentally prepare you for the next day. Then when you wake up you will not be surprised about how your day will look. 

Also, by looking at your next day’s schedule in the evening, sometimes you will realize that you need to make sure you have something prepared for a meeting the next day. Such as some important documents to hand out for the meeting. You may want to place that in your work bag or car to not forget such items.

Always Follow-Through and Show up Early

Make it a habit to always follow-through and show up for any events on your calendar. I can’t emphasize how important this is to your credibility as a student or professional. People are depending on you to show up when and where you say you will.

I am also a big believer of the mantra “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”

Try to be at least 5 minutes early for any event. This is a sign that you respect other’s time and value the encounter you are about to have with them. I have found this mutual respect can often set the mood for a great meeting. Conversely, being late can set a very negative mood for a meeting.

There are always unforeseen events that might occur. By planning to arrive early, you create a buffer for such unforeseen events. 

By being known as the person that always “Follows through” and is “Always on Time,” more people will want to work and collaborate with you. Follow these simple rules and I guarantee you will see great benefits in your work and personal life. 

What To Do If You Are Going To Be Late

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will sometimes be late for a meeting. First of all, make sure this only happens rarely and people will be more forgiving and understanding.

If however you know for certain you are going to be late do the following:

  1. Call, text, or email the person/people you are meeting as soon as you know you are going to be late
  2. Apologize for the inconvenience
  3. Tell them why you are running late (i.e. traffic, kids sick, ran out of gas, etc)
  4. Give them an accurate time you will be arriving
  5. Tell them to please relay the information to the rest of the group you are running late
  6. Tell them to please start the meeting without you if possible

I try never to be late. But when I am going to be late, I found that by doing the above, people appreciate the heads up. They won’t anxiously stand around for you waiting for you, worry something bad has happened.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Click here for an overview of all 12-steps to help you achieve a productive life.

Please sign up for our newsletter below if you would like to receive updates as each step comes out! Once again, I look forward to being part of your productive and stress-free life.

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