The Guide to Scheduling Like a Pro (Meetings, Calls, Appointments & More)

Meetings that have to work for 5 different people.

Travel that gets you where you need to be, when you need to be there.

Zoom calls that can’t interfere with deep work.

Dentist appointments that can’t conflict with work meetings.

Kids’ soccer games that take precedence over everything.

There’s a lot going on inside most of our calendar apps today. And all of it has one thing in common—it has to be scheduled. If you’re like many of us, it’s easy for scheduling (and the calendar that results from poor scheduling) to take over your work and personal life.

In this article we will cover:

  1. CONTROL: 4 ways you can take back control of your schedule today
  2. TIPS: Best practices for maintaining a workable schedule for the long-term
  3. APPS: Software and apps that can help you manage scheduling
  4. DELEGATION: How you can take scheduling completely off your plate by delegating it to a virtual assistant (VA)

4 Steps to Take Back Control of Your Calendar (and Time) Today

It’s one thing to learn how to better manage your scheduling for the future, but your calendar is probably already booked at least a week or two in advance, right? Taking back control over your schedule and your time has to start today. With the 4 quick steps below, you can regain balance with your existing calendar.

1. Choose a Solution to Centralize Your Obligations on One Schedule

Having a separate calendar for different obligations is one of the quickest ways to see your schedule run amok. When your obligations are spread out across 3 or 4 (or more!) calendars, it’s way more likely that you’ll overschedule yourself and it opens the door for events to fall through the cracks.

The solution is simple—choose one solution that centralizes all of your events, meetings, calls, and appointments onto one calendar. This is the best (and really only) way to get a complete picture of your schedule and to schedule future events with intention.

It doesn’t matter if you use the calendar app preloaded on your phone, the most expensive one in the app store, or a paper calendar that hangs on the wall. As long as it’s a central source of truth for your schedule, it works.

(If you need suggestions for calendar apps to consider, we share some of those later.)

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2. Set Guidelines on When Events Can Be Scheduled

When it comes to scheduling, guidelines on when events can be scheduled serve as the bumpers to your calendar’s bowling lane. They make it easier to stay on track and keep different types of events from straying outside their lanes.

You can (and should) set guidelines on when events of each type can be scheduled that specify:

  • Days of the week
  • Times of the day
  • A minimum buffer before, after, and/or between events

These guidelines will help you keep work events during working hours and personal events during non-working hours. Plus, requiring a minimum buffer surrounding each event helps avoid overbooking and hectic schedules that leave you running (figuratively or literally) from one event to the next.

Here’s the tough part: As best you can, reschedule anything currently on your calendar that conflicts with these guidelines. That’s the only way to use this tip to take control over your schedule today.

3. Block Off Down Time, Deep Work Time, and Personal Time

Along the same vein as Step 2, it’s equally important that you block off time on your calendar for non-events—things that aren’t normally put on the calendar because they only involve you and/or their timing is seen as flexible.

For example, you may prefer to reserve the first 2 hours in the morning for deep work. But if that time looks available on your calendar, chances are good you (or someone else) will schedule right over it. That’s why we recommend adding everything to your calendar, including:

  • Down time
  • Personal time
  • Family time
  • Deep work and no-meetings time

These blocks can always be moved around and rescheduled if the need arises, but putting them down in black and white on your calendar makes those times easier to plan for and protect. As with the previous step, the hard part is reconfiguring your current schedule to accommodate these blocks—but it can and should be done to the extent you can.

4. Set, Communicate, and Enforce a Policy Around Meetings and Calls

Once you’ve wrangled back some control over your calendar, the last thing you want to do is immediately lose it because of the expectations of others. To keep your schedule manageable, you’ll need to set a policy going forward around booking things like meetings and calls.

That policy might include limiting meetings to a certain number per day or week. It might include exhausting all other options before scheduling a meeting or call. Or it could specify a team- (or family-)wide solution for managing scheduling. Either way, the key is to set a concrete policy and communicate it to everyone who needs to know.

Scheduling Best Practices to Avoid Conflicts and Overwhelm

Now that your schedule is feeling a little less unwieldy, it’s time to put some best practices in place to ensure it stays that way for the long-term.

Black Man Scheduling Events

Be Deliberate About Managing Your Schedule

You’re here and still reading about how to better manage your schedule, so this best practice should come a little more easily to you. Simply put, it’s important to be deliberate about better managing your schedule and your time and to maintain that conscious and thoughtful approach to scheduling.

Be Vigilant About Overscheduling

Along the same line of thinking, you need to be (and remain) vigilant about overscheduling. A jam-packed calendar doesn’t happen overnight—it’s more often the result of a slow and steady practice of adding “just one more meeting.” While there will always be days, weeks, and even months that are busier than others, it’s important to know and respect your limits around overscheduling.

Proactively Set Expectations About Hard Stops

Another common schedule pitfall looks like this: Your calendar is picture perfect, with 30 minute buffers between each event, yet… you still find yourself running from one meeting or appointment to the next. In the same way that overscheduling creeps up on your calendar, going over the allotted time eats into your day. That’s why proactively setting expectations about hard stop times (and enforcing them) is vital to maintaining a balanced schedule.

Rely on Technology to Help

As the corny saying goes, there’s an app for that—or in the case of calendars and scheduling, there are hundreds of apps for that. While manual paper calendars may work for some people, the majority of us can benefit from a little technology.

Today’s calendar and scheduling apps (listed below) can:

  • Automatically track and enforce event buffers and time blocks
  • Bring together events and information from multiple sources into one centralized schedule
  • Be easily and quickly shared with colleagues and family members
  • Integrate with other software (like web conferencing) you use
  • Remind you about events, so they don’t fall off your radar

Connect All the Calendars and Schedules You Use

We recommended above that you use one calendar app and one calendar alone—but, admittedly, that isn’t always possible. Your company may require meetings to be booked on Outlook calendars, for example, while you share a Google Calendar with your partner.

If that’s the case for you, don’t panic. You can still connect all of these calendars to create a centralized schedule. Most calendar apps (including Apple Calendar, Google Calendar, and more) will pull event details in from other common calendar solutions. It’s easy to switch from one app to another without losing data, and it’s even easier to connect disparate calendars into one source of truth.

Be Explicit About Time Zones and Virtual Meeting Details

If there’s anything more frustrating than finding a time that works for everyone involved, it’s rescheduling an event because of a miscommunication or lack of clarity.

In our globally connected world, chances are high that you schedule meetings or calls with people in various locations and time zones. That can get messy—so it’s important to be very explicit about meeting times and their respective time zones.

The same goes for key meeting details. This includes, most notably, virtual meeting details. Make sure that everyone expected to attend has all the details they need to do so, including meeting links, access codes, dial-in numbers, passwords, etc.

Delegate Scheduling to a Virtual Assistant (VA)

If your takeaway from the steps and best practices above is that deliberately managing your schedule sounds like a lot of work—it often is. We have a lot going on in our lives and so do all the other people we schedule meetings and appointments with.

Sometimes, the easiest way to manage your calendar, time, and scheduling is to let someone else handle it. Scheduling is one task that’s often handed over to virtual assistants (VA), and it’s a quick and easy way to take scheduling—meetings, calls, appointments, travel, and more—completely off your plate.

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Scheduling Software and Apps

Scheduling is one area of modern life that apps and software have done a lot to ease. From pulling multiple calendars into one to reminding you about upcoming events and meetings to facilitating easier scheduling among groups, the scheduling apps below can help balance your calendar and ease your scheduling process.

Business Scheduling Apps

Calend.ly

Price: Calend.ly offers a free forever version; paid tiers start at $8/month

Calend.ly is a scheduling tool that allows you to set explicit availability windows and event lengths, and integrates with popular calendar apps to cross-check your availability. You can share a short calendar link to enable anyone else to book time on your calendar.

Doodle

Price: Starts at $4.49/month

Doodle is a scheduling app that makes it easier to schedule for groups. With a Doodle poll, you can collect availability from all parties at once to find the best time. Or you can share a set of your available times for others to narrow down.

Setmore

SetMore

Price: Setmore offers a free version; paid tiers start at $25/month

Designed for businesses that need to schedule frequent appointments with outside parties, Setmore promises to help your business look more professional, automate the booking process, and get more appointments onto your schedule. With Stripe integration, you can even collect payments through Setmore.

Acuity Scheduling

Price: Acuity offers a free plan; paid tiers start at $15/month

Acuity Scheduling is another app designed for businesses that work on an appointment basis, like consultants, coaches, and yoga studios. The app allows customers to see your real-time availability and book an appointment when it’s convenient for them. Acuity also supports online payments.

vcita

Price: Starts at $19/month

vcita is a broader business management app that offers scheduling and calendar features. Targeted toward service-based businesses, vcita allows clients to schedule appointments online and even offers support for those without a website—letting your clients schedule from Facebook, a vcita landing page, and more.

Personal and Family Scheduling Apps

SkedPal

SkedPal

Price: Starts at $9.95/month

SkedPal is a calendar and to-do list app in one. The app promises to turn AI and automation into a schedule that takes all your events and to-dos into consideration and formulates the ideal schedule for you.

Schedule.ly

Price: Starts at $7.50/user/month

Schedule.ly’s scheduling and calendar app makes it easy to schedule according to your availability—and it integrates with Google Calendar. The software even includes AI-powered automated replies and confirmations when you schedule events and meetings.

Cozi

Cozi Shared Family Calendar

Price: Cozi offers a free version; contact them for more info on the paid version

Cozi is one of very few scheduling apps designed for families. It promises to bring your entire schedule together, with features for shared family calendars, to-do lists, recipe planning, and more.

Outsourcing Scheduling to a Virtual Assistant

With the best practices we outlined above and a little help from technology, it’s 100% possible to take back control over your schedule. But the reality is, no matter how well managed, keeping a manageable and balanced schedule requires both time and continuous effort.

Instead of keeping track of all that yourself, you could outsource scheduling and calendar management to a virtual assistant (VA)—so you can focus more on the actual events, meetings, and work.

Here’s a list of many of the tasks a VA can handle for your business scheduling:

  • Travel arrangements
  • Sales (follow-ups, new meetings, demos, opening the door with new prospects)
  • Trade shows (coordinate shipping and pickup of equipment, scheduling installation of booth materials, etc.)
  • Registration for workshops, trade shows, webinars, seminars, and training

In other words, working with a Delegated VA to help with scheduling means you can finally get your head out of your calendar and focus on more productive tasks and projects. Plus, Delegated VAs can also handle scheduling for your personal and family life, too, including:

  • Travel and vacation arrangements
  • Dining reservations
  • Home service appointments
  • Repair appointments
  • Personal appointments like doctor visits, hair appointments, and more

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Hold up - How does this work?

We know having someone else inside your calendar can feel a little weird at first, and there are a few concerns we often hear from people who are new to this kind of set up. Based on our experience, the benefits of time, energy, and overwhelm saved quickly overtake that concern.

However, if you’re still unsure, here are a few of the frequently asked questions we hear a lot:

Can Delegated VAs handle my personal and business scheduling?

Absolutely. Our VAs can handle nearly any kind of scheduling you need.

Can my VA work within my existing calendar and scheduling apps?

Yup. Your dedicated VA will work within any tools and processes you choose. If you still need to centralize your schedule, your VA can help you define a new process and solution that will work better for you.

How will my VA know when to schedule appointments and meetings?

Your VA will base this judgment on the information you provide them. If you communicate your scheduling preferences and guidelines, your Delegated VA will build your schedule based on those requirements.

How will my VA communicate with me?

Your Delegated VA can communicate with you in any way you prefer—text, email, phone, or carrier pigeon.

Wrapping up

Scheduling meetings, events, appointments, and more probably isn’t your favorite part of the day—but it is a reality of the connected and global world we live in today. If you’re at your wit’s end with your schedule, it’s easy to turn the key over and let a virtual assistant handle things for you.

Whether you choose to follow the steps and best practices outlined above for yourself, or to outsource your scheduling entirely, getting deliberate about how you schedule life and work is the best way to maintain control over your time and avoid a calendar that’s packed to the gills.


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