Small Business Week: How to NOT Overbook Your Calendar

Recently, a friend/client/networking partner had to cancel a morning meeting because she had overbooked her Tuesday.

Another client had to reschedule a document drop-off with me because he “ran out of day today.”

No judgement here.  Been there, done that.

In her text message to me, the overbooked friend/client/networking partner asked me to write a blog about how to not overbook our schedules!  So, friend, in honor of National Small Business Week, here it is!

When do you work?  Where?  How?   Workdays and work places have changed, due to worker and industry preferences.  A “typical” workday is anything but typical, more than half the workforce works for themselves or small businesses, and many of us work from home (or Starbucks, or someone else’s home, etc).

As the lines of work and home blur, it’s difficult to keep all our commitments straight!  So, to help get the most out of your schedule, without resorting to teleportation or cloning, here are a few ideas:

  • Check your schedule regularly, with an eye out for potential snags or trouble spots. Don’t wait until tomorrow to plan for tomorrow. or until next week to plan for next week.
  • Schedule recurring events.  Actually put them in your calendar / planner / etc.  Yes, you will probably remember.  But then again, you may not.  Just write them down.
  • Better yet, Just write everything down (or make a note in Outlook or Google Calendar, or your planner, or however you track such things).  I can’t be trusted to remember things unless I write them down.
  • Determine realistic time estimates for your regular tasks.  Have you noticed?  We tend to underestimate how long our favorite tasks take, and overestimate how long dreaded tasks take.  We assume the easy stuff will go quickly, but get snagged or run late when something goes wrong.
  • Factor in commuting time between meetings where applicable,  and multitask your travel time.  I’ve been leaving a more generous time cushion between client appointments, to accommodate conversations that go a little long, traffic troubles, or a quiet moment to eat my lunch on the way to the next appointment.
  • Keep your calendar and contact information up to date and with you at all times, so if you do find yourself overbooked or running late, you can do the polite and professional thing and call ahead.
  • Do not feel you have to explain yourself.   No one needs to know that you need to leave a meeting on-time to get to a 6th grade soccer game.
  • If you do double book yourself or if life gets in the way, just OWN UP, APOLOGIZE and reschedule.  Make that call with solutions in mind, as in “I’m very sorry, something unexpected came up and I’m going to be late to our 1 o’clock meeting.  Would you like to push it to 2 pm, or reschedule for a different day?”
  • Meetings.  Ah, meetings.  Meetings, by definition, involve other people.  And talking, and planning and note taking and assigning tasks.
    • Don’t be ‘that guy’ or ‘that woman’.  You know, that one with the late, rushed and loud arrival. Be early, be prepared, and be quiet until there is something to say.
    • Don’t like making pre-meeting small talk?  Smile politely, then make a show of reviewing your notes, or making new notes (even if it’s your packing list for vacation, or an email for later).
    • After the fact:
      • Set an alarm to keep from getting chatty.
      • Factor in processing time for your notes and action steps from the meeting, before heading to your next activity.

As you move through your week this week, keep your schedule in mind, and try a tip or two to make that next workday or meeting go more smoothly!

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