Although electronic calendars, software, and the internet were supposed to make it easier than ever to schedule meetings, the actual result of these technologies has been that people arrive late, reschedule meetings, or miss them altogether more frequently these days.
Here are just a few of the reasons why I think we are more disorganized, late, and stressed out about our calendar than ever before:
- We are now able to contact people at the last minute if we need to cancel or reschedule.
- We often schedule meetings without having our calendars in front of us.
- The sheer number of appointments, devices, and calendars that we have to stay on top of can be overwhelming.
Today, I’m going to focus on just one of the many ways that you can address this problem in your life: Consciously and explicitly insert downtime into your calendar between your scheduled appointments.
Account for Travel Time
The first reason to schedule downtime may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised by how many people don’t take it into consideration. People rarely put any travel time between appointments, and if you do that, you are setting yourself up for failure.
This is worth it even if you have back-to-back appointments in the same building, as it still takes time to travel from one meeting to the other. You need to gather up your things, get to the next room, and then settle in there before you are truly ready to begin your next meeting.
The simplest way to put downtime into your calendar is to leave empty space in between your meetings. If you’re new to this habit, I would suggest specifically putting the travel time into your calendar as an appointment. Most operating systems now have a travel time feature you could use to that end.
Less Stress, More Productivity
Taking downtime into consideration can prove beneficial in a number of ways:
- Having to create that appointment will encourage you to think consciously and realistically about how much time you really need to travel instead of mindlessly assuming it. When you create that travel time appointment, you’re going to need to decide how long to make it, which gives you time to pause and think about it.
- You can set yourself a reminder that you need to start traveling by a certain time, which will ensure that you get moving when you need to.
- Putting the downtime into your calendar will increase the likelihood that you will give serious thought about whether your previous or next meeting is going to be long enough to fulfill its purpose.
If you’ve really put some thought into budgeting your time and considering unexpected delays, you’ll be more punctual and less likely to worry about the state of your appointments. Your anxiety will be reduced and you may have actual downtime in between meetings.
These are all mindfulness and stress reduction side effects. Scheduling downtime will also help you get better over time at estimating how much you can get done in a day. Many of us tend to schedule too many meetings to the point where there’s not enough time to be in them. This can create assumptions that lead to rescheduling and cutting meetings short, which then induces stress.
It’s important to be realistic about what we can accomplish with the time we have in a day and to schedule accordingly. Ultimately, downtime will help increase your productivity and reduce your stress.