Do you know what I check more than my social media, stats, and emails combined?
My calendar- it’s that important to me.
I remember hearing on a podcast from Ramit Sethi a few years ago. He said, “I can tell your priorities by looking at your calendar and your bank account.”
For many years I didn’t use a calendar. I felt a calendar kind of “trapped” me and I didn’t like having my day planned out that granular.
But I’ve become busier the past few years. I knew I had a problem when I kept missing different meetings. My life became busier than I could handle and having a to do list wasn’t enough.
So I spent a few months trying to master my calendar and it has paid off dividends.
Literally everything is on my calendar: When I work, when do I eat, my habits, meetings, routines, etc. My calendar is the the “GPS” for me to hit my goals.
If something isn’t in my calendar, it doesn’t get done.
My friends joke that I probably schedule when I’m using the bathroom lol
What about the whole “feeling trapped” aspect of my calendar?
I feel the opposite. The more I use my calendar, the more “freedom” that I feel. I don’t have to stress out about missing a meeting. I can schedule my chill time and be 100% present without worries.
In this post I wanna show you some strategies to supercharge your productivity by learning how to manage your calendar.
If you don’t use a calendar at the moment, I’m gonna try and convince you that it’ll pay big dividends.
Why You Need To Use Your Calendar More (and just not a to-do list)
I used to treat my daily task list like a Holy Grail.
When I was first starting out, it probably looked something like this:
- Ask my AM for a payment bump on an offer
- Look at reports for my campaigns in Voluum
- Create four new landing page variations for a campaign
- Find two new offers to split test with one of my most promising campaigns
- Ask my VA to get images for a campaign I was about to launch
- Make a deposit into one of my traffic sources
What’s the problem with this?
You Aren’t Tracking Your Actual Productivity
Your to do list probably seems huge at first glance.
But you can knock off many of the tasks quickly. It literally takes me ten seconds to write an email to my AM asking for a pay bump.
I can go through my Voluum reports in less than 15 minutes.
Even building four landing page variations shouldn’t take long.
A to-do list can be great for the guy that wants to pat themselves on the back for “getting things done”. They can finish their daily tasks in a couple of hours and chill for the rest of the day.
These guys will still be scratching their head a year from now and wondering why they still aren’t profitable.
A calendar helps you do 3 things really well:
- Estimate how long tasks will take you (so you can schedule your day)
- Block off time to do those tasks
- Look back at the end of the day and see where your time went
If you want to make it in this business, or any business you need to push yourself to the edge and squeeze as much as possible out of every minute of the day.
Creating a daily calendar helps you see what is really possible.
We all get 24 hours in a day, how you allocate them is up to you.
Every night, I look back on my day and see how I did.
Maybe you didn’t have a productive day and that’s ok. You need awareness so you can improve. Every day is a fresh start.
Think about a goal you’ve been meaning to commit to. Most of us will have a “goal” of going to the gym more. You’re more likely to hit that goal is you have a definite plan.
What’s more defined than “Go to LA Fitness at 5:30pm.” You’ve budgeted your time for it.
You Set Unrealistic Expectations Day After Day
Some affiliates aren’t trying to con themselves into being lazy. They’re ambitious go-getters who are ready to do everything it takes to be a successful affiliate. They fill their to-do list with tons of things that they couldn’t possibly finish in a single day.
Sure, it’s a slightly better approach than underestimating, but here’s the problem – they don’t keep track of the amount of time they spend on any given task.
Even worse, they put their most important tasks off until the end of the day – usually because they’re the most difficult. Then – surprise – they never finish what needs to be done. As Brian Tracy says, you have to eat that drog.
Over time, that adds up. It’s easy to get discouraged and burnt out when you aren’t making progress.
When you set a task on your calendar that you’ve been putting off for ages, it’s much more likely to get done.
Using a calendar also forces you to set realistic expectations. When you know how long a certain task usually takes, you can carve out a big enough block of time for it.
It’s good to be optimistic, but it’s better to knock out 1 important task than switch back and forward between multiple tasks.
If you see that you don’t have enough time to complete all your tasks for the upcoming day, you know you’ll need to:
- Remove some of them and reprioritize OR
A calendar is like a drill sergeant that keeps you on track.
Limit The Amount of Time You Waste
How many times during the day do you find yourself on Facebook, messaging people, or playing XBox?
When you create a calendar, you’re holding yourself accountable. You know how and when you need to work to hit your main goals, but you can also reserve specific chunks of the day for messing around.
I schedule the first four hours of each day for Deep Work. I’m working on my most important tasks.
I always plan in my breaks so I don’t feel guilty about taking them. I stop work completely and just chill, but I know I’ve earned it.
Schedule wisely so you have enough time to focus on your priorities.
How To Master Your Calendar – My Best Tips
I wanna answer the question: “How do I actually make it work?”
Color Code It
Aaron over at Asian Efficiency wrote a post about color coding your calendar. Here is what he has to say:
“Separating out our calendars and using color-coding gives us an easy way to filter what it is we have going on during any given day, week or month – it’s a form of data isolation.”
What does he mean by “data isolation?”
You need to amp yourself up for some activities more than others.
If you’re planning on launching 3 new campaigns today, you need a different mindset than when you’re having a Skype with your AM.
If you color-code your calendar, you know what state of mind you need to be in at any given part of the day.
Here’s how I color-code my calendar:
- I use red for work related activities (like data analysis, strategic thinking, angle brainstorming etc.).
- I use green for meetings (like Skype chats with my team/VA/business contacts).
- I use yellow for important daily routines (like my morning routine).
- I use blue for personal time.
With my calendar set like this, I know how much mental energy I need to reserve for upcoming tasks, which makes it easier to get through the day.
It also means I can get an overview of my work/pleasure ratio. If I’m taking too much chill time, one glance at my calendar will tell me that I need to re-prioritize.
Set Aside Time for Planning
I hate to break to you, but your calendar doesn’t write itself.
I spen 30 minutes around the end of my workday for daily planning (Usually 6:00pm).
I’m reviewing tomorrow’s schedule, what I’m eating, who I have to meet, and my most important tasks. Seriously, this is probably the 2nd most productive habit I have besides my morning routine.
And every Sunday I spent two hours planning the week ahead.
Use this time wisely. After a while, you will start seeing patterns.
“Why did it take my 4 hours to code up that landing page? Was I on Facebook half the time, or should I find a programmer to help out because I suck a coding?”
Use Calendar Invitations
When you have a meeting, always send the other parties an invite. It’s more likely they’ll show up if they know that you’ve gone to the effort of putting it in your calendar and sending them an invitation.
It also makes you look super organized and in control of your time. It shows that you’re serious enough to plan out your days.
Another pro tip: When I set meetings I set them at odd times. Like 3:32PM.
People are more likely to show up. Everyone schedules something at 3:00pm or 3:30 so they have “wiggle room” to be late. But if you set a time to meet that specific, they know you’re serious.
Master Calendar Shortcuts
When you spend a lot of time in your calendar, you want to make it as fast as possible. Shortcuts are one way of doing this. Here are the Google Calendar shortcuts and here are the Fantastical shortcuts to help manage your calendar efficiently.
Btw, learning shortcuts for any software pays massive dividends over time. Photoshop, code editors, Google products and other tools/software you use each day have shortcuts speed things up a lot.
It’s easy to get hyper-focused on your tasks and lose track of time. Maybe you planned on spending an hour using spy tools to research a new campaign, but got carried away and spent two.
You can’t afford to make this mistake when your day is packed with stuff to do. Your campaigns will suffer if you regularly skip important tasks, and you’ll look bad if you miss meetings/calls.
This is where calendar reminders come in. They’ll remind you of an activity 10 minutes before it begins so you can wrap up your current task and prep for the next activity.
Set a reminder for every task. They get annoying, but that’s a good thing – it’s keeping you on track.
Also make sure to put in a location if you have to physically be somewhere.
I remember a few months ago I had to be somewhere. I set the time, reminder, and the location. 30 minutes before I had to be there, My phone gave me a reminder and an ETA based on the traffic to the location.
Set Realistic Gaps Between Events
I know that you want to cram as many things into your calendar as you can, but you need to be realistic. You’ll be in the wrong state if you don’t give yourself enough time to transition between events. Make sure to build sensible gaps into your schedule instead.
How much time do you need to leave yourself between events? That depends on the both the task you’ll be completing and the one you’ll be tackling next.
You may need to give yourself 30 minutes between going to the gym and doing data analysis because you need to eat/shower & be in a completely different mode. You may only need five minutes between finishing your data analysis and having a call with your AM.
Pick a number that seems reasonable and test it. If you didn’t leave yourself enough time, schedule more in the future.
I prefer to get fewer tasks done each day, but the ones I do get done, I do a really good job on so I don’t have to go back and fix them or repeat them.
Plan EVERY Hour of the Day
You’re not just managing your calendar for your professional life. You’re trying to create structure throughout your day, and that means every single hour needs to be accounted for.
The founder of IKEA is said to plan out his life into 10-minute blocks. I’m not that hardcore with my personal time, but with business time, I do plan things that precisely.
Get in the habit of planning your entire life in advance. It takes time to get used to, but it’ll make sticking to the weekly routines you set for yourself a lot easier.
I plan social time into the calendar, dinners with friends, holidays, shopping, gym etc. It gives you something fun to look forward to in the day when you can see your days mapped out.
I love looking at my calendar and thinking that I’m getting things done, but I’m doing a lot of fun stuff.
Another benefit of planning your personal time out is that you value it more.
You’re not gonna schedule “Time for reading Youtube comments” in your personal time.
What Calendar Software Should I Use?
There are several great calendar programs out there. Google Calendar is obviously the most popular, and it’s helpful that it sends reminders to your Gmail account and can sync with your smartphone.
If Google Calendar works for you, that’s cool. Personally, I prefer using Fantastical instead. (Busycal is another option)
There are a few reasons.
Time Zone Differences
Fantastical automatically adjusts for time zone differences. This may not be a big deal for 99% of the population, but it’s a huge deal for affiliates who have the flexibility to travel anywhere in the world.
Note: Google Calendar does do this, but the way Fantastical does it suits me better.
Wouldn’t it be good if your virtual assistant, AM, mastermind group members and freelancers were available at your beck and call 24/7?
You need to find out when they’re available when you’re planning events they’ll be participating in. It can be a time-consuming process organizing meetings.
Fantastical eliminates the awkward back-and-forth by letting you sync with their calendars. You can see when others are available and schedule meetings during times that work for everyone.
Great Syncing Capabilities
You can use Fantastical from your iPhone, desktop, iPad or Apple Watch. It syncs to all of your supported devices, so you can seamlessly shift from one to the other.
There’s also BusyCal you can try out if you love trying new software, but Fantastical meets my criteria for a great calendar.
Manage Your Calendar for Success
To-do lists are helpful, but they are only a part of the picture.
You need to bring your A-game to succeed in this industry. I use other software to help with productivity, but my calendar is the one thing I can’t live without.
You’re competing against organized, productive affiliates.
Being organized and planning is an essential part of being a success in business.
Give the systems I outlined above a try for one week. Then come back here and let me know if using a calendar the same way I do made a difference to your productivity.
Got any other calendar/planning tips?
Let me know!