Try This Time Saving Tip: Keep Appointments

keep-appts

It turns out my 2015 New Year’s resolution was actually a New Year’s revelation. My efforts to eliminate a habit morphed into an eye opening look at time management that has completely shifted how I manage my calendar.

The Habit

By the end of 2014, I was aware of – and oddly bothered by – a habit I had developed: I had become an expert appointment juggler. At the time, I did not think of it as a “bad” habit per se, as I was unaware that it was causing me any direct harm.

I would schedule appointments with clients, doctors, and friends etc. as time allowed. Then something would come up, or someone would want to schedule during one of those already “inked” meetings, appointments or lunches. And without much consideration or hesitation, I would begin to juggle: reschedule this, postpone that, move this there, cancel that. Technology made it easy. A “quick” email here, a “need to reschedule” text there and bam the calendar was clear for whatever or whomever needed to get scheduled for whatever appeared as most, or more, pressing.

I had become a master at moving the calendar around to maximize efficiency and optimize productivity. Or so I thought.

The Resolution

I honestly can’t remember the exact reason why I decided to make “stop juggling the calendar” my 2015 New Year’s resolution. I have a vague recollection of thinking all this scheduling and unscheduling was a nuisance. I also remember feeling all this postponing and cancelling was inconsiderate of others.

The resolution was simple, if I scheduled something, I honored my commitment. Short of illness, true emergency or genuine bind, I kept my appointments. Amazingly, my first “juggling act” didn’t occur until early in June! And I finished the year having initiated a reschedule, postpone or cancel a total of only 5 times. (This is not to say others did not reschedule, postpone or cancel on me.)

The Takeaway

The first thing I learned from my juggling hiatus is that juggling is a huge time suck. You don’t need a tool like Gmail Meter to show you how scheduling an appointment by email can become a prolonged back and forth game of “scheduling tennis.” You think it takes a minute to send an email, but when you send and read upwards of 5, 10, 20 or more back and forth emails to schedule one meeting or lunch, a fair chunk of time gets used up. And if you end up postponing that meeting or lunch, you add another round of this time-consuming game. To complicate matters, I often was telling one person: “Hold on, I will email you back once I hear if I can move this person.” thereby playing multiple games of scheduling tennis simultaneously.

Not effective time management. Not efficient. Not productive. And not always that considerate of others.

I realized the same was true when scheduling and unscheduling by phone. Let’s say you need a repair person to come to your house. You call. You might wait on hold a couple minutes. Eventually they answer, you explain what you need, they find you in the computer, get your information, schedule the appointment. First call: 10-15 minutes. Then you call to cancel. You wait on hold a couple minutes. You explain. You reschedule. Second call: 5-10 minutes. If you didn’t reschedule, you eventually have to call back and repeat call one: 10-15 minutes. Get where I am going?

We burn up a lot of time not sticking to our schedule. I quickly noticed how my adherence to my schedule was saving me time, and perhaps more importantly, aggravation. Life got simpler. Plus, it was an easy change to make.

But what surprised me most about my resolution/revelation was that I started to schedule less. Knowing that I was committed to honoring my schedule, I didn’t put things on the calendar that I thought I might likely have to reschedule or cancel. For example, it was common for me to over schedule myself especially on days prior to or immediately following travel. On those days, as stress or exhaustion took hold, I would start juggling to give myself some breathing room. Of course, I now realize I was just creating more scheduling and rescheduling work for myself, as well as disruption, disappointment and/or scheduling work for others.

The Results

More time. Clear intent. Quality interactions. Less stress. Increased awareness. Impacted outcome.

If you give it a try, let me know what happens for you.