Let’s face it: your work is pending, and you have internal meetings and client meetings that clash with your available time. You need time to think about the next project too. You’ve also just realized that you have overbooked your calendar and don’t have enough time to tackle all the tasks on your plate.
Such situations can make you feel like you should drop everything and hide somewhere! But it doesn’t have to be that way. The solution is — calendar management. You have limited hours in the day and if you can use them efficiently without overbooking your time, you can complete work on time and enjoy life.
In this article, we look at different ways a design team member should manage their calendar.
8 Highly Effective Calendar Management Tips For A Design Team
Design roles include a major chunk of planning, sketching, drafting, and researching. With so much time being spent on subjective tasks, planning your calendar becomes even more essential. Here are 8 effective calendar management tips for a design team:
1. Use the Pomodoro technique
Originated in the 1990s by an entrepreneur named Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro technique is a form of productivity that helps its adopters finish projects by breaking them down into smaller and more manageable tasks.
The idea is to focus on one small task for 25 minutes. Then, you take a 5 minute break before starting a new task. Every 25 minutes of focus work slot is called a Pomodoro. After 4-5 Pomodoros, you can take a longer 15-20 minute break before starting your tasks again.
Using this technique can help you stay focused on the assigned task better. So, use this technique when you’re faced with a task you dread but is on priority.
You may even use a web-based Pomodoro app solution like Pomodor or Marinara Timer.
2. Leave breathing room in the calendar
It’s all too easy to overbook yourself with submissions and make yourself completely unavailable. This is not only bad for your mental health but also bad for your productivity. So leave gaps in your calendar where nothing is scheduled — no meeting, no task, not even a personal errand.
Plus, design is a fairly subjective field. You may experience a creative block or you may go down a research rabbit hole that pushes your execution timeline further. With so many extraneous variables at play, it only makes sense to leave wiggle room to prevent any delays from happening.
If you’re overbooked all the time and your team members or clients need to schedule meetings with you, you will end up falling behind schedule. If you let things get chaotic and overbook yourself, it will be very difficult to catch up even if there is a slight change of plans.
To schedule your meetings in advance and see a suitable time in everyone’s calendars, you can use a tool like Taggg.
3. Include time zones and holidays
To have the people work more efficiently, you have to work around everyone’s schedule. As a team member, you need to make sure that everyone’s time is respected and used to its best potential. One of the best ways to do this is by accommodating everyone’s calendar based on the holidays and time zones they follow. This way, you can ensure that everyone’s schedule is taken into consideration when you plan meetings so that people are less stressed and more productive.
Taking this step is especially critical for businesses that operate remotely or ones that have distributed teams across borders. If it is difficult to accommodate every person on your team, try to follow the majority’s convenience. If possible, try to schedule only less important meetings in the absence of team members. Another alternative is to record the team meetings and share them on a common platform that all employees can access later on, regardless of if they were present or not.
By clicking on “+” in the “Other calendars” section in the left column, you can add the holiday calendar of any country. Browse through the entire list and add as many calendars as required to pick the ideal meeting time in the future.
4. Use time blocking / time boxing
Time blocking is the practice of dedicating a specific amount of time to a task and then working on nothing else until that time is up.
It ensures that you are productive during the day. By dedicating a specific amount of time to a task, you can avoid getting sidetracked and make sure that you are making progress on what is important to you. By allotting a specific amount of time for each task, you can ensure that you are not spending too much time on one activity and are able to move on to the next task.
The hack to doing this right is identifying the times when you are at your peak productivity level. Aim to block at least 1 hour of focused work so you can tackle multiple smaller tasks that you typically put off for later or a big task that requires your immediate attention.
To get the best results from this technique, aim to ‘time box’ 90 to 120 minutes at the same time every day. This way, you will get more done and naturally will start becoming productive during those hours.
You can keep the rest of your work day open-ended to finish the other tasks. At the end of each day, you can review the tasks you did not finish and block time for them in the following day’s calendar.
Avoid these 3 steps to get the most out of this technique:
- Overbooking your leisure time.
- Underestimating how long you may take to finish a task.
- Making your calendar too rigid.
5. Design a priority matrix
Also known as the Eisenhower box, the priority matrix is a neat way of organizing your calendar. It’s a visual tool that organizes your tasks by importance and time, making it easier for you to include more than just meetings on your calendar. You can even manage multiple projects and to-dos.
To create a priority matrix, create a 2×2 box. Label the rows as important and less important, and name the columns as urgent and less urgent. It will look like this:
Urgent and important
Less urgent but important
Urgent but less important
Less urgent and less important
Put your tasks under one category and prioritize them accordingly. This method helps you to focus on what needs to be done first and to avoid procrastination.
You can color code your tasks to understand which one takes priority and change them each day based on the level of importance it takes.
6. Color code your calendar
Organizing your calendar is a great way to tackle your tasks. But how do you do this without getting overwhelmed? Color coding. By color-coordinating your tasks and putting them into meaningful categories, you can start visualizing your tasks easily.
Color coding your calendar can even help you keep track of important events and prioritize your tasks. First, decide which categories of activities you need to schedule. Then, choose your favorite colors. We suggest using 3-5 different colors to keep things organized and simple. You can put the most important events in red, the second most important ones in orange, and the third most important in yellow. Further, you can assign the fourth color for focused work and the fifth color to indicate you have a meeting coming up.
Other methods that are common for assigning color codes to tasks are determining the color based on what they represent (for example, red indicates urgency and purple indicates creativity) or you could opt for color coding based on traffic lights (for example, red for priority tasks, yellow for collaborative tasks and green for individual tasks).
7. Look over your previous calendar
One way to ensure your calendar works well to keep you on task is to audit your previous calendars. After you’ve finished a project or series of tasks, take a look at your calendar from that period to see how it worked for you.
Did you miss anything? Did you have to push tasks aside? Did you feel stressed? If so, you should adjust your calendar for the upcoming period to keep you on task and feel less stressed or overwhelmed. You might have set unrealistic goals for yourself or you might need to add more breaks and time for respite.
Now that you understand your tendencies, you can use your next calendar to make improvements and be more proactive.
Audit your earlier calendars and adjust your tasks and expectations to accommodate high-priority tasks followed by the rest. Again, optimize this based on previous mistakes and leave breathing room.
8. Use a meeting set-up tool
Managing your schedule can be hard when you are a part of a team spread across time zones and juggling multiple projects. By choosing a calendar scheduling tool, you will be able to choose a meeting time that suits everybody.
With these tips in your arsenal, you will be able to manage your and your design team’s calendar smoothly and run your remote team meetings effectively.
Further, if you know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, you will be able to plan ahead of time and make sure there are no conflicts between deadlines and projects. What’s more, if those conflicts happen and if something unexpected comes up, you will be prepared for it.