Take Control of Your Calendar!

by Sherri McArdle

How many times have we heard ourselves say, “I’m too busy for that…,” or “Sorry I’m late, I got tied up?” I know I have my share of those moments, and have been stepping up my approaches to the issue. I’ve discovered that my organization’s strategy has a role in my own solutions.

I know there’s a lot of “help” out there for us. We can choose from paper-based day planners to Outlook calendars and phones that signal us for our next appointment. I use a combination of a very effective assistant named Jen Beldue, my Droid X phone and my PC to help me manage my decisions.

Those let me know what’s on my calendar, but what about the decisions that fill it?

To help me manage my professional time, I first go to our organization’s strategy and consider my role in leading and executing it. McArdle Ramerman’s strategy has been deployed using the Balanced Scorecard, a combination of a one-page map with key objectives, and measures. We chose this strategic methodology because it’s behavior based.

I know which objectives I’m accountable for, so I can estimate how much time I’ll need to commit to in order to meet those goals. I align my top five priorities with the strategy and begin to allocate percentages of my time accordingly. I continue to check this allocation throughout the year and to make adjustments, which are inevitable. I try to delegate work, as much as possible, for those activities I shouldn’t be doing and give other people a chance to grow by doing them.

For 2011, I’m eliminating as many internal meetings as I can and turning the meetings we have into work sessions that advance the strategy. For example, our weekly internal Monday morning meetings are now focused on clients and managing capacity to deliver client needs. They used to be more administrative in nature.

In a professional consulting firm like ours, coach/consultants’ time is especially precious in two areas: working with clients and thinking innovatively to advance our clients’ goals. We now schedule more innovative thinking and collaboration time. We’re also more careful that meetings begin and end on time, and early of possible. It’s a sign of respect to all parties.

On a personal level, my approach is a little more straightforward. Keeping myself healthy and fit took a back seat for a number of years. It’s become a priority again. I work out with a trainer regularly and schedule it for an early morning a week and one weekend day. It’s keeping my energy level where it needs to be through the day.

Despite the workouts, I recognize that I’m a morning person, and try to schedule most of my critical and difficult appointments before noon. Most days, that works. I also understand that giving up sleep is not a long-term solution.

My husband and I work at the firm together. Our children are grown, but we still have three dogs at home and commitments in the community. We’re busy in our personal life together, so we stay in touch through the day and schedule personal time together when we can. When we do get together as a couple, both of us try to keep the conversations personal whenever possible. We also make time for friends, who are their own reward. It’s an effort, and sometimes we say “no” when we realize it’s time to spend some quiet time at home.

So, instead of letting my calendar manage me, I’m taking charge. The rewards are proving to be worth the effort.

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