This may seem like a silly question: Who owns your calendar? If it’s your calendar after all, then you own it. Right? Well, based on what I see with way too many sales managers and salespeople, not exactly.
I am continually amazed (which is probably an oxymoron because I really shouldn’t be “continually amazed” by the same thing) how much of an executive or salesperson’s success boils down to calendar management. Notice I didn’t say “time management.” That’s because time management appears to be an unsolvable problem. Remember our Franklin Planners from 20-plus years ago? Hundreds of dollars for that 7-ring, 30-pound binder carrying around all those proprietary inserts. Yeah, me too. And today we have an entire App Store filled with productivity, to-do-list and calendar apps. Yet, everyone still struggles with time management.
So let me ask you a few questions about your calendar and how you manage it:
What percent of the appointments or meetings in your calendar were initiated by you?
That was not asked tongue-in-cheek. Serious question: who’s filling up your calendar – you or someone else? This new (past decade or so) game we have where it’s fashionable to look at the calendar of other people in our company and “invite” them to a meeting is out of control. And in many larger companies it’s way past being a game. It’s now a disease of epidemic proportions. I’ve got clients in executive positions at big companies that can’t find time on their calendars to schedule their own high-payoff activities because they’re in back-to-back-to-back meetings — all scheduled by other people! It’s madness.
But it’s not just the calendar invite craze. It’s the lack of proactive time-blocking. It’s that we, particularly salespeople, leave ourselves open for interruptions. Said differently, it’s like we hope someone will come give us work to do, ask us to help put out a fire, or invite us to a committee meeting. We don’t block off time for our most important activities (like prospecting), so our calendars appear to be more open than they should be.
What would happen if you started being more intentional and more assertive with your own calendar?
Time-blocking is simply the discipline of making appointments with yourself to do what you know needs to be done. What if you actually made a short-list of your highest-payoff activities and then proactively went into your calendar to schedule time-blocks where you would work on those critical priorities? I would argue that not only would you be incredibly more productive, but you’d also be keeping others from inviting you to their meetings because your calendar would have a whole lot less time available for others to request of you.
If we showed your existing calendar to a jury of your professional peers, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a (proactive salesperson / sales manager / executive)?
I’ve asked that question and given an exercise to several audiences lately. Take a minute now and go scroll through the past 30 days in your calendar making mental note of everything that’s in there. Then go forward and scan through what’s scheduled over the upcoming few weeks. If you had to show your calendar – in its current condition – to a jury of your peers, would they able to tell what your primary job is? Or what your most important activities are? Would there be enough evidence to convict as guilty of being a proactive (your job title)?
It’s your calendar. Act like you own it. What might happen to your effectiveness if you were just a bit more selfishly productive with your time?