Managing your schedule has to be up there with one of the most loathed tasks of anyone’s day. And for those in the recruiting business, juggling calendars, time zones and shifting meetings isn’t just downright painful. It can cost you time and valuable productivity.
A 2010 survey found businesses waste nearly five hours a week scheduling meetings . And every time you bounce back and forward to lock down a precious 15-minute phone screen increases your chances of getting distracted; Microsoft found that we take on two additional tasks between interruption and getting back on track.
How we manage our day can also reflect positively or negatively on the brand we’re representing. And it can help our brain, too. In his productivity hit Getting Things Done, David Allen refers to the ‘loop’ that opens when we commit to doing something, and the stress that exists until we close it – “until you put a placeholder in a system you can trust.” Professional organizer Teri Lynn Mabbitt calls time and life management clutter one of the four types that can have powerful psychological effects.
At 1-Page, we’re all about optimizing. We love tools and tricks that save us time, and help us work together across multiple timezones and countries. And the good news? Spending just an hour exploring and testing some of these schedule hacks won’t just make managing your time easier, it will present a clear picture to those you interact with.
Start by ditching your default app
Even if you can’t change the calendar app you use for work, there are plenty of options for your phone that can make managing your time that little bit faster, and even more fun. One of the most popular alternatives out there is Sunrise, which brings your personal, work and Facebook calendars together in a clean and beautiful interface, and integrates with LinkedIn and Twitter to put faces to the names you’re meeting with. Sunrise also includes an iPhone keyboard add-on that allows you to offer multiple meeting times from within an email or text message.
Pro Tip: For more Outlook alternatives, explore Product Hunt’s Calendar compilation.
Check the time zone before you hit send
Checking you’re not booking an important call in the middle of the night can not only save wasted time rescheduling, but shows respect for your invitee that you’ve taken 30 seconds to check the local time where they are. And while Meeting Planner is invaluable for planning calls with multiple time zones, there are a host of free apps and add-ons that can give you an ‘at-a -glance’ timezone view without even leaving your email.
On Mac: The Clocks app is a quick way to check the time across multiple cities from your Mac’s menubar.
On Windows: HowtoGeek explains how to add additional clocks to the Windows Start bar.
In Outlook: Check out this handy guide on adding a second time zone to Outlook’s Calendar.
In Google Calendar: Go to Settings, and hit Labs. Enable World Clock to quickly view meeting start times across your most commonly-used timezones.
Google Calendar’s World Clock addon shows your preferred timezones whenever you click on a timeslot.
Offer multiple times to meet
Going back and forth to find a meeting time can waste unnecessary hours when organizing meeting times with a candidate. If your company uses Gmail/Google Mail, tools likeAssistant.to can add multiple meeting times directly to a message, and when your recipient picks a time, it’s automatically added to both of your calendars. (Assistant promises that Outlook support is coming too).
Google’s Appointment Slots offers a slightly different take on this, allowing you to assign times in your schedule for others to book themselves.
Reduce emails back and forward, and offer your recipient the option to choose a time that works for them. (Screenshot of Assistant.to)
‘Where should we meet for lunch, guys?’
The dreaded question that can start a barrage of email replies, new message pop-ups and distractions. Thankfully, a few app makers have come to the rescue with tools that let you build in voting tools before you hit send. Both Mixmax and Vyte.in let you poll the team for both time and location suggetions, and ping you with their preferences.
Break it down
Don’t get too excited, this isn’t a dance break. That comes at the end. Notice how remaining on task while writing candidate reports at 3pm on a Friday can take every ounce of willpower, yet remaining focussed on a 60-second challenge on your phone can be done without thinking? The power of gamification. Harness it, and watch your productivity soar. Apps like MyMinutes can force to assign timed deadlines to your day, whileTadam works off the Pomodoro technique, forcing you to measure and work to preset intervals, with a clock hovering in your menu bar, egging you on (Windows users: find a webPomodoro timer here).
Tadam’s clean interface makes it a great tool to break down your tasks, and work to timed intervals. (Image: tadamapp.com)
Block out time to get things done
You close your office door when you want to get things done, so why not block off time in your calendar when you need to stay focussed. Locking periods of time aside for certain tasks also enables you to evaluate at the start and end of the week if what you’ve been doing matches up with what you actually need to be focussing on.
Get your tools working together
For productivity hackers, there has never been a better time to feed your addiction, with apps that can push long reads found at lunch to your iPad for bedtime, turn on your living room lights before you get home, and make collaboration the norm, not the exception. But taking this even further, IFTTT and Zapier allow an action on one website or platform (favoriting a tweet on Twitter) trigger a subsequent action on another (archiving the tweet in a Google Spreadsheet).
On IFTTT, the magic that combines the two is called a recipe. On Zapier, they’re called zaps.
IFTTT recipes to explore
Zapier zaps to try
Get a personal assistant!
No, we’re not saying you need to head for your boss armed with a case for a new PA or two. Thankfully, a few new apps are close to going mainstream that promise to tackle the mundane parts of your task list, for a fraction of the cost of hired help. Facebook looks set to add real heat to the space soon too with an overhaul of Messenger. But in the meantime,Charlie promises to never leave you underprepared for a business meeting again, Magic can get your last minute groceries sorted and Postmates will deliver lunch before your next meeting.
How have you hacked your schedule for the better? Have we missed an app? Let us know in the comments.