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Reclaim.ai Blog

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

Time Management for Managers: How to Tame Your Busy Calendar
March 1, 2021

For most managers, your calendar is dominated by needless meetings and tasks you should have delegated.


50% of the workweek is gone before it’s even started. By the end of the week, you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.

There’s a way to make time for what matters, and it means taking control of and prioritizing your calendar without withdrawing from the rest of the organization.


Keep only necessary meetings

We know, you’ve heard the argument before: attend only the right meetings and avoid the rest.

But it might be one of the most important considerations for gaining your time back. Managers spend up to 80% of work time in meetings, and half of all meetings are rated as poor, according to the Association for Psychological Science. Companies like Slack have gone so far as to cancel all recurring meetings.


So, which meetings should you keep on your calendar? In an article for Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark, executive education professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, said meetings where team decisions were being made were essential. Any meeting that’s convened to discuss the strategic future of your company, team, or project is critical. This might include kickoff meetings, problem-solving sessions, or brainstorming, writes Clark.

On the other hand, recurring, information-sharing meetings are almost always unnecessary. When a team of researchers reviewed almost 200 studies on meetings, they came to a clear consensus:

“Meetings that exist simply to share routine, nonurgent information that does not involve problem solving, decision making, or discussion should be avoided.”


And, according to Moira Alexander in TechRepublic, if you’re unlikely to leave the meeting without a takeaway that impacts your work, you’re better off not attending.

Purposeful meetings motivate and direct teams. Steven Sinofsky, former president of the Windows Division at Microsoft, makes a case for team meetings:

“Unless everyone hired shares the same background and experiences, there’s no way a group of people can converge to a high-performance team without meeting, sharing, and learning together. No amount of ping-pong, email, or shared docs can substitute for meeting.”

Audit your calendar based on your priorities

Review your calendar with your top priorities in mind. Work through your commitments, declining, or delegating events that distract you from your most important focus work. You may want to use a prioritization framework, like the Eisenhower Matrix.

7_habits_decision-making_matrix.png
The Eisenhower Matrix is a great way to make tradeoff decisions (source)


Here’s what this might look like for a manager:

  • Urgent and important: talent review during a hiring surge
  • Important, not urgent: evaluating next year’s product pricing
  • Not important but urgent: routine status check-ins with clients that can be delegated
  • Not important, not urgent: a 20-person executive review for a project you’re not involved in

Take a look at your calendar and determine which events meaningfully support your priorities — everything in the top two quadrants above. Reschedule or decline requests if events aren’t important or urgent.

Set flexible time blocks

Our users spend nearly 20% of their workweeks managing their calendar and blocking time. Let’s say you dedicate a 3 pm slot to an important task, like completing your expense report. Then, you get drawn into an ad hoc session at 2:30 pm, sabotaging your time block and your one chance to get your receipts in order and submit them for reimbursement.

People often point to famous time-blocking devotees like Elon Musk. Musk, though, has full control over how he spends his days, committing 80% of his time to engineering and product. But you're not Elon Musk: a large part of your job involves being available to collaborate with team members.

In sum, when you're managing your time as a manager, simply blocking off your entire week to write and think on your own isn't possible. Any manager's time-management technique must maintain social capital. Above all, leaders need to lead and bring smart people together to make progress on priorities. Great products and teams aren't built in a vacuum. Jamming your calendar with busy blocks doesn’t make you look approachable.

A better option is flexible time blocks. Tell Reclaim what you need to get done — your routines and your to-dos — and give it a rough idea of when it needs to be done. Reclaim will then create and adjust time blocks for you as meetings come in, dynamically flexing your availability as your day fills up.

Good time-management for managers’ tactics must accommodate interruptions. Flexible time blocks allow you to defend your time and engage with your team.

Add context to your calendar

Your time should be earmarked for specific tasks: the clearer your calendar is about your intentions, the better.

Vagueness invites interruptions; it doesn’t communicate your priorities to your co-workers. Mike Monteiro, co-founder of Mule Design, wrote in his piece “The Chokehold of Calendars” that “People rarely schedule working time. And when they do it’s viewed as second-tier time. It’s interruptible.” That’s the reason you end up in Zoom meetings all day.

It’s not that you’re not disciplined enough to engage in deep work — it’s that, by default, your calendar doesn’t have enough metadata to understand your priorities. More than two decades ago, Erik Mueller, computer scientist and author, said calendars don’t have common sense. Twenty years on, things are better, but not by much. A living assistant understands you and the projects you care about. Your calendar is not that assistant, and here’s where Reclaim helps.  

How Reclaim helps

Reclaim automates the process of dynamically switching events from free to busy. This level of calendar management is impossible for a human and very possible for a computer.

With Reclaim, you can create daily or weekly “habits” for the time most precious to you. Maybe it’s backlog scrubbing. Maybe it’s midday meditation. Whatever it is, Reclaim lets you establish a flexible set of rules to follow for those habits. So you determine a range of time you want to do your habit in (say between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.), and the minimum amount of time you're comfortable spending on it (maybe 45 min).

Initially, that range of time is added to your calendar as free time, and that habit will be visible to you but not to others.  As your calendar fills up during the week, Reclaim automatically moves your habit around your calendar within that range.

Then, when your calendar gets full, the time you set aside for your habit automatically flips to busy so that no one can schedule over your habit. So if one person scheduled a meeting from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., then a second person tried to schedule a meeting from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., that person would be unable to because your habit (a 45-minute event sometime between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.) takes precedence.

This is the kind of message co-workers will see if they try to book meetings:

Adding just a bit of context to your calendar can make all the difference!


When you’re managing your time as a manager, achieving this kind of clarity has another payoff: you get a better sense of tradeoffs. Reading is probably more important than checking social media, but it might be less important than dinner with family. Meeting with new hires may rank alongside writing that patent proposal. In short, doing things this way forces you to think about the people and projects that matter most.

Prioritize lunch breaks and buffers

Remote work has blurred our work-life balance. Atlassian analyzed user activity from millions of its customers and found working hours started to increase during lockdown. Research by NordVPN Teams showed no drop in VPN usage during lunch, suggesting that people are forgoing lunch breaks.

Breaks help you function better and reduce burnout. A Tork survey found people who take regular lunch breaks are typically more engaged and productive. Researchers from the National University of Singapore and the University of Illinois suggest even brief micro-breaks could reduce stress.

Add a flexible, recurring lunch slot to your calendar, and allow yourself to take a break every day.

Adding time before and after events is another way to recover after meetings. That way, when you book a meeting, it will automatically include enough time to decompress.

Practice your time management skills regularly

Like any skill, managing your time takes practice.

Effective time management for managers takes multiple responsibilities into account. At work, you want to be available to help a direct report pull together their first design document. In your personal life, you’re aiming to attend your child’s soccer practice. Maybe you’re even selling your consulting services on the side.

Start by tracking your time management metrics to evaluate what you’re getting in exchange for your time. Here’s an example from the Reclaim dashboard of the metrics you can review.

Reclaim's Calendar Stats can keep you focused and on track.


If you find you’re spending less time on your priorities, you may need to review your commitments:

  • Are you spending too much time in meetings?
  • Are you getting time for deep work or solo work?
  • Are you making enough time for breaks?

Make sure you’re getting the balance of collaboration, deep work, and free time you need to support your work.

Also, set aside morning and evening routines. For example, use the morning to catch up on email and officially start your day. Use the evening to complete tasks.

Regular slots act as bookends to your day when working from home, bringing order and boundaries to remote work. Consider developing a shutdown ritual to mark the end of your workday, too.

In Germany, workers disconnect from work with Feierabend, the period after work has ended. Paula McLeod, founder of U.S.-based coaching company Success by Design, has been encouraging professionals to embrace the concept of Feierabend during the pandemic: People need something to replace the shift that happens when they commute to and from the office.”

Take back control of your calendar — and your working life

At some point in your working life, you’ve started to feel the pain. The constant overwhelm that comes with lurching from one meeting to the next while falling further and further behind on your most important work. It’s the feeling that your calendar is in control of you instead of the other way around.

Getting your calendar to reflect your goals — and the routines and habits linked to those priorities — is the first step towards easing that pain.


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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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