When was the last time you said, “Ah, I just wish I’d spent more time working with spreadsheets!”
Wait: you’ve never said that? How surprising!
It seems that you (like us) want to spend your time on what matters most to you: work that is interesting and challenging, projects that are fulfilling, time with people you care about, activities and events that you enjoy. And you want to spend less time on the things that don’t matter, or aren’t so enjoyable: the mundane, repetitive tasks which may be necessary, but unsatisfying on their own.
Our mission is to help make the world a more efficient place. That’s not because we think people should hustle more or work harder! No, it’s because efficiency is a way to gain more freedom and autonomy. When you reduce complexity and find simple solutions, you free up your time and energy for other things.
Here are some resolutions to help you become more efficient in the new year.
Resolve to have good calendar habits
One calendar to rule them all
Chances are you have a work calendar and a personal calendar. You may also need to keep up with school calendars, community events, and group event schedules. Create a single overview calendar that brings all the schedules into a unified view. (Of course, you can add feeds from non-Teamup calendars to your overview calendar, as well. Here’s how to do that.) Get a good look at what’s coming up in all areas of your life and make better decisions.
Regular calendar checks
Check your calendar every morning. Make this a habit just like brushing your teeth and getting dressed. If you don’t check your calendar, it won’t do you any good to have one!
Update your calendar at the end of your day. Set aside the last 15 minutes of your workday to wrap up any communication, set priorities for the next day, and update your calendar. Add event details, contact information, notes, etc. to the events on your calendar. Add or delete events as needed so your calendar accurately shows the priorities and events in your work and life.
Put everything in your calendar
Use your calendar instead of your brain. Keeping all the information in your head is impossible and exhausting. Instead of relying on your memory, start relying on your calendar. Set up different calendars for the different areas of your life: why not have one sub-calendar to treat as an “inbox” — dump in all the notes, ideas, daily logs, tasks, and reminders as they come in. Then you can review and sort them when you update your calendar at the end of the day. If you prefer to work with paper and pen, print out a daily or weekly calendar, or a countdown calendar, and keep it handy throughout the day. (Find more blank printable calendar templates here.)
Delegate calendar entry
Let people handle their own calendars! Do you become the default schedule manager for your family, your team members, or your group events? There’s a better way: grant calendar access to the people who need it, so they can view, add, and modify events as needed. Delegating calendar duty has a lot of good effects. Help people take responsibility and ownership, while reducing the detail work you have to do.
Resolve to protect your time
Streamline event communication
Share events directly instead of sending messages and making phone calls. Whether you’re trying to coordinate a team meeting or set up a family dinner, chasing down participants and making sure everyone has updated details can become a time-consuming task. Make it easier on yourself: create the event in your calendar, then create an event page. Now all you have to do is share the event page link with all participants. If you update or change the event details, the event page will automatically update. No need to send multiple messages or make phone calls. Less work for you, and an easier way to get up-to-the-minute event details for everyone involved.
Schedule in-between time
Give yourself buffer between events and tasks. Scheduling back-to-back meetings will leave you stressed and overwhelmed. Likewise, putting too many tasks into your day—with no for breaks between—will wear you out. You’ll function better, enjoy your day more, and do better work if you schedule time between things. Give yourself room for transitions, to wrap up things, review notes, take a walk, stretch, and reset your brain.
Pause before you commit
Say “maybe” before you say yes. Make it a standard practice to say Maybe to requests, invitations, meetings, projects, groups, and anything else which might be optional for you. It’s easy to say Yes when things sound interesting and appealing, and when you’re not thinking about the commitments you already have. Make it a habit to take time before you give a Yes. Review your calendar, think it through, make sure it fits with your priorities: then, if it still sounds good, you can give an enthusiastic yes. If not, you can gracefully decline.
Clarify goals and limits
Set time limits and goals for open-ended events. Maybe you have a regular team meeting so you know how your team members are progressing and where they need help. Without a focus and limits, a weekly meeting can become a time waster and frustration. For any open-ended event, set a goal or agenda (“Get a 5 minute report from each team member”) and set time limits: a beginning, and an end.
Resolve to focus on priorities
Manage tasks like a boss
Don’t fall prey to the typical approach to task management, which is scribbling notes and reminders in lots of places, then trying to get them all done. You can do better! Some tasks matter more than others; some can be delegated; some can be simplified or automated. And some tasks can be done in a big batch with much less time and effort. Block time for unscheduled tasks and tackle them in groups. Always ask: am I the best person to be doing this task? If not, delegate it!
Keep track of complex tasks
Working on projects, managing a team, or handling complex tasks is another challenge. Set up a method that works for you to keep track of who is doing what, and the status of each task or sub-task. A Kanban board can be a good approach. Or you can set up sub-calendars to keep track of projects, clients, and team member responsibilities. Remember to grant calendar access as appropriate, so your team is empowered to enter their own tasks and events.
Look back to look forward
The end of the year is a perfect time to review: did you accomplish what you wanted? Did you spend time in ways you enjoy? Where are the areas of frustration, and what can you do to change them? Where are the areas of delight and accomplishment, and how can you celebrate and create more of them? Spend some time looking back, and you’ll be to look forward.