A more intentional approach to scheduling

The switch from an individual contributor role into that of a manager comes with some challenges. One that is a particular shock to the system is meeting overload. You not only need to manage direct supports, you also have to manage your calendar. The sooner you develop an intentional approach to managing this the better off you will be.

When I started as a manager I didn't give much thought to my schedule. I also didn't give much thought to the slow, steady drip of meeting invites. In time the overwhelm started and I soon realized that I was becoming a victim of meeting fatigue. The managers schedule is deceptive. It continues to challenge me each and every day.

I would wager a guess that most of us are reactive by default when handling meeting requests. It's easy to see a request come in and see nothing occupying that space on your calendar and to accept it without much more thought. I continue to fall victim to this and it has led me to think critically about what I can do to become a little bit more intentional.

An experiment in calendar bankruptcy

Over the last holiday season I had a prime opportunity to declare calendar bankruptcy and wipe the slate clean. What better way to start off the new year! I was confident that sticking as closely to this schedule as possible, combined with a critical eye toward meeting invites was the silver bullet.

First refresh of my schedule

This experiment started off great and the first week or two I was able to focus a good amount of my time. Soon though, I started succumbing to invites as they trickled in. You can see below that within a couple months I kind of let my calendar get out of control.

Out of control schedule

Another attempt mixed with some intention

In this latest iteration of schedule roulette I have spread out some of my obligations and refreshed what I would like my schedule to be.

Refreshed calendar

This is a work in progress and there are a couple of things I am doing more diligently this time around with the help of some insightful thought leaders.

  • I am starting to use RescueTime, as recommended by Marie Poulin here. The idea is to start monitoring where I am spending my time. Since I work mostly at a computer this should give me a good picture of where my time is spent.
  • I have also started thinking more about how I can think about my days in themes. This idea originated in Michael Hyatt's Ideal Week post and was re-iterated in Marie Poulin's post.
  • Another tactic I am using is an idea inspired from Lara Hogan mentioned in her post On Better Meetings around looking at the week ahead. The idea here is that I am evaluating the week of meetings I have ahead of me to ensure I understand the purpose and what is needed of me. If these are missing I will reach out to the organizer for additional information or to ask for a quick email with outcomes from the meeting.

I continue to refine my schedule prowess and am sure this is something I will never master. The important part of this process for me is learning and iterating on what my ideal schedule is. This will always require balancing the ideal with the reality and my hope is that I can bend my reality toward my ideal schedule. Only time will tell.

Brett McCarty

Brett McCarty