I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Scheduling is a mundane task I really don’t look forward to.
However, if I don’t schedule my time effectively, my mind will be scattered all over the place. That’s because having a schedule keeps me focused, organized and productive.
One of the best ways that I’ve been able to achieve this is by creating a master calendar for small business. This is simply one calendar that contains all of my most important dates, events, and tasks.
That’s not really complicated, is it? To get started on creating your own master calendar, here’s 10 tips that you should follow.
1. Jot down all of your recurring dates and activities.
The first step you need to take when creating a master calendar is to write down all of your recurring tasks and activities. Since this is for your small business, focus on just those that are business-related. These could include:
- Client consultations.
- Team meetings.
- Replying to phone calls and emails.
- Product development.
- General administration.
If you were to make a master calendar for your personal life, then you would list activities like family time, meals, exercise, and reading.
Now that you have these activities listed, start inputting them into your calendar to create a schedule. For example, if you have a team meeting every Tuesday at 3pm, then create that as a recurring event.
2. Establish clear work boundaries.
After you’ve jotted down your list of recurring dates and activities, it’s time to set aside specific blocks of time. Sometimes this is a straightforward. Since team meetings are usually 30 minutes long, then you now to block out from 3:00 to 3:30 every Tuesday afternoon.
Sometimes this can be a bit trickier. For me, I’ve found when I’m most productive and set working hours around those times. Usually this is from eight am to noon and then two pm to five pm. Knowing this, I blockout those times for undisturbed work.
Making this schedule not only guarantees that I’m getting everything done, it allows me to create a more structured calendar. For instance, I don’t schedule meetings in the morning since that’s eating into my peak productivity time. Instead, I’ll schedule a meeting between noon or two pm.
This structure also keeps my working hours contained. This way I’m not spending too much time at work. If I’m done at five pm, then I’m only working on soft tasks for the last hour or so to ensure that I’m done on time.
3. Make important dates and deadlines stand-out.
Let’s say that you have a meeting with a client on Wednesday at one pm. You want to make sure that this date stands out from all of your other events and activities. Your best option is to use a different color, bold face, or all caps.
To be honest, you should just go ahead and color code your various tasks and appointments so they’re easy to differentiate with each other. For internal team meetings you could use blue, while client meetings could be orange. I even highlight events so that I'm not wasting time with networking events.
4. Include time buffers on your schedules.
Scheduling back-to-back meetings is just setting yourself up for failure. You need time between meetings to travel, recharge, prepare, eat a snack, or unwind. Most of the time a half an hour between meetings is enough of a buffer time.
If you’re traveling, however, you’ll probably want to bump that up to an hour.
During this period, don’t schedule anything else. You need this time to flawlessly flow from one meeting to the next.
5. Be flexible.
This is especially important if you’re working with a team. After all, there will be times when plans have to be altered. Let’s say a team member had a doctor’s appointment at 2:30 pm on a Tuesday. They probably won’t be able to make the meeting.
However, you could push the meeting to 3:30 instead of 3:00 pm. This way you’re not cancelling the meeting since everyone can attend.
In my master calendar, I always schedule some time before and after an exact time. I usually use this time to prepare or recharge. But I’ve also used these blocks to adjust meeting times if I have to.
6. Use a combination of tools.
This is no one-size approach when it comes to creating a master calendar. That’s why you can use a variety of tools to help you create your own master calendar.
I rely on Google Calendar for setting my daily routine. I also receive reminders and can easily share it with others. For scheduling meetings, Calendar App is my go-to-tool (I also built it). Other times I use a project management tools like Basecamp to stay-on-top of projects.
Find which tools work best for you, and make the most out of them. If they’re working for you, then stick with them.
7. Capture information.
What happens when a new idea, task, or event pops-up? Capture it ASAP by writing it down and then adding it to your calendar.
As David Allen explains in the iconic Getting Things Done, this will make sure that you won’t forget about it. More importantly, it frees your brain so that you’re not retaining too much information.
8. Designate one person to be in charge.
Unless you’re a solopreneur, you need to designate one individual to be the calendar’s keeper. They’ll be responsible for updating the calendar, making sure all information is correct, and resolving any scheduling conflicts.
If you have too many people editing the calendar, it can get messy real fast. If they need to add an event, it goes through the person in charge of the calendar first. This way the new event can be added to an open time slot so that you’re not double-booked.
9. Share the calendar with your team.
Unless you’re a one-person operation, sharing your master calendar is a must. That’s because it improves communication, efficiency, and calendar productivity within your organization since it keeps everyone on the same page.
Sharing your calendar also saves you time and balances out assignments.
At the same time, you also want to make sure that it’s collaborative and inclusive. For example, you may not mind those four pm meetings on Wednesdays. But, what if some of your team lives in a different time zone? It may be six pm for them, which you’re taking-up their personal time.
Tools like Calendar can make scheduling events or appointments much easier since your team can select the best date and time for them.
10. Keep the master calendar centrally located.
Thanks to the cloud, this isn’t really a problem. Your team can just login to Google, for example, and access the master calendar. Just make sure that you grant access to them.
If you want to be old school, you could print out a copy and post in a central location, like your company’s bulletin board.