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Productivity tips, calendar hacks, & product updates from the Reclaim team.

Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them
April 9, 2021

Most time management advice is out of touch with the reality — and the demands — of modern work life.

Why? Because time-management advice is often presented as dogma, but in practice, it’s impractical for many managers and knowledge workers to adopt. Most professionals are trying to balance work and family, but we rarely have the degree of control over our time for popular time management advice to actually work. 

In this article, we’re going to walk through the top 3 problems with most time management advice, and how to solve them.

Problem #1: Everyone's 24 hours are not equal

Although everyone has the same number of hours in a day, we all have different levels of control over those hours.

For example, wealthy executives aren’t usually subjected to the same demands as most managers and knowledge workers. We’ve all seen productivity tips for billionaires in some form or another where we read about 5 a.m. wake-up times and hour-long morning workouts. 

The problem is that your 24 hours are not equal to Jeff Bezos's 24 hours. Bezos has complete control over his daily routine. He has the flexibility to schedule what he calls “high IQ meetings” for the most mentally challenging topics before lunch. It’s a brilliant concept, but you don't always get to dictate what time your meetings occur, or are able to optimize them around when you're most productive.

So, since you’re in the trenches implementing company strategy and building relationships across the business, you’re getting pulled in a million different directions, and more meetings and ad hoc requests are piled onto your already busy schedule. It feels like you’re always busy, always falling further behind.

The result is there’s never enough time to get to the things that actually matter — like thinking deeply about product pricing or even just eating lunch. Oftentime, your only option for making progress on priorities is to work late into the night or over the weekend -- and it’s taking a toll. 68% of adults in the U.S who are at high risk for burnout say there is more work to do than they can get to, according to Statista.

Solution: Base decisions on top priorities

So, how do you take better control over your time? First, you need to think realistically about your time by understanding it is a limited resource, according to Erich C. Dierdorff, Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship at DePaul University. It’s a skill that must be developed if you want to be successful and preserve your mental well-being.

Productivity isn’t a straight line — it ebbs and flows with your work and personal commitments. One week you might need to prioritize family obligations (like a child out sick or a partner who needs surgery). The next week, you might need to spend 20 hours writing a strategy doc.

The only way to manage it all is to actually accept you only have the capacity to deal with so much. You need to consider all of those demands on our time, and be okay with making tweaks and tradeoffs in priorities from week to week. We built Reclaim specifically to help busy professionals -- like you -- to flexibly align their time and their schedules to their most important work.

Reclaim can automatically block adaptive, intelligent time on your calendar for your tasks, ensuring you get time for them before they’re due. First, you tell Reclaim what you need to get done, how much time you need, and when it’s due. Then, Reclaim analyzes your schedule to create time blocks based on your needs. 

Unlike manual time blocking tools or even a lot of automated ones, Reclaim doesn’t just flood your calendar with busy blocks. Instead, it keeps your task time free until it detects that you’re at risk of not getting the work done. That means your schedule remains flexible, open, and available for meetings -- until it’s truly not. 

There are a number of big advantages to using Reclaim here:

  • Because Reclaim actually blocks time in your calendar for your priorities, you’re forced to see where you’re overcommitted to make the right tradeoffs.
  • Since Reclaim keeps your calendar flexible (by flipping events dynamically from free to busy), it keeps you available -- but not so much that you don’t get the time you need.
  • You’re able to focus on the priorities that really matter without losing track of priorities you need to push back to a later week.

Problem #2: Real-world context is missing

Hacks dominate the time management conversation, but a lot of these tactics are hard to execute in the real world.

Take the "just say no" hack as an example. Just say no is the productivity tip that encourages us to turn down requests more frequently by "just saying no." Entrepreneur and programmer Derek Sivers summed the philosophy in an enduring 2009 post: "Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about it, say ‘no.’ We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out." 

It sounds empowering in theory, but not in practice. Saying no to colleagues constantly can cost you real social capital within the organization. Saying no to your CEO can get you in trouble.

Time blocking is another popular tactic where you simply divide your day into blocks of time for specific pieces of work. But, while your calendar may look neat and organized with clean blocks at the beginning of the week, this approach can pretty easily crumbles when you try to put it into action:

  • Lack of control: We’ve already established it’s near impossible to dictate where all of your time goes.
  • Time-consuming calendar Tetris: When your whole calendar is blocked, it can actually cost you more time negotiating with schedulers who desperately want to find time for a "quick sync".
  • Unrealistic and impractical: As a result of #1 and #2, your beautifully blocked-out calendar ends up disconnecting from reality pretty quickly.

All to say, these tactics ignore the relationships and soft pressures that happen in the workplace. In the abstract, it’s fine to be ruthlessly focused and say no to unwanted distractions, but in the real world of project demands and deadlines, saying no can be uncomfortable. It's not that your colleagues don't care about your to-do list; it's that your to-do list might not be their to-do list, and their to-do list might involve needing something from you.

Solution: Communicate context to our colleagues

In order to apply real-world context to our time management planning, you need to treat your schedule as a resource that needs to accommodate your needs as well as the needs of others. That means that you need to be vigilant about your priorities, while still accepting that external needs will come up. A helpful approach here is to look at your time strategically:

  • Determine the few projects that are pulling focus from core priorities. This might include projects that you’re interested in (and may even want to work on!) but that aren’t essential to you and your team.
  • Ask yourself how many of  the events on your calendar are related to the priorities you’re personally driving over the next six months. 
  • Of the events that aren’t aligned with our priorities, look at how much you can realistically remove from your calendar, reschedule, or not attend.

It’s important to have the conversations that unwind the tension that comes from those random meeting invites, or requests that you want to help with, but don't have time to support. Instead of carrying the stress of these incoming obligations that pull us away from your own projects, you can gain some quick clarity by setting up short 1:1’s with your team to talk through your priorities. 

Or, when your calendar is packed, you can also simply decline a meeting and send a note with more context about the tradeoffs you’re making. This way, you can build understanding around our priorities without negating our colleagues. 

Here’s a sample response you can send to politely decline a meeting invite:

"I can't attend this meeting because I need to make room for [Priority X]. I'm coming up against the deadline, so I'm trying to budget more time for this week. I'm happy to meet up later at the following times [A, B, C]. I would also appreciate a readout of the meeting. If you feel my attendance is urgent, let me know. Thanks!"

Contextualizing your calendar events is also one of the best ways you can help your colleagues understand your priorities. With Reclaim, our users are able to highlight their tasks and habits via actual events on their calendars so priorities are not only scheduled, but clearly communicated across teams. It’s also important to note that event names that convey purpose, e.g., “Working on QBR prep”,” have a much better chance of being respected than generic “Busy” blocks.

You also want to make sure context is shared where you’re most often distracted. Through Reclaim, you can actually sync your Slack status with your calendar so colleagues know why you’re offline. This again allows you to add context with a detailed update like “prep for board meeting” rather than a vague “In a Meeting” status.

Additionally, when you block off time for important Tasks using Reclaim, that time stays free and flexible on your calendar. If your Task gets interrupted by a meeting, it’s automatically rescheduled before the due date so you stay available. Most importantly, once Reclaim sees that you’re running out of time to get the Task done before the due date, the flexible Task blocked on your calendar flips from free to busy so that slot is no longer sitting open on your calendar. Then, if a colleague tries to schedule a meeting with you over this time, they’ll get a message like this:

image

By using Reclaim, your calendar automatically keeps you free for collaboration until you’re truly not. At the same time, you no longer have to worry about finding stray blocks of time to focus on getting through a project. It gives you the best shot at staying available for external requests while also getting enough time to produce your best work.

Problem #3: The perfect schedule is a myth

It's inevitable: At some point, your perfectly pulled-together calendar will fall apart.

The traditional thinking is that we have 24 hours in the day, and eight of them should be at work, eight of them should be for personal stuff, and eight are sleeping. That's perfectly balanced, but it doesn't work for everyone.

You might love what you do and want to work more than eight hours. Or alternatively, you might feel there are only a handful of creative hours in your day, and want to prioritize exercising or getting the kids outside in the afternoons. On top of these regularly occurring habits and pressures of your job, there are always life events outside of your control that you need to find time for:  doctors' appointments, school runs, errands, and so on. 

The reality is: there’s no such thing as the perfect workweek (though it’s a noble goal to aim for). 

When our time-management techniques don’t work out, we begin to think we’re the problem. Journalist José Luis Peñarredonda said the pursuit of perfectly managing our time leaves us feeling “frustrated, anxious and guilty — the opposite of the ‘stress-free productivity’ that time management is supposed to achieve.”

Solution: Adapt when we need to

Plans change, and when they do, it's time to adapt.

Adopting a time-management plan that didn’t pan out doesn't mean that you’ve failed. If you make a plan, and things change, and you can’t stick to it, it doesn’t make you an inefficient person or a poor employee. The best time managers are good at responding to change!

The ideal schedule usually looks different on different days, and that’s fine, too. In Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg writes: “A productive weekend might involve walking through the park with your kids, while a productive workday involves rushing them to daycare and getting to the office as early as you can.”

We need to be forgiving on ourselves, and our productivity tools must accommodate flexibility. Reclaim allows us to add flexible routines -- Habits -- to our calendar for the things we want to do regularly. Just like Tasks, Habits keep your time flexible until it’s truly not. If something comes up during that time, Reclaim will find another slot for your Habit.

What’s critical one week will probably matter less the next, so it’s important that you prioritize your Habits. If you need to make progress on hiring goals, talent review may be more important than your morning writing. With Reclaim, you can simply express that shift by reprioritizing your Habits or Tasks that week through the Planner tool - a centralized hub for all of your productivity planning.

Time-management advice that works in the real world

We've been in the middle-manager crunch, and know what it's like to have 50% of our workweek gone before it's even started. If you can relate, know that you're not a slacker or undisciplined if you struggle to manage your time.

Too much of the conventional time-management advice falls short because it's removed from the actual nature of work. Time-management advice works best when it’s in sync with your personal circumstances and biggest goals. Base decisions on your top priorities. Communicate context to your colleagues. Adapt when you need to, and, above all, don’t be too hard on yourself.

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September 7, 2021

Durable Identity: Employee-Friendly SaaS for Life Changes

The average person changes jobs every 4.1 years, but you shouldn't have to re-sign up for every SaaS app that often. The future of work will be more durable - your identity will survive life changes.
Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity
August 31, 2021

Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity

"This meeting could’ve been an email.” We're all thinking it. Even 71% of senior managers feel their meetings are unproductive. Reduce meetings and boost productivity with weekly status reports.
The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care
August 26, 2021

The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care

The best time to meditate depends on your intention and your schedule. But no matter when you meditate, you can reap the benefits. The important thing is that you make time for this healthy habit.
Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools
August 24, 2021

Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools

Staying organized can feel like a constant battle for people with ADHD before you find your ideal rhythm and workflow. Here are the top ADHD organization tools to help you become more productive.
No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company
August 19, 2021

No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company

Are meetings consuming your workweek? 78% of people feel their meeting schedule is out of control - see how one no-meeting day a week can improve your productivity, team morale and prevent burnout.
Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman
August 17, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman

Working as JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman, Ben shares how he balances priorities while developing the JSON Schema strategy and it's tooling, and supports the open-source community.
Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite
August 11, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite

Shay Kingsbury at Hootsuite shares how she balances priorities while leading merger and acquisition integration and Go To Market for Sparkcentral at the social media marketing and management platform.
Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages
August 10, 2021

Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages

Slack released a much-anticipated feature in June of 2021: scheduled sends for Slack messages. This, paired with some awesome Status syncing capabilities from Reclaim, can help you become a rockstar Slack communicator and role model for your team.
Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk
August 9, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk

Michele Wiedemer at Synk shares how she balances priorities while developing the education training program for security champions and developers at the open source security platform.
Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever
August 4, 2021

Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever

Exercising for as little as 15 minutes a day can increase your lifespan by as much as 3 years, and you’ll sleep better and feel less stressed too. Here's how to optimize your workouts for the best time of day.
Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People
July 28, 2021

Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People

Reading has amazing benefits, and 35% of people want to do it more. It increases verbal intelligence, makes you a better leader, reduces stress, and fends off Alzheimer’s. Here are 5 tips to try out.
Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square
July 26, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square

Rohini Pandhi, a Product Lead at Square, shares her style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the product efforts for one of the top digital payment companies in the world.
15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work
July 22, 2021

15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work

Check out the top 15 Slack apps productive teams are using today to build and support the future of work at their organization across calendar management, project management, status updates, HR and team building.
Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge
July 19, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge

Connor MacDonald at The Ridge shares his style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the marketing vision for the brand that brought the world the first RFID-blocking wallet.
Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools
July 7, 2021

Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools

We get asked almost every day: what's the difference between Reclaim.ai and Clockwise? While we're both in the smart calendar space, there are some key differences to consider.
Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips
July 2, 2021

Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips

Need to create better calendar event titles to communicate context to your invitees, colleagues and incoming schedulers? Calendar communication starts with the first thing people see: the event title.
Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity
June 22, 2021

Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity

Want to improve your quality of work, energy level, and creativity? In this article, learn 5 ways in which taking a lunch will actually boost your productivity.
Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time
June 17, 2021

Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time

Learn the 5 key differences between effective vs. pointless meetings, and 3 tips to avoid unnecessary meetings getting booked on your calendar.
3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal
June 10, 2021

3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal

You want work-life balance, but work and life can't separate into equal halves. Forget balance, here are three ways to make work-life harmony a reality.
Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉
May 26, 2021

Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉

We're excited to announce that Reclaim has raised $4.8M in seed funding led by Index Ventures. Here's what comes next.
Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management
May 25, 2021

Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management

How to use the Pareto Principle 80/20 rule to block time for your priorities.
3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus
April 28, 2021

3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus

While you may think multitasking is a skill you can master, only 2.5% of people can do it effectively. Your brain performs best when “single-tasking”, focusing on only one thing at a time.
How to Create a Smart Calendar
April 22, 2021

How to Create a Smart Calendar

A smart calendar can help you simplify calendar management and boost productivity. Here's how to create a smart calendar so you can take control of your busy schedule.
Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them
April 9, 2021

Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them

Most time management advice is out of touch with reality. Here are the top 3 problems with it and how to solve them.
Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek
April 5, 2021

Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek

We're excited to announce that Planner is now available in public beta for all Reclaim users. Planner lets you prioritize and schedule all your Tasks and Habits exactly the way you want, every week.
4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules
March 25, 2021

4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules

Time blocking is the habit of mindfully scheduling daily and weekly tasks to get everything done as efficiently as possible. A time blocking planner is used to organize your new, efficient schedule.
Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It
March 16, 2021

Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It

How do you stop context switching from eating into your productive time? We look at tactics to help you reduce task switching and improve your concentration at work.
Why You Can’t Focus at Work, and How to Get Back on Track
March 8, 2021

Why You Can’t Focus at Work, and How to Get Back on Track

It's not always easy to achieve deep focus in the modern workplace. Here are evidence-based strategies you can use to improve your focus during the workday.
Time Management for Managers: How to Tame Your Busy Calendar
March 1, 2021

Time Management for Managers: How to Tame Your Busy Calendar

Most managers calendars are dominated by needless meetings and tasks that should be delegated. 50% of the week is gone and you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. Time to prioritize your calendar.
Introducing Tasks: your to-do list finally meets your calendar
September 1, 2020

Introducing Tasks: your to-do list finally meets your calendar

We just launched Tasks. It's like your backlog and your calendar decided to make it official and get hitched.
Introducing Habits: smart, automatic time blocking for your routines
June 26, 2020

Introducing Habits: smart, automatic time blocking for your routines

Struggling to make time for the things that matter in these crazy times? Never fear, Habits are here.
Calendar Heroes: a Q&A with Zachary Smith, Managing Director at Equinix
May 27, 2020

Calendar Heroes: a Q&A with Zachary Smith, Managing Director at Equinix

We had a chance to sit down virtually with Zachary Smith, who founded Packet before it was acquired by Equinix, where he now serves as Managing Director for their bare metal and edge computing business.
Introducing Reclaim Assistant: more flexibility, more smarts
May 11, 2020

Introducing Reclaim Assistant: more flexibility, more smarts

We just launched Reclaim Assistant, a smarter way to get your calendar under control.
The only Google Calendar hacks you'll ever need
April 23, 2020

The only Google Calendar hacks you'll ever need

Tired of reading posts about Google Calendar hacks and tips that just aren't useful? This is the one for you.
4 new features from Reclaim to help you work from home
April 16, 2020

4 new features from Reclaim to help you work from home

If you're new to working from home or working remotely, these new features from Reclaim will help you to keep your sanity intact.
5 ways to help your remote teams
March 31, 2020

5 ways to help your remote teams

Now that your teams are remote, how do you make sure they don't burn out? Here are 5 ways to help your remote teams keep things balanced.
How good is your work-life balance?
February 7, 2020

How good is your work-life balance?

How defended is your work calendar? Here are some numbers that might make you wonder.
Announcing Reclaim LifeWork: sync all the calendars!
January 24, 2020

Announcing Reclaim LifeWork: sync all the calendars!

We're excited to announce the launch of Reclaim LifeWork. Automatically block time on your work calendar for personal events, and never miss out on life again.
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