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Appointment bookends: Use ‘em.

Appointment bookends: Use ‘em.

I have some very simple advice for you this week which can revolutionize your workweek productivity.

It describes a habit I had fallen into out of sheer necessity when I was a corporate VP in operations, finding that appointments could easily and completely dominate my entire day if I allowed them to. My calendar was a parade of interviews, employee counseling, staff meetings, vendor appointments, and customer meet-and-greets, all those same scheduling challenges you probably have too, with people wanting or needing their piece of you. You can’t say no to them, and you may not want to, but you can get much smarter about how you schedule them.

What I’m going to describe for you is a straight-forward scheduling habit, but it takes strong will and self-discipline because it’s so easy to break. We break it because we are good at honoring appointments with everyone but ourselves.

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This is one of the first habits I teach to the managers I coach, for without exception I discover they must learn to get their time back, claiming it as their own, and giving it the degree of worth and importance it deserves. Second, they inevitably need more help with follow-up.

The objections are immediate, and are the same from everyone, nearly verbatim, “but Rosa, I just can’t afford to do this!” My response is the same too: “You can’t afford not to. Do you want your life at work to get better or not?” Once they get it, and get into it, they never give it up.

So here it is, a new habit for you to cultivate, and one you will deem priceless once it starts to work for you too— do it, and I guarantee it will work: Bookend all your appointments.

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For every appointment you place on your calendar which involves meeting with another person or group of people, schedule a half-hour beforehand as one bookend, and another half-hour afterwards as the second bookend. When using Outlook, I went so far as to label them Mua (‘before’ in Hawaiian), or ‘PREP’ and Mahope (‘after’ pronounced Ma-ho-pay) or ‘DE-BRIEF’ as totally separate entries, with the following checklists in the Notes section as my reminders.

During PREP, you do just that:

  • In a strategy of ‘paying yourself first’ focus on what you should get out of the appointment to come: Define for yourself your best possible outcome for when the appointment is over. Never ‘wing it’ in an appointment again: Claim it and Own it.
  • Gather everything you will need; strive to dazzle your appointment with how prepared you are for them, and how intentionally focused you are. Review any related documents, and make notes of the questions you can get answered during the appointment. Appointments should be people-time, not paper-time.
  • If you are about to go into a meeting, do a mental roll-call of all the people who will be there, and compile your questions and outstanding items for them, whether related to the subject matter at hand or not. This part of the habit saves so many emails and phone calls in the rest of your week; you are capitalizing on the presence of others in a proactive way.
  • Another Outlook tip on this last item: I use the Notes section of Outlook Contacts extensively to capture any conversation-agenda items I have for people. Then, this step became as easy as printing their Contact sheets and taking them with me to my meetings; notes on their responses were written on the sheets for easy processing into my system later. If my ‘Prep’ was shorter than the half-hour I’d allotted, I went to the meeting early, caught everyone as they came in, and was able to complete many if not most of my pending conversations with them.

These prep steps help you focus so much better during the appointment itself. In my Hawaiian language of intention: Mua becomes Imua, going forward with strong momentum.

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During DE-BRIEF, you do just that:

  • Again, take care of your own needs first: Write down your de-brief of whatever memory you need to capture from the appointment. Grab your take-aways and lessons learned; reflect and rejuvenate.
  • Process your notes and get any new data you’ve captured into your system; file, calendar, replace and delete as you need to: The goal here is that meeting and appointment data by-passes your inbox and is immediately processed. Any new paperwork generated gets done or gets started when fresh in mind.
  • Get your jump-start on follow-up: Brainstorm all related next-actions related to the appointment or meeting you just had, and calendar what you can, including appointments with yourself— time blocked for those priorities you deem most important.
  • Use whatever time remains in that half-hour to get something done. Choose from that list of next actions you just wrote down, and do them.

The strategy here is working proactively with full mindfulness. When the appointment was a significant one —you know which are key for you and which are not— my De-brief bookend was a full hour; I wanted and needed my most important work to get done!

Important coaching, and where your will and discipline come in: These bookends are just that, bookends and not cushions of extra time. You must discipline yourself to start and end your meetings and appointments on time, keeping them efficiently focused as well.

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I can hear most of your objections now; believe me, I’ve already heard them all. But you ignore this advice at your own peril. Start as you can: Many of my execs will squeeze themselves into the habit little by little, starting their appointment bookends with every new booking which comes on those calendar days which are weeks into the future. They’ll call me after the random one they’ve done, saying, “Rosa, these appointment bookends are golden!” and that glorious day comes when the habit is firmly entrenched and they never ever go back.

You can do it too: Get your time back. Imua!

Related Articles:

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is also the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives, or download her manifesto: Managing with Aloha on ChangeThis.com.

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: What would your banner say?

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Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on July 29, 2020

19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day:

1. Todoist

    Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

    Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

    If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

    Download: Todoist

    2. 1Password

      You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

      1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

      You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

      Download: 1Password

      3. Bear

        Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

        It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

        Download: Bear

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        4. Hazel

          Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

          For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

          Download: noodlesoft

          5. Alfred

            Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

            For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

            It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

            Download: Alfred

            6. TextExpander

              TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

              For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

              An individual account is $3.33 per month.

              Download: TextExpander

              7. Backblaze

                If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                Download: Backblaze

                8. Keyboard Maestro

                  Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                  Download: Keyboard Maestro

                  9. Snagit

                    There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                    Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                    10. Bartender

                      Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                      If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                      Download: Bartender

                      11. Otter

                      Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                      Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                      Download: Otter

                      12. Flux

                        Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                        Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

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                        Download: Flux

                        13. PDFpen

                        If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                        PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                        Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                        14. OmniFocus

                          OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                          It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                          A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                          Download: OmniFocus

                          15. Franz

                            It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                            Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                            Download: Franz

                            16. MindNode

                              If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                              The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                              Download: MindNode

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                              17. Focus

                                The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

                                This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                Download: Focus

                                18. CleanMyMac

                                  Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                  Download: CleanMyMac

                                  19. Grammarly

                                    A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                    This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                    A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                    Download: Grammarly

                                    The Bottom Line

                                    These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                    Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                    More to Boost Productivity

                                    Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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