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5 Ways to Control Your Calendar and Power Your Productivity

5 Ways to Control Your Calendar and Power Your Productivity, Melissa Ambrosini

I am pretty sure I would be shocked if I added up all the hours I have spent over the past few years pfaffing about with my calendar and procrastinating because I didn’t have the right systems in place. Imagine what I could have done with that time! #eeek

Being an entrepreneur comes with its perks, one being that you are in control of your calendar. Which means all of us biz owners should be rocking a schedule that excites us and makes us want to jump out of bed each day… but that’s not the case for most biz babes. Not by a long shot.

Instead, way too many entrepreneurs fill their days with crap that doesn’t serve them, or they jam their calendar full of meaningless tasks simply to get the slight thrill of ticking them off their to-do list (even though — if they were really honest with themselves — they’d have to admit that it’s all just fluff and filler that’s not moving them forward toward their big goals and dreams).

Worse still is when our calendar fills up with things we think we “should” do, yet have absolutely no desire to do — the stuff we do out of obligation, duty, or because we’re simply too scared to say ‘no thank you’. (Hello, resentment!)

When you look at your calendar it should excite you, not stress you.

{Click here to tweet the above quote}

I’ve been totally guilty of all of the above in the past. But in more recent years, I have mastered the art of controlling my calendar with grace — not filling my day with things that don’t light me up, not packing it with stuff that stresses me out, and being diligent about creating ‘white space’ for the stuff that inspires and is important to me. This last one has been both a good thing and a bad thing. I love seeing massive chunks of white space in my calendar, because in the past there was none. Zero. Zilch. Nada. But over the last few months I realised something… that I have created so much white space that I ended up filling it with crap anyways — mindless email checking, endless social media surfing, and not actually getting important s#!t done. Not exactly ideal!

So lately, I’ve been paying particular attention to my calendar and getting really conscious about my time. It’s a topic that absolutely fascinates me, so I wanted to share my biggest light bulb moments with you.

Here are my top 5 tips to master your calendar and power up your productivity.

Get digital.
I love pretty diaries and using coloured pens and highlighters, but in this fast-paced world we live in, we need to adapt quickly and handwritten diaries can start to look overwhelming with white-out over white-out, scribble everywhere, things crossed out, and time changes all over the place. Mine began to look like my 4 year old nephew had taken to it! So much so that when I looked at it, I felt overwhelmed and stressed out. Your calendar doesn’t have to make you feel like that. When you look at your calendar you should feel excited and joyful. That’s my goal anyway. So get digital. Use the free calendar that comes with your smartphone and sync it to your computer. That way you can share your calendar with your team or family and everyone knows what’s going on and when. I know it’s nice to write things down but do that for your journal. Instead, get with the times and get digital. It will save you loads of stress and overwhelm.

Close down email and schedule in email hours.
Email-induced stress is real, and it’s backed up by science. One recent study found that constant inbox-wrangling caused workers to experience raised cortisol, increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate — all massive indicators of stress, and all of which can trigger a cascade of other problems in the body (insomnia, gut issues, skin problems, weight gain… need I go on?!).

I know this to be true in my own life. The times I leave my email inbox open all day are the days I feel overwhelmed and stressed. Conversely, when I’m strict about only doing 2 specific blocks of emails per day (usually one at 10am and one at 3pm), I’m so much more productive and I don’t feel like a stressed-out slave to my inbox.

So, lock in your email hours in your calendar and do not check them any other time. Not only will your productivity skyrocket but your cortisol levels will decrease. When in doubt, remember this: responding to email is one of those things that makes you feel like you're achieving something without actually moving you toward your goals and dreams. Sure, you might be ticking some minor stuff off your list, but is it super urgent and important? Are your projects more important? Are you achieving what you want? Are you reaching your goals by responding to other people's emails that most likely can wait? All questions to ponder...

Schedule in social media time.
I aim to check and post on social media once per day. I usually give myself 30 minutes and when I stick to this I feel awesome. The days when I am constantly checking and scrolling are the days when overwhelm and stress are at an all-time high. Today we are consuming more content in a year than our great grandparents would have consumed in a lifetime — it’s no wonder we struggle to disconnect! And social media is a massive contributor to this. So limiting the time you spend flicking through your feeds will superpower your productivity and sanity.

It also helps to turn off all notifications and leave your phone in another room to avoid distraction and procrastination. Even better, I turn my phone on silent unless I am waiting for an important call I can not miss — otherwise my phone is ALWAYS on silent and in the other room. Seriously — when I am sitting at my desk it’s not with me. At first I had separation anxiety (!), but once you break the habit, you will love it.

Batch meetings in the afternoon.
I usually batch all my meetings in the afternoon, as I use the morning time for my MITs (most important tasks), such as writing blog posts, books, creating content for online products and programs, mapping out talks or recording podcasts. By the afternoon, I am wanting to mix things up so this is when I will have any meetings, go for a walk or swim and get away from my desk. When you place meetings randomly throughout your day, you are constantly breaking your flow and concentration. Always batch your meetings and keep them confined to certain days if you can. In an ideal world, I would only do meetings on Monday and Thursday afternoons between 3-5pm, that way my flow isn’t being broken and I can get on top of my MITs.

Schedule in joy time.
Every afternoon I have half an hour to an hour of joy time. Usually this happens at arounds 4 or 4:30pm, depending on what I have going on that day. Then at the start of my day I ask myself, What will bring me the most joy today? Sometimes it’s a walk, a tea with a friend, diving in the ocean, a yoga class or taking my meditation outside. Then I do that thing in my joy time. It’s so easy to sit behind your computer all day and feel like you are achieving things, but most of the time, the most supportive, productive and sane thing you can do for yourself is to go and fill yourself up sans the guilt. Then, not only are you going to show up as a better person/ team member/ mum/ daughter/ sister/ friend/ wife/ partner, but you will feel so much better within yourself.

Do you have any tips for controlling your calendar and super powering your productivity? Please share them in the comments below. And remember, so many people come here to get inspiration, so please share all your tips so together we can support each other.

As always, I am so glad you are here, thank you for your comments. I love supporting you and watching you grow.

Love Melissa

xx

P.S. Do you know someone who needs to read this post? Please forward it onto them right now. They will thank you for it later.

P.P.S. Have you read Mastering Your Mean Girl yet? If so, and you feel called to, I would LOVE if you could help spread the word and be a part of the ripple effect by inspiring others to master their own Mean Girls. The best way to do that is by leaving a review on Amazon.com.

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Thank you so much for your support, beautiful — I appreciate it more than you know.

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  1. Amanda says:

    Hi Mel,

    I love your tips! I am coming out of a very "full" year at work and I have found that the best way to take back control over my calendar is to do exactly what you said and include appointments for my self-love menu items, whether that be yoga, gym or writing time.

    I have also found it extremely beneficial to share my calendar with my team assistant at work so that she acts as an initial "filter" so that I don't have to say "no" and feel guilty about it. Until I get better at saying "no" (I am practicing!!), she has been such a help at keeping the space in my calendar!

    As always, you are a shining light Mel

    Amanda xxx

  2. Hey Melissa,
    This was another great post! After hearing some of your ideas about scheduling and calendars last year I have switched over to a digital calendar, which I LOVE. I have different colours for all my university subjects, one for work, one for social stuff, one for appointments/meetings and one (my FAV) for self-love tasks. That way I can visually see that I am making time for self-love every day, plus if it is in my calendar I can't avoid it. Thank you for the inspiration - I feel so much more productive now!

    I think my next challenge will be the social media time, as I am definitely susceptible to getting distracted multiple times per day by social media...

    Thanks for being an inspiring presence.
    Love always,
    Erica x

  3. Jamie says:

    This post came just in the right time! In the past 4 months, I have launched a business AND had a second child. Needless to say... I was really looking for a way to organize my time. Trying to "balance" motherhood to a toddler, an infant, "birthing" a new business, being a wife, maintaining a household, working part-time AND self care time is quite the juggling act. I'm a creative, visual person.... so I'm sitting down right now to actually draw out what my week will look like and I am going to do my best to value the time for all of it! I know things come up and life will not always be scheduled, but I think have certain blocks in the day to nurture myself, my business and my children will help to keep the joy in doing it all. Thank you so much!

  4. Libby says:

    Amazing tips, Melissa. Thanks! So different from the time management tips i normally come across.

  5. Gabby White says:

    Thanks Mel, I loved these tips this week. I was just thinking this morning I want to go digital for my calendar. Can I ask - do you use any kind of content planner that you and your team have access too? I know you used a project planner (for the life of me I can't remember what that one was called - sorry). But I was wondering if you map out your beautiful content that we are going to receive through out the year and week.

    As always thank you. Thank you.

    Gabby xx

  6. I posted this on FB too, but this might be a better spot! 🙂

    I'm wondering how much time you dedicate to emails at each 10am + 3pm spot? x

  7. Veronica says:

    I love this and I need this!!!!

  8. Marriooon says:

    Thank you for this post Melissa!! I have always wanted to find a way to organize my day effectively, but I have always failed to do so. SNS distracts me and I have no idea of how to stop it. This article came at the perfect timing. I cannot wait to implement your tips and see how it works out!

  9. Holly says:

    I liked your tip about scheduling social media time and putting a cap on it. This will be HUGE for my productivity and focus alone! 🙂 Thanks!

  10. Lia Halsall says:

    I totally agree Melissa. Going digital saves time and money and we can't stop progress now, can we so might as well embrace it. It's all about working smart, not hard so we can live a more fulfilled life.

    I'd already learnt a lot from your Business Bootcamp Course. And you'll be happy to know that I'm still loving + using 'Things' on my iMac + iPhone.

    But after this post I've now scheduled in 'email' times and 'joy' time so I can break and create new healthier habits with my time management.

    As always, thank you.

    Lia xxx

  11. Andrea says:

    Great tips! I'm not on ANY social media, so that's never an issue for me. Checking and responding to emails when at work is though, so thanks for pointing out how it gives us the illusion that we are accomplishing something, when really we're just engaged with busy work.

    With regards to switch to a digital calendar, I just can't seem to make the leap. I rarely use/pay attention to my phone, and feel like I don't want to be "one of those people" who need their phone with them all the time. Any suggestions? Should I just wait until I feel ready to dive in?

  12. Alana says:

    This was what I needed to read today <3 Thanks for the helpful tips on the MITs - So important to separate the fulfilling tasks from the fluff

  13. Laura says:

    Melissa
    I feel extremely happy to have found you and your inspiring blog! I have always tussled with my diary and now that I'm self employed, I'm much better but I still find my days a bit dis-jointed at times so the idea of keeping blocks for MIT seems like it will work!
    When do you fit in exercise? I feel like now I'm self employed I'd like to do during the day as opposed to either the crowds in the evenings but sometimes I feel like I am having too much me time!!
    Thanks

    • Melissa says:

      Hey cutie,

      I usually move my body in the morning because I love doing it first thing. It set's my tone for the day. However, I know what you mean as I used to feel self-indulgent when I exercised in the middle of the day, but the more you fill yourself up the more you can give to others. Self-love is something we have to practice daily so master your Mean Girl and don't let her make you feel bad for taking time out during the day for you. That's just an old limiting belief that you no longer need to hold on to. It's time to let that one go angel.

      xx

  14. Sharnese says:

    Ah Mel i love everything about you! Thank you for sharing this! I work for myself from home and definitely feel i get stuck in the 'fluff' and come the end of the day can feel like "what did i actually achieve, whose life did i positively impact today" it's really all about remembering your why and purpose so you stay focused! So excited to start your Business Boot camp! I feel I've really gravitated towards you and love your outlook and approach on everything about life so thank you please keep being YOU!!!

    Sharnese xo

  15. Email blocking is one of my favorite productivity tips! I also find having a meaningful morning routine where I read, pray & exercise all before the kids wake up - gives me energy & focus for the day ahead. Thanks for your tips Melissa x

  16. sarah says:

    Hi Mel!
    I would love to see a post on some bio-hacking tricks you and your hubby practice. Things that make you feel well from the inside out that perhaps aren't as talked about, and any little rituals you have for when you are feeling a bit flat/average that perk you up? Also your recipes for fermented beetroot that you mentioned in your interview with Nick. I'm very interested in bio-hacking techniques you both utilize! x

  17. Kat says:

    I really liked this post! Especially the advice on phone, emails and social media – made me realize that I spend way too much time checking diverse accounts. You really don't have to be available all the time. So less stressful if you're not! 😀 My phone now most of the time in "moon mode".
    Thank you!
    X, Kat

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