The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Calendar

In prior posts, I’ve talked about my obsession with focusing on the important things, and getting things done. As someone with a meetings-heavy calendar, it’s very easy to end up with a done pile that doesn’t include a lot of concretes.

But I’m a developer first, so no matter how many coaching sessions or conversations I have on the calendar, what I absolutely have to do is get something produced. Coding is not a spectator sport, you can lose the the muscle memory if you do not actually write any code, so getting the work on the calendar is precisely necessary.


Actually use your calendar.

Most folks minimize usage of their calendar to just the meetings. Block time off for stuff that you need to do. Put stuff on the calendar you need to do. If coding is your job, put ‘write code’ on your calendar. With a “busy” flag.

An example: My boss lives on a small farm. He has “Move the Sheep” as a calendar item. Because its blocked off, I know not to schedule my one-on-one during his sheep-moving.

Don’t auto-accept meetings. Mark them as tentative, or decline.

The problem with meeting Accept is it’s ease. It is MUCH easier to respond Accept to a meeting, than it is to respond “Tentative” with a reasonable answer. Here are a few simple canned responses you can use:

  1. Tentative: “I’ll try to make it, but my calendar is crazy.”
  2. Decline: “I’ll catch up via email.”
  3. Tentative: “Can we do this virtually instead? Like a Slack thread?”
  4. Decline: “I don’t have an educated opinion here. If you need something from me, let me know and I’ll get it to you ahead of this.”

The Harsh Truth: You don’t need to be present on most meetings. A LOT of them don’t directly involve you, and are really just time sucks because people don’t like having to read / write email.

Caveat: Show up to meetings appropriate for your Team Norms. If your team has a daily stand-up, be there. Planning every 3 weeks? Be there. But focus on the time and agenda at hand, and move on.

Be brutal clearing out your calendar.

OK, so your calendar is full of ‘tentative meetings’. Now it’s time to filter those out. Cleaning out the calendar is an exercise in willpower. The fear of missing out will be powerful here, so be strong.

Personal note: I love having my opinion asked about things. If I’m honest, probably 25% of my motivation to blog is precisely caused by this. The fear of missing out on a chance to expound on a topic is SO hard to pull from, precisely because it flatters my ego.

Target those things you MUST do on the day, and the things can deeply impact. Focusing on those few things will allow that impact to be felt more strongly.

It is your calendar. Own it.

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