Defragmenting your Calendar and your Outlook
It's a double-meeting that! Get it? "Outlook?"
Seriously, though, sometimes folks comment on my busy schedule and I joke that I'm "playing tetris with Outlook" where appointments are falling blocks and I'm twisting and turning them and trying to make it all fit. I also often take some time and actively defrag my calendar.
Defraggging your system's disk usually happens automatically - in the past it didn't - as background processes attempt to "reduce the fragmentation of (a file) by concatenating parts stored in separate locations on a disk." That's a techie explanation.
Here's a basic one. Ever look at your bookshelf and you've got no system? Books all over, no plan. Even worse, imagine someone ripped a book in half along the spine and stored half the book on the top and the rest on the bottom shelf? Why, you'd be scandalized and you'd want to tidy up.
Sometimes folks organize their books by color, sometimes by topic, usually by author. Point is, it can get messy, and you need to take a moment to get organized. The result is a nice tidy bookshelf that has less psychic weight and where the books you want are where you can get to them quickly.
Defragment your schedule
Why not do the same to our calendars? Often we'll just look for an open lot and a 30 min meeting will just drop in there, like an unwanted Tetris piece. If we had more time and energy we might be more aggressive and put the meeting (especially if it's a recurring meeting) in a specific slot.
What slot though? What are we optimizing for? That's up to you, but I'd consider optimizing for context switching - specifically, avoiding context switches before and after meetings.
For example, if you're a coder and you enjoy getting into the flow, avoid putting a meeting in the middle of that flow.
If you are mentoring people - perhaps like me you have a half dozen - then put them all on the same day so your brain is in "mentoring mode." Batch up your code reviews. Make email management an appointment. Is Tuesday creative day? What about No-Meetings Mondays?
Also, make sure you're color coding - just like the defragger! I use categories in my calendar and give meaning to each color so I can easily and quickly tell at a glance if this is a "Balanced Week" or if it's gonna feel weird. If you use colors that clash next to meetings with topics that clash then you can mentally prep yourself for the Context Switch.
What do YOU want your defragmented calendar to look like? Typically it takes just willpower and awareness to defrag your calendar. And just like disk defragmenting, things might run slower for a bit while you're doing it, but the result will be neater and tidier and allow you to be more effective! It'll also, ahem, improve your Outlook.
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