Your Calendar is the Key to Managing Your Time and Priorities

Keys to an Effective Calendar

To begin with, it doesn’t matter what calendar program you use whether Outlook, Google Calendar, or some other app. What matters is that you make the most of the technology available.

Use whatever program you like and are comfortable with to manage your time. The key is to establishing ownership of your time by setting reminders to maintain focus and performing weekly reviews to ensure priorities make it into your schedule.

This is the third part of a four-part series on time-management. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Own Your Time by Putting It on Your Calendar

In a previous post, I discussed some quick tips that will help you own your time. In that post, I briefly discussed the importance of using your calendar to gain ownership of your time. Scheduling priorities on your calendar allow you to protect your time and get things accomplished. Focusing on what is important to you is the key. Also, scheduling your priorities communicates to other people what time is off limit.

Allowing others to determine how your time will be spent forces you to focus on their priorities and not yours.

If you want to get something done put it on your calendar. As Stephen Covey said, “The key point is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

Time is your most valuable resource. It is the only resource you have in abundance. It may not feel like it if you have allowed others to own your time. Liberation will come when you acknowledge that you own your time.

By scheduling your priorities, you take complete ownership of your time. Putting priorities on your calendar makes that ownership real.

In my next post, we will talk about the importance of priorities and discuss some ways to go about establishing them.

Use Reminders

After you have established ownership of your time the next thing you need to do is keep yourself focused. One of the most underused tools in calendar apps is the reminder. People tend to put things on their calendar and then fail to follow through on those items.

Using the reminder gives immediacy to your scheduled priorities. It gives you a heads up that your priority is due and keeps it front of mind. Use your reminder to keep you on track and focused on your priorities.

Weekly Reviews

Finally, scheduling a weekly review will help priorities stay scheduled and protect against infringements of your time.

The weekly review should be a scheduled block on your calendar. It should be a one-hour block of time that is reserved for doing calendar maintenance.

This is your time each week to ensure that your priorities remain on your schedule. It is also the time where you will ensure that others have not taken control of your time.

This time should be scheduled at the end of the week, so you can review the previous week and plan for the next week. Maintaining your priorities on your schedule is the key. Take time to review your priorities, what you have accomplished, and what you need to accomplish.

Make sure your schedule for the coming week conforms to what you want to get accomplished. Clean out items that conflict with your goals.

In Summary

Good time management requires that you know what your priorities are and that you create a schedule that aligns with those priorities.

Your time is yours and you need to protect it. A calendar app is the best tool for accomplishing this task. By scheduling activities that conform with, and support your priorities, you take ownership of your time.

Next, reminders help to keep you focused and on tasks. They help to prepare you for the work that you have set as being important.

Finally, weekly reviews help you to maintain your focus. By looking back on what you got accomplished and looking ahead to what you need to do you get to set your action plan to keep you focused and effective.

By scheduling your priorities on your calendar you protect your time and establish ownership over it. And when your priorities are scheduled you will not be living somebody else’s priorities.

5S Your Work Space to Get Control of Your Time

What is 5S?

5S is a component of Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing. The main goal is to make the work area organized to optimize performance. It requires all unneeded items to be removed from the work area and everything else to be organized in the most efficient manner. Once the work area is properly organized it must be sustained to ensure top performance is maintained.

While it was originally put into use in manufacturing environments it can also be employed in office environments or anywhere work is performed.

The components of 5S are as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Why Implement 5S?

With the above facts in mind, we can look at why 5S is a good method for helping manage your time and getting your workspace organized.

First, let’s consider time management. How many times have you come into your office only to become frustrated by the pile of stuff you have laying on it. It makes it difficult to find what you are looking for. Getting anything done requires you to spend time putting things in order. And a messy desk causes you stress and anxiety.

So, getting your desk in order can help you begin to prioritize the items on it. Once the items on your desk are prioritized you can get to work getting things done.

Second, 5S is a precise methodology that tells you exactly what you need to do to get organized and stay organized. By following the 5-steps of the process you will great rid of the clutter and create a system of sustainable organization. This will help you manage your time and your stress level.

Getting Started

Now that we know what 5-S is and why its important let’s talk about getting started. You need to set time aside to start. Don’t allow for any interruptions. Dedicate yourself to completing the 5-S process.

Before beginning take pictures of your work area. All workspaces, inside drawers, shelves, and desktops. These pictures will serve as a reminder of where you started. When you look back it will be important to remember why you did this work and what you want to avoid.

Next, make sure that you have a space to take items you do not need but others may have a use for. Also, have garbage bags and cleaning supplies available.

Once you have your time scheduled and all items required it is time to get to work.


To begin the process you must sort everything on your desk, in your desk, and around your desk. You will make three piles:

  1. Garbage
  2. Good but don’t need
  3. Keep

Garbage is just that. It is junk that serves no purpose to you or anyone else. This includes old paperwork that is no longer required to be kept. Broken tools and office supplies. And any other junk that no longer has a useful purpose.

Good but don’t need – this is stuff that you no longer need but others in the office may be able to use. Maybe it’s an old textbook, some guides, office supplies, or any other still functioning item that you no longer need. If you have not used it for 6 months consider getting rid of it.

Keep – an item that you have used in the past 6 months or need to keep as a part of your job.

Set in Order

Now that you have sorted through all the clutter you are ready to begin to set things in order. The key point to remember is that you want to find a place for everything and everything in its place. This is key.

Organize your work area so that items you use frequently are nearest at hand and items that get used less frequently are put in a place where they can easily be found when needed but stored neatly out-of-the-way.

It is a good idea to make use of file organizers, storage containers, and labels. If you are putting something in a drawer put a label on the outside of it so you know what’s in it.


So, you have sorted and set everything in order. Now it is time to make it shine. Simply put you are going to give everything a good cleaning. Get our your cleaner and rag and start in.

As you are cleaning look for the causes of clutter and dirt and come up with ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If your desk gets cluttered because people are always putting paperwork all over your desk, then get an inbox and clearly mark it so people know to put paperwork in it.

Remember, you are going to want to sustain the cleanliness so consider taking 5 minutes once a week to clean your work area.


Standardization is about making things stand out visually. You want to be able to quickly look at your work area and notice if something is out-of-place. You can do this by using shadows for things like a stapler, tape dispensers, and other work tools. In your drawers, you can have organizers clearly labeled. If you have bookshelves you can label them to clearly show what books go where.

Additionally, you can take pictures of your work area after it has been cleaned and standardized so you have a visual tool of how you want to maintain your area. This can be posted as a reference to use in the sustain step.


The final step is to sustain your efforts. To do this put a half hour to hour block on your schedule at the end of the week. I suggesting scheduling it for the last hour of the day at the end of the week. Make sure you put it on your calendar and block this time.

Once a week you will pull out your sustain picture and ensure that your work area looks like the picture. If it doesn’t use this time to get it back in order. Then pull out your cleaner and rag and clean all areas.

To see an example of an office 5S implementation check out this short YouTube Video.

Concluding Thoughts

Ultimately, you are only as effective as you are organized. If you take the time to get your work area organized and make it a priority to sustain it you will have a much better chance of making better use of your time. It is hard to feel in control of your time when you are stuck under a pile of clutter.

By implementing 5S you will have a systematic method for getting your work area organized and keeping it that way.

Once you have your work area organized you can move on to the next step in managing your time – your calendar.

If you haven’t read the first article in this series on time-management check it out here.

Go to Part 3 in this series.


Time-Management Basics: Quick Tips For Getting Control of Your Time

The Big Problem of Time-Management

One of the biggest issues all manager’s face and something I get frequent questions about is time-management. How do we gain control of our time and stop allowing people and problems to control us?

In this post, I will look at 3 basics that will help you build a foundation for taking control of your time. In the next couple of weeks, we will delve deeper into some more advanced time-management techniques.

Basics of Time-Management

To begin with, I want to lay the foundations for good time-management. If you want to gain control of your time you need to create a solid foundation. That foundation begins with a good organizational focus in the following areas:

  • Workspace
  • Calendar
  • Priorities

These three areas need to be organized, and made good use of, in order for you to gain control of your time.

Let’s look at each of these three areas in more depth before we look at the five basics of time-management.


Let’s begin by looking at your workspace. If you have a dirty, cluttered, and unorganized workspace you will spend more time looking for things you need then getting things done.

So, the first thing you want to do is get your workspace in order. The best way to do this is by scheduling time when you won’t bet interrupted to perform a 5S event in your work area.

5S is a tool used in lean manufacturing to help create a work environment where all tools are organized and readily available where the work is being done. And while it was developed as a way to organized manufacturing areas it can also be used to organize office areas.

I will go more in-depth into 5S for the office in a future blog post but for now, you can check out this Slide Share presentation that does a good job of going into what 5S is and how to implement.

If you can get your work area organized it will give you a solid foundation for having what you need, when you need it, and being able to find everything that is important to do your job.


Another key item that is underutilized by most managers is your Outlook or email calendar. Your calendar is the number one tool you can use to prioritize, allocate, and protect your time.

While you can utilize the power of your calendar by use of a paper-based organizer I highly recommend taking advantage of Microsoft Outlook calendar or Google calendar.

The reason I say this is that an online or electronic calendar allows you to communicate your priorities to others. It allows you to immediately show other people when you do and don’t have free time available and better protects your time from interruptions.

Learning how to use your calendar to organize and communicate your schedule is a key component to time-management. Again, we will go into further detail in the coming weeks into how to make the best use of this tool.


Finally, we look at something that seems straightforward but is not – priorities. You might think that your priorities are something you just know and don’t need to spend much time on. But how you determine what needs to be a priority and how to rate them is more complicated than you probably realize.

Priorities are a product of your most basic values. And before you can set your priorities you must determine what things to value and put an order to those values.

If you do not have your priorities in line with your values you may end up chasing priorities that are not in line with what you value. When you do this you will end up wasting your time and energy. This will leave you feeling frustrated and exhausted.

To Sum Up This Post

Time-management is one of the biggest issues that a manager struggles with. Too often our time is wasted because we haven’t taken the time to take control of our time. If we build a good foundation for time-management it can set us on the road to making good use of the resources available to use and ensuring that we are spending our time on the right things.

The three basic elements of time management are your workspace, your calendar, and your priorities. And over the next three weeks, we will break down each one of these areas and demonstrate how to make the best use of each.

Go to part 2 – 5S Your Work Space to Get Control of Your Time.

Lose the Battles But Win the War

Fighting All Battles

When I was a young supervisor I wanted to fight battles. Every problem that needed to be solved I saw as a battle to win. Being focused on winning these little battles that it made me short-sighted. I did not see the long game and because of it, I damaged relationships and my reputations.

A lot of new supervisors and managers run into this problem. And if truth be told, I still struggle with it from time to time. But I have gotten better at understanding the long game and have become better focused on winning the war. In other words – winning hearts and minds.

Understand the Long-Term Goals

To put it another way, problems come and go. We need to keep them in focus and in scope. Understanding what the long-term goals are can help. Focusing on where you want to be and what the ideal situation looks like with all concerned parties in mind is the way to win the war.

Not every problem needs to be solved. And not every problem needs to be solved to your satisfaction. Sometimes we must let others win to build and grow relationships.

This doesn’t mean that we sacrifice things that are important to us. It just means that we need to prioritize what things are important and which are just nice to have. The nice to have things we can live without meaning we can let them go allowing others to get some things they want.

What is Important?

Equally important is understanding what things are important to our long-term success, and the success of the team, organization, etc., can help us to focus on what matters and let go of things that don’t matter.

By changing our focus from picking battles to winning the war we open our view to what’s good for us to what is good for the organization. We become team players. And in this way, we will win more than we lose.

Being picky about what battles you fight shows others that you are willing to compromise. It shows a level of maturity. And it brings more people into your circle of influence.

People want to be around a winner. Winners understand the importance of other people to their success. It is only by being able to engage, inspire, and work with others that we can become winners.

Questions to ask when determining the problem resolution path:

1. What will be the long-term effects of your problem resolution?
2. Consider the cost-benefit of the problem resolution?
3. What are the relational costs of the problem resolution?
4. How will the resolution benefit the organization?
5. Does the resolution leave other people whole?
6. Do alternative solutions exist that may lead to better outcomes?

Lose a Battle to Save a Relationship

Ultimately, whatever path you decide to take when dealing with a problem make sure you understand all the ramifications before acting. Once you damage relationships it can be hard to repair them. Make sure that you have clearly defined the problem, the relationships involved, the effects of certain actions, and what the long-term consequences of your actions are.

Keep the long-term results in mind. What you do today can have negative consequences that can take years to overcome. Better to move slowly and lose a battle than to lose the war and your career.

Playing Favorites – And Why Sometimes It’s Alright

Do you play favorites with your employees?

Playing favorites might not be as bad a thing as you think. Often, we get told that we need to treat all employees the same. And on the surface, that seems like the right and sensible thing to do. But that is not always the case.

Let’s take two different scenarios

Scenario One:

You have two employees. Employee A is always picking up extra hours, stays late, takes on additional responsibilities without complaining. This is your superstar. Not a brown nose, just a hard worker willing to do whatever is required and with a positive attitude.

Employee B is always complaining. This employee has an attitude and complains anytime they are asked to do anything that is outside of their job scope. This employee doesn’t do anything wrong, but they don’t do anything extra. Employee B does everything that is expected and no more.

Scenario Two:

Employee A is a friend of yours. Everybody likes them. This person does just as much work as everybody else. Maybe on occasion, they do a little extra because your buddies and they like you personally.

Employee B is a person who has a personality that doesn’t mix with yours. You’re not unfriendly with this person but you don’t go out of your way to talk to them. This person doesn’t do anything wrong, they are good at their job, and they are occasionally willing to pick up additional job duties.

Now let’s suppose that in each of the two scenarios both employees want a certain day off and the only one can have it. How do you choose?

I would argue that in scenario one it is o.k. to play favorites and give the day off to the employee who has done more work, has a better attitude, and takes on additional responsibilities.

In scenario two it isn’t so clear-cut. In this case playing favorites by rewarding the person you like more with the day off would be unethical. Instead, you need to weigh the merits of each employee and determine who will get it either based on equivalent contributions or use a non-biased method for determining who will get it when all else is equal.

Not Black and White

Playing favorites with employees on the surface isn’t always as black and white as it would initially seem. There are times where employees have earned preferential treatment through their own hard work and initiative. And there are times when employee’s efforts are evenly weighted and the only thing separating them are personal factors.

Where there is no clear separation in effort and attitude favoritism is not just unfair, it is unethical.

In situations where there is a clear difference in effort and attitude playing favorites can set up an incentive structure whereby employees are rewarded for going above and beyond. You just need to make sure that you are being fair about how you are judging people’s efforts.

A Word of Caution

Caution must be given to how we approach our personal feelings about employees. We need to ensure that our personal friendships don’t color our opinions and lead us to favoritism because of these relationships.

It is best to keep your friendships out of the workplace and hold all employees to the same standards. But if you maintain consistent standards and are judging all employees through the same lens than favoritism can be an ethical motivator.

Use Your Best Judgement

The bottom line is to use your best judgment. Don’t avoid playing favorites to motivate a hardworking employee who is always giving extra just because you are afraid of playing favorites. Be consistent in your expectations and how you reward your employees.

Use caution when giving additional benefits and favors. Make sure that you are not doing it out of personal feelings and friendships. Reward good workers even if you don’t personally connect with them.

Playing favorites, when done ethically and fairly, can create incentives that encourage employees to go above and beyond.

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