Is your diary out of control?

It is all too easy to overload our day, to start early, finish late and to have no time for a proper break. Lots of us do this routinely and see it as being necessary or 'what is done'. When things go as planned it can feel good. You feel in the flow and that you are getting things done. There are problems with having no slack in your day though.

animated gif of a child setting up dominos only to have a dog know them over when walking past

Any issues that you have during the day can cause a knock on effect for example traffic is busy and you arrive late, a family member is ill or there are problems with the technology you are using.

It takes time to end one meeting and begin another even if they end on time and you are using tools such as Zoom or Teams. If you are in an office you may need to move rooms and this takes more time. You can very quickly feel that you are behind and running to catch up.

This also leaves no time for trips to the bathroom and the kettle (I run on tea). You also need to mentally switch from one meeting to the next. All of this can cause increasing levels of stress.

How does your calendar look at the moment? Is it like this one, or worse?

Very busy google calendar with overlapping meetings and two 15 minute gaps


  • We want to get as much done as possible and so we pack the day as full as possible.
  • We are overly optimistic and only allow for everything to take the shortest amount of time.
  • We are not in control of every aspect of our day, I found one workplace very difficult as it was common for meetings to be added to my calendar during the day without warning and with very little information, sometimes clashing with items already in the calendar.
  • Meetings which you will no longer attend but are still in your calendar, including routine meetings make it difficult for you to see how much time you have available.
  • 'Can I just...' Colleagues who interrupt and use up time you had allocated to another task.
  • Time blindness. I live with ADHD and time blindness can be a problem for me. I have to be very conscious of time to ensure that I am aware of the passing of time. I use a watch with a vibrate function to remind me of upcoming appointments.

What can we do about this?

  • Make sure that your calendar reflects your day. Refuse any meetings you are not able to attend and delete out of date things from your calendar.
  • Leave space between meetings, ideally 15 minutes between hour long meetings and five minutes between 30 minute meetings. If you use Google Calendar there is an event setting for speedy meetings which ends meetings 10 or 5 minutes early. You can also set the default duration for 45 minutes if you prefer. Online services such as Calendly allow you to send a link so that people can book directly into your calendar. There are settings for buffer time before and after meetings and the maximum number of meetings bookable in a day.
Speedy meetings setting in Google calendar shortens meetings by 10 or 5 minutes
  • Give yourself some contingency time especially for travel.
  • Make sure that all meetings have a clear purpose and that invitees understand if they are a required or optional attendee. Similarly you should be able to reject meetings which you will not add any value to.
  • Agree the approach to interruptions in your team. A former colleague has a china cat which she places on her desk if she does not want to be interrupted. Perhaps have a time each day when everyone can get and give help or use a tool such as Slack to ask for help.
  • Help yourself to make things more efficient if possible. I find journalling helpful to help me see patterns and also to see where I can help Future Sharon by making notes about something I do regularly but not frequently e.g. VAT return, so that the next time I do it I have more information or a better approach.
  • Arrange the meeting day to allow for deep work. You may be able to do 100% of your work in meetings however many people cannot and it is important to allow periods of uninterrupted time for that work to take place.
  • Make time for a break every day, try to eat something healthy and do something different. Also try to get outside during the day if you can. Some people make telephone calls outside.

If we try to do too much quality suffers and eventually our health will suffer too. Remember that time is finite, and we all have 168 hours total in a week.

If you would have any additional questions or need help with your ways of working, particularly remote/hybrid, please contact me via email or directly book a call. I look forward to hearing from you.