Over the years, I have found that my calendar is the most important tool in my professional toolbox. And over the years, I have continually adopted new practices to make sure that the calendar is in sync with what I need to be successful. Said another way, at times I managed my calendar and at times my calendar managed me. If you are not already, it is time to manage your calendar.

When I was younger, I could remember everything in my head. There were no virtual meetings or frankly very few real meetings. My role was smaller so you kept your head down and did your job. When people needed me I was available.

Later on when more responsibilities were added, I began to commit meetings to a shared calendar (back then we had administrative assistants) and every morning I would print out my Outlook calendar in a folded one sheet of paper that I carried around with me all day. This gave me comfort that I knew where I was supposed to be when needed.

As I ascended to CxO roles (CEO, COO, etc.) and the requisite pressures increased for my time, I began to understand the concept of time blocking where one dedicates specific blocks of time for different types of work. This concept is critically important for startup executives to force-allocate creative time (sometimes called deep work) vs leadership time (meetings, etc.).

About 10+ years ago when my role morphed into more of a community leader and my penchant for organizing lots of 1 on 1 meetings throughout the community (in order to stay connected and #givefirst) – the role of my calendar changed again. One of the smartest things I figured out was that the community need for connecting with me exceeded the time I had (or more importantly wanted to allocate) to meet that need. It wasn’t so much the total hours but the randomness of those meetings.

What I would do is simply find an empty 20-30 minutes in my schedule for these in person meetings so that my full week calendar was sprinkled with 1 on 1’s. What I began to realize is that I had little consecutive creative time. I then began to use calend.ly to help organize these meetings. The secret was that I had to rationalize in my head how many total hours I wanted to allocate for 1 on 1 community meetings per week. This then empowered me to hard fix those total hours in a public calendar. This then released the guilt of not having enough time for everyone and being confident that if the time was full, they could sign up next week or the week after.

The adoption of time blocking plus the use of a public calendar was me leaning in to “manage your calendar” to prioritize the activities I felt were most important to me during that time period

Since then, I continue to make small changes as my needs change including color coding business vs personal, speeches vs workshops as well as blocking out certain days for writing or administrative tasks.

Most importantly, I still value connection with founders and community enthusiasts so I allocated 1.5 hours per week broken down into 4 – 20 minute meetings (thanks Brad Feld and his “random days” concept). They are available from my website (no curation at all) as well as in a canned response if you email me or get email-introduced to me. That is me optimizing to “manage your calendar”.