Calendar Organization 101

Calendar Organization 101

Hi, my name is Lorelei Gibson and I’m a Client Advisor at ECHO Technology Solutions. My background is in executive assistance for C-Level executives and my focus these days is agile project management for software development projects. For both roles, organization and time management is key to supporting thriving CEO’s and successful projects. How do I navigate the consistently chaotic and often unpredictable day-to-day of project management, you ask? I could ask one my developers to build me some super cool and tech savvy tool to automate my thinking process for me, but let’s face it – when everything around me is complicated, I yearn for basic. What basic tool do I live by to do the job, you ask again? My Microsoft Outlook Calendar. When I’m expected to control project resources and budgets and scope and timelines, I let my calendar control me. Here’s a little bit on the method to my madness:

1. I’ve always loved coloring books growing up, and find the same gusto in color categorizing my meetings/events.

    • Scrums/others internal meetings are a different color than client meetings. When I view my calendar in the morning I want my eyes to be drawn to the meetings that I have to prep for, versus the ones where I can be a little lax because I’m having a meeting with colleagues. As a result, my client meetings are in green (money making meetings!) and internal meetings are orange (our ECHO company color). When I see green, I better have a decent top on in case they ask me to jump on video, set aside time to do any prep work in advance, have my screen prepared with materials I want to screen-share, and have a place to take notes on a separate screen.
    • Speaking of notes, meetings that have notes in them are marked in yellow. During meetings, I take notes directly in the body of the meeting on my calendar. That way if I need to send meeting follow-up notes and action items to the meeting attendees, all I need to do is update the calendar invite and everyone who was invited to the meeting will get my notes.  You can always move these notes elsewhere (e.g. OneNote, Wiki, SharePoint, ITGlue) later on if there’s a centralized place your company keeps notes.  One caveat: be very careful to mark the meeting “private” (indicated by the little lock symbol) when taking confidential notes, so other people viewing your calendar don’t have access to them.
    • Blocked off time is marked in red. Because you have to learn when to draw the line and let people know you don’t want to take any meetings – even when you’re supposedly free.

I won’t bore you with what all the other colors mean but anything else on my calendar that doesn’t have a specific color assigned is not a meeting and can therefore be scheduled over if needed.

2. My calendar serves as my To Do List. 

Everything I plan to do on a given day is on my calendar, and if I don’t get to it, I move it to a different day. This way, I’m not spending extra time at the beginning of my day wondering what my priorities are, or at the end of the day wondering where all my time went. This is crucial with consulting work or any type of work that involves tracking billable versus non-billable. Additionally, if something comes up in my day unexpectedly that I must attend to, I still add it to my calendar so it isn’t a mystery why other tasks didn’t get done.

3. My calendar also serves as my Reminder List. 

Anything from big reminders (like project milestones I need to follow up on) to small reminders (like responding to someone’s email) have a place on my calendar so I remember to do them. If I forget to do something, 99% of the time, it probably wasn’t on my calendar. AND I tell my colleagues that the best way to get me to do something – is to schedule time on my calendar, whether they need to be directly involved or not.

Look, I’m aware there are countless other nifty apps that could do these same things for you, like EverNote or Outlook Tasks or Toggl to name a few, but why use ten tools that you have to subscribe to, when you can use one tool that’s free if you already use Microsoft products? Here are other neat things you probably didn’t know your Outlook calendar can do: Introduction to the Outlook Calendar. You’re welcome.