Increasing Productivity by Taming the Daily Calendar

Marissa Levin
Marissa Levin
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When Sunday arrives and you take a peek at the work-week ahead, what physical reactions occur in your body? Does your heart race a bit faster from anxiety? Does your stomach tighten? Do you feel stress in your neck and shoulders? 

Have you ever thought about these reactions?

Especially in today’s environment, where leaders pride themselves on squeezing productivity out of every “spare” moment through texts, emails, and conference calls in between meetings, the idea of “calendar white space” seems to be discouraged. 

On the contrary, scheduling white space gives us time to regroup, conduct any follow-up activities, and stay ahead of the communications snowballs that grow when we’re not able to pause. The white space also allows us to quietly recharge, and mentally prepare for upcoming meetings. During this time, we can take notice of how we are feeling physically, and what our energy level is. Especially for high-stakes meetings, it’s essential that we give ourselves time to prepare and check our energy levels before going in. 

As I write this column, I am taking notice of my own calendar, and my failure to adequately plan “white space.” I literally have no lunch times available from February 3rd until March 10th, with the exception of one day. 

The questions we must ask ourselves are: 

  • Is the schedule that’s been laid down for us-often by a variety of other people-carved in stone? 
  • Do we believe that if someone thinks we are needed in a meeting, we can’t turn it down?

A recent Mindful Magazine blog on this topic suggested we ask ourselves these questions as well:

  • What is the best use of our time? 
  • How many meetings do we attend even when others on our team are in attendance? 
  • Do we attend because we work in a culture where everyone needs to know everything? 
  • Do we live in an environment that is so competitive that there is a sense that constant visibility is necessary to ensure advancement? 
  • How many meetings are a poor use of our time? (Take an inventory one week.) 
  • In a global economy with increasingly scarce resources, is this how leaders should be meeting the day?

As leaders, we also must be cognizant that our direct reports and employees follow our lead regarding the organizational pace of productivity. I was speaking with one of my coaching clients about this last week. He was frustrated that his employees didn’t always respond to his emails in what he considers to be a “timely fashion.” “Timely fashion” is highly subjective, unless an organization has specifically stated in its employee manual expectations on email responses. 

Giving our organizational teams and employees space to breathe, reflect, recharge, and regroup ultimately increases productivity and innovation. At Information Experts, one of the cultural aspects of which I am most proud is what I call “The Spaces In Between.” I believe our greatest magic occurs in the spaces in between, when nothing is scheduled, and creativity and innovation can flow without pressure. The result of our white space in our company is the creation of an extraordinary suite of learning tools that have resulted in a tremendous competitive advantage, happy employees, increased profitability on our projects, and increased productivity. Read more about them here. 

Now that you’ve been enlightened on the importance of calendar white space, what will you do to reclaim your opportunities to recharge? 

Please share with us your ideas to dial back the meetings and increase productivity.

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