There are four things I guard in life: time, money, focus and my calendar. So many people I talk to about productivity complain about their calendar being out of control but honestly, I find they do it to themselves. I love the quote from Asian Efficiency that warns, “Don’t let your calendar become a to-do list others have access to.” Here’s a simple trick to measure your productivity using a simple hack found in most calendar applications.
How the brain processes information
Before we get into the trick, let’s talk about how the brain processes information. Before you can focus on increasing productivity, you have to know why it’s important.
Your brain is constantly filtering information and prioritizing so you don’t get overwhelmed with unnecessary or unimportant information. We rely on a constant stream of new information, and because of this, brain overload has become an undeniable problem for many. Brain overload occurs due to many factors, each of which is associated with the receipt of new information.
When your calendar is overwhelming, it tends to trigger this brain overload scenario. Planning and prioritizing your week can help prevent overload and shut down. By planning your week in advance, it helps you focus on what is most important to you and your life. The power of weekly planning lies in the perspective and control it provides, as your life will drift away if you give yourself a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth and use your newfound freedom to focus on what really matters.
If you want to know another hack in planning your week, check out why time blocking is important to recruiters.
Most calendars have the ability to color code appointments. I’ve found very few people use this feature and those that do usually make their calendars look like an acid trip. Let me suggest an easier way to color code your calendar and allow you to quickly measure productivity.
First, you will want to define the following categories in your own words or priorities:
- Somewhat Productive or Needed
- Not Productive
Everyone will have a different definition of what these categories mean so don’t stress over it. Here’s how I define my categories using questions I ask for each appointment along with some of the appointments I put under each label:
- Productive- Is this part of my key responsibilities? Does this help me achieve a revenue goal for the company?
- Sourcing time
- Candidate Interviews, offer negotiations or onboarding
- Sales meetings
- Somewhat Productive or Needed- Is this meeting critical for me accomplishing a profitable goal? Do I need to be on this informational call to further one of my productive goals?
- Partner meetings with sales or client experience teams
- Process meetings that will remove barriers to increase the production of my team
- Not productive- These are meetings where I ask myself, why am I on this call? What can I or should I be contributing to this call? What could I have used this time doing instead?
Now that you have your personal definitions, we can leverage the color coding feature and the prioritization function within the brain to reorganize your calendar.
Let’s look at how a calendar might look before we employ this hack:
As you can see, there are a lot of meetings but which meetings are moving me closer to my goals or KPIs? It’s hard to understand or measure how productive I am during the day, much less at the end of the week.
Now, let’s use a red, yellow, green approach to our day.
- Productive -Green
- Somewhat Productive or Needed- Yellow
- Not Productive-Red
It may take some getting used to but trust me, this is a time saver and really allows you to hone in on your productivity. Looking above, you can see the day seems to be fairly evenly distributed. This might be ok for some but I prefer 60% of my day be in the green. I want to be doing the activities and spending the time focused on how to move my KPIs which will ultimately result in the company performing better.
Let’s assume all five days of your week look like Monday. Here’s the math:
Of the 40 hours you’re working, only 10 hours are spent working towards your goals and the company’s profit line. This is where the red, yellow, green helps you quickly plan your weeks and do end of the week reviews to easily see how you spent your time.
When I first began doing this, I began to understand why I was so exhausted at the end of the day or the end of the week. Those weeks were usually heavily weighted in the red. Once I began shifting more of my time to the green, I not only increased my productivity but also increased my energy. This is why I love this simple approach to planning and evaluating productivity using color coding.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.Steven Covey
Planning your daily and weekly activities shows whether you can stay on schedule or not. By planning your week in advance and doing an end of the week review, you can learn to focus on what is most important to you and your productivity. The power of weekly planning lies in the perspective and control it provides. The ability to plan tasks, activities, and KPIs will help you know exactly what is on your plate -and what shouldn’t be. Color coding is the way I choose to do it.
Bonus: Once you have mastered this trick, try some of my other time savers:
- The Time Hack Tip that Takes 10 minutes but Saves you HOURS!
- How to Track Performance and Measure Iterative PRODUCTIVITY in Recruiting
and Sprint Recruiting
I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive.
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