By Teresa Snow, MU Health Care, Women’s Network Chair
You’ve no doubt heard the expression “my calendar runs my life!” I often feel that way because there is rarely a day that I choose what activities or work to do without being driven by a blocked schedule of times and places I need to be. For better or worse, my Outlook calendar tells me where to be and go during the work week. If an event is not on my calendar, it’s almost certainly not going to happen.
It wasn’t always this way. I remember when choosing a nice paper planner and writing out the exciting events of the day was something I looked forward to. When I wanted a wider view of the month, I had a nice large blotter on my desk with a month at a glance. Somewhere along the line, more than a decade ago, calendars shifted online and the days’ events started to look like obligations instead of opportunities.
I manage a productive and creative team at MU Health Care but decided recently it’s time for me to also manage my calendar. I don’t feel in control just yet but here are some strategies I am trying to get some breathing room in my daily schedule and improve my work life.
- Start with a list of priorities. You can always refer back to this list as you accept or decline meetings and invitations.
- Take a lunch break. I started by simply listing “lunch” as a commitment on my calendar. I too often skip lunch, eat at my desk or eat so late I’m grumpy and starving.
- Shorten Zoom meetings to 50 minutes. Back-to-back Zoom calls without a stretch or bathroom break can set you up for failure. I end up needing a break and consequently am late to the next meeting because I simply did not schedule a short break on my calendar.
- List travel time. I work from two different locations and often don’t list on my calendar where I will be or how long it will take to get to the next location. That’s another recipe for being late or being in the wrong place altogether.
- Deliberately make time for healthy habits like exercise and meal planning. They are both on my priority list and need to make it to my calendar!
- Designate “work blocks” and “white space” with no commitments at all. It’s critical time to catch up or time for strategic thinking, reflection and decompression.
- Color code your activities. It’s a good way to see at a glance how much time you are spending in each area of your life. (Thank you Angie Gentry for that tip!)
- Ask for help. Letting someone else look at your calendar can help you see new opportunities. If you are planning for the family, having others involved in calendar planning will help them all see and understand the level of activity you are facing at work and at home.
- Plan to attend the WN luncheon! It’s a must on the third Thursday of each month.
I hope you can make one change this month to help better manage your calendar and your time. I’m in the struggle with you!
Chair, Women’s Network