Ways a Calendar Dump Can Help You Be More Productive
I thought to turn an experiment I did in one of my previous incarnations into a list and see what I could come up with.
This list is based on personal experience.
When we say yes to a meeting, we say no to something else, which could be the next breakthrough idea.
I was reaching a point where I would chock looking at my calendar. At first, it felt good as it showed I was busy and doing everything. But I could barely breathe. I needed to do an introspect because I hardly had time to think. Let alone rest.
So I did a calendar dump.
Below are some of the things a calendar dump can reveal.
Knowing how you spend your time is the first step to being productive.
1. Your priorities
I thought one-o-one with my team was at the top of my priorities.
I was wrong. I was rescheduling or canceling many of these meetings.
A calendar dump reveals what you actually prioritize vs. what you think you prioritize.
2. Whether you are in control of your time
A calendar dump can show you whether you intentionally use your time or others own your time.
I had people blocking time in my calendar because they worried it would be filled quickly! This, of course, reveals other cultural issues that would need another list.
3. Fire fighting or strategic thinking
Are you spending time firefighting internal issues, system outages, and customer complaints or thinking about how to solve root causes and build a resilient team and organization?
When I started blocking time to think, my productivity and that of my team increased.
Strategic thinking needs to be scheduled and protected.
I had many approval meetings. Be it releases, budgets, timesheet approval for HR.
I unintentionally made the finance team work overtime during a weekend because they waited for the meeting to get the numbers reviewed and approved.
Dissecting the issue through the lenses of 5-WHYs unmasked many cultural and organizational problems such as manual workflows, multiple layers of approvals, and system interoperability issues when systems can't talk to each other.
A calendar dump can give you some hints about the dynamics of the organization and how responsive the organization is. If you have a lot of wait time because of the layers of approval, then you are not agile enough.
5. Cost of the meeting
One day a developer in my team jokingly shared a cost estimate of the one-hour-that-turns-into-a two-hour weekly meeting. The joke was sobering.
Meetings have costs.
A calendar dump may not tell you how much you are wasting but it can give you some hints based on the length of the meeting, and attendees.
6. The culture you are setting
Suppose you accept meetings without a clear agenda or tolerate a 2-hour long meeting, or you accept meetings at 9 PM on a Friday. Then that is the culture you are building. You are saying it is OK to do all the above.
A calendar dump shows if you request or accept meetings in off-hours.
People have lives outside work that should be respected—no meetings during off hours unless it is part of the role.
7. Your leadership style
Do you trust your team? Or do you need to be in every meeting?
Do you need o to be involved in every decision, or do you delegate?
A calendar dump may give some hints.