Use Your Email and Calendar Like a Pro

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you'll be able to:

  • Set up your calendar for success.
  • Manage your email productively.

Put Your Email and Calendar to Work for You

Sometimes, your email inbox can feel like a nonstop to-do list you have no control over. And it might feel urgent to reply to anything and everything promptly. Your calendar can become filled with meetings at times that don’t work for you, and therefore disrupt your routine. 

In this unit, we discuss strategies for how to make your email and calendar work for you, rather than the other way around.

Use Your Calendar

Every non-negotiable activity should go on your calendar. This includes customer calls, work meetings, and 1:1 conversations. But it also should include your breaks for meals, exercise, and personal time. 

Take stock of how your days may be changing, if you have new demands on your time now that you’re working from home. Then employ these strategies to maximize your calendar.

  • Block time for non-negotiable activities: Make sure all of your customer calls, work meetings, 1:1 conversations, and work meetings are on your calendar.
  • Make sure your personal time is blocked: Don’t forget to block time for breaks, meals, and personal time (for example, home responsibilities, exercise, training sessions, virtual get-togethers, and so forth).
  • Make non-negotiable activities public: If you’re someone whose time is really in demand, make your non-negotiable appointments public so that everyone can see the details, and clearly mark them as “do not book over this time.”
  • Set your time zone and work hours: Most calendar apps offer features for you to set your working hours and time zone. Update these so your colleagues know when they can book time with you.
  • Block time to get work done: Depending on your role, you may need uninterrupted time to get work done. Set those blocks on your calendar and be firm about keeping them.

Designate a No Interruptions Day

Depending on your role, talk with your leadership about setting a “no interruptions” day each week where you agree to have no meetings. This can be especially helpful for engineers, creative staff, writers, and other roles that require hours of concentrated activity at a time. 

Even if your entire company can’t commit to a “no interruptions” day, you can still explore setting it for specific roles at your company.

Schedule Time to Read Your Email

Yes, you read that correctly. Rather than responding to email throughout the day, consider scheduling a few times a day to read and respond to your emails. Again, this depends on your role; for some roles, this practice would not be workable.

If you want to try this out:

  • Add blocks to your calendar to review your email.
  • Turn off your email notifications.
  • Communicate your availability to your colleagues.

Manage Your Email Efficiently

When it is your time to check email, it’s important you act, rather than leaving things in your inbox. 

Delete: Trash messages you don’t need to take action on.

Unsubscribe: Get off mailing lists you don’t want to follow.

Act: Do the task now, if you can do it in just a few minutes.

Respond: Answer now, if you can do it quickly.

Transfer: Forward the message to someone you delegate to handle it.

Economize: Be brief and clear—save time for everyone!

By putting your calendar and email to work for you, you’re positioning yourself to be more productive.

Productivity Boost

So you just learned how to transform your work practices, manage your time, and use your calendar and email more effectively. Now you can put these practices to work to promote your personal productivity during this time of crisis, and beyond. Stay safe and be well.

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