Advice: Take charge of your calendar

In a competitive world, victory favors those with the time to get things done.

How many times do we hear people exclaim, “I don’t have enough time”? There’s no time to accomplish this or that. I can’t possibly squeeze that trip in now. How can I make both the conference and my kid’s birthday? There’s only one way to avoid falling into this trap: Plan ahead—way ahead. Long-term planning will ensure people with differing agendas don’t sidetrack your life. 

It’s not as hard as it may sound. You’ve simply got to take charge of your calendar. Don’t let other people or unforeseen events control your time. Yes, certain emergencies will crop up, but as counter-intuitive as it sounds, the more planned you are the better you will be able to deal with them. Block off key events in your calendar as early as you can—don’t procrastinate. Also, learn when and how to simply say “no.”

A commanding annual plan will help you achieve the results you value most, and you can start right now. Remember it’s your life and your calendar, so take charge!

1. Company functions – You probably already know when big company events—sales meetings, strategic reviews and even the annual Christmas party—are scheduled. Check those key dates and put them in your calendar today so you don’t accidentally double-book yourself.

2. Industry functions – Most leaders at organizations attend outside functions like trade shows, conferences and professional meetings. These are typically scheduled years in advance so that’s a no-brainer: Book them in your calendar right now.

3. Professional development – We all should set aside meaningful time every year for our personal growth. Figure out what experiences you need to have and what topics you need to learn. Talk to your boss and maybe the HR department for counsel and support. Build a developmental plan and get it on the calendar before it falls through the cracks.

4. Personal time – Some of the most important dates and events lie outside of the professional realm, and it can cause undue stress on relationships when you forget a spouse’s birthday, for example. So, book those personal dates, anniversaries and annual traditions before you have to ask for forgiveness.

5. Family vacation – Last-minute vacations are tough to pull off and can unnerve family members. Give yourself some well-deserved time off—and something everyone can look forward to—by arranging the family vacation now. Make it fun—gather everyone around the calendar and get to work carving out a week of true downtime—before other priorities take the place of family time.

Plan as far in advance as you can. Review professional events with your boss so that your plans are clear; then move on to your personal agenda by proposing ideas and talking to those closest to you. You won’t complete your annual plans all at once, but the sooner you get started the sooner you can make decisions.

Of course we all need to allow for a little leeway—it’s life! But starting with a solid plan will help you stay on target. Set a date to complete your plans for the year. Then sit back and enjoy the surprising freedom that comes with thoughtful planning. 

Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Company. For more on leadership, visit joescarlett.com.

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