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7 Ways You Shouldn’t Be Using Your Calendar

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7 Ways You Shouldn’t Be Using Your Calendar
    photo by woody1778a http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodysworld1778/

    For some people, their calendar is the be-all-to-end, sacred tool of their productivity system. And for others it is just a dumping ground for anything and everything that they think they should do.

    And here is exactly where the problem is.

    Calendars aren’t meant to hold every piece of data that you need for getting things done. There are meant to hold time specific data that if it isn’t done at a certain time that is marked on your calendar, the task dies and it is too late to do.

    Let’s take a look at 7 different ways that you shouldn’t be using your calendar.

    Setting up false due dates

    Setting up false due dates will not only clutter your calendar, but will also make you frustrated and possibly even less productive. False due dates are those things that you add to your calendar when you say, “well, I think that I should have this part of my project done by this date here,” and then mark it with your fake due date.

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    What this does is help you put off tasks that are related to that project until you are closer and closer to the date.

    This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with milestones, but to put a hard date a piece of a project when it isn’t actually do will most likely set you up for failure.

    Time blocking

    This is another one of my pet peeves; something that I tried in school that never, ever worked. Time blocking is the idea of setting a portion of time in your calendar to devote to one specific thing that you need to get done.

    Maybe you have some work that you have been meaning to get done for some time now, so you “block” out 3 hours of your day to work on that one specific thing. Now, if you actually get through the 3 hours of working on that one thing that you need to do, you are a much better human than I and most others.

    The reality is that if you are a “knowledge worker” the chances of blocking out a portion of time to work on one thing is somewhat unrealistic and almost always gets ruined by something else that comes up.

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    Instead of time blocking, try something like the Pomodoro technique or just starting a task or project with no expectation of how much you are going to work on it.

    Checklists

    People love lists, but calendars are not at all where they belong. If you are finding yourself putting things like, “make lunch, take out puppies, grab wallet, grab watch” etc., as calendar items or notes of a calendar item, consider using a checklist application or a simple piece of paper to keep track of this data.

    What I have found, is that if you aren’t actually checking things off the checklist and just looking at the items on your calendar, sooner or later you are going to overlook something.

    Sorry, but checklists are meant to be checked.

      Taking notes

      Some people take meeting notes or notes during an even on their calendar within the calendar’s notes field. This is not bad place for putting more information about an event in your calendar, like a description of the place where your meeting is, or a little reminder of what the meeting attendees names are. But, this isn’t the place for full fledged meeting notes.

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      Try taking notes on paper or in a dedicated note taking programming (even a mass of text files will do). These are easier to link to or access later, rather than going into your calendar program.

      As a ubiquitous reminder repository

      This is an extension of the last two points.

      A calendar is meant for time and day specific things like meetings and tasks that must absolutely (and can only) be done on a certain day. Keeping all kinds of little pieces of data like reminders of things that need done in your day or even just information about something doesn’t really belong in your calendar.

      Once again if you need reminders of things try using a task management app and if you need to store information related to projects and things that need done, this type of data better belongs in a text file or even personal database.

      Keeping track of standard events

      This is something that I found myself doing up until just a few weeks ago; putting standard events like “Work” in my calendar. I think that this was to make myself “seem” more busy than I actually was. I mean why would anyone have to block out 8 hours everyday that says “Work” on it?

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      I say if you have something standard that you do everyday like Work or go the gym or whatever, don’t clutter your sacred calendar space with it.

      Not using it

      And of course the most important way you shouldn’t be using your calendar is not using it!

      Hopefully by now you realize that your calendar is like a holy place, it is reserved for things that are going to “die” if they aren’t handled at the certain time or day that they are placed on the calendar. And because of this realization, not using your calendar to keep this type of information is setting yourself up forget things and not get these important things done.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Published on September 21, 2021

      How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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      How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

      The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

      In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

      1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

      Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

      But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

      Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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      Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

      Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

      While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

      Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

      2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

      At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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      Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

      Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

      Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

      McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

      From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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      3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

      An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

      McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

      Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

      Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

      Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

      So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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      The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

      If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

      Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

      Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

      Reference

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