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Are You In Calendar Prison?

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

You've vowed to have a productive day. You grab your coffee, sit down at your desk and open your email to discover a flood of urgent requests and meeting invitations. Your calendar is already full with important meetings, status updates and time to make traction on projects. But it looks like others expect you to drop everything and surrender the productive day you had planned.

Now, you're faced with a difficult decision: Do you try to juggle all of these requests and make them fit into your day? Or do you politely decline and risk upsetting others by being unavailable when they need you most? Many professionals say trying to control their workday calendars is like trying to control the weather—it's an exercise in futility.

Welcome to Calendar Prison.

Survey says: You're not alone.

Nearly a year ago, A Life Unleashed launched a survey (in the form of a quiz), asking professionals to rank their satisfaction in key areas. Nearly 5,000 professionals have responded to date and we're seeing some shocking trends.

48% say they feel like their calendars are no longer in their control. And, that's having some serious consequences.

Let's call it what it is.

When others don’t give you control of your calendar, it means they want to control it.

If someone consistently changes your schedule on a whim and without notice, that means they're changing your priorities to theirs.

Ummm... How demeaning is that?

Calendar sabotage can make us feel like we have no control over our own time—and when this happens over and over, we eventually give up even attempting to manage our time and end up letting others take charge of our schedules entirely.

You deserve better.

Having no control over your workday calendars can have consequences on our mental and physical health.

Burnout occurs when your job demands more from you than you're able to give—something many people experience when they have no say over their own schedules. When this happens, our bodies release excess adrenaline into our system because we feel anxious about what needs to get done next without having control over how those tasks get completed. This causes constant spikes in blood pressure and heart rate, which increases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in our bodies due to the lack of closure regarding upcoming deadlines on our calendars.

Is staying in a job that's doing all this really worth it?

Not knowing what to expect turns into not caring.

Many who say their calendars are outta hand say they're in a constant state of "waiting for the other shoe to drop." This is also know as hyper-vigilance — which is the constant on-edge feeling that something bad is about to happen. It's common in individuals who have been through an abusive relationship or trauma, but professionals can also experience it when they're constantly waiting for something awful to happen.

Eventually, this constant state of being on-edge causes many professionals to just stop caring altogether.

One way to fight back.

One way to take back your calendar is to time block ahead of time. Time blocking is the practice of setting aside blocks of time on your calendar for specific tasks, and then sticking to those times without interruption. Time blocking not only helps you get more done in less time, but it also helps you feel more in control of your schedule since you know exactly what needs to be accomplished at each point during the day. However, time blocking only works if it's respected by others.

For example: Let's say that Tuesday morning from 8:00am-10:00am is blocked off on your calendar to "work on executive presentation." This means no meetings or calls can occur during this block. If someone asks if they can meet with you on Tuesday morning, then they should reschedule their meeting until after 10 am or do it another day entirely.

Time blocking requires discipline and tenacity. You have to be willing to stick with it even if others don't follow suit. While you may have blocked out time for a project or thinking time, other people might not see it that way. Standing your ground is the only way to make time blocking work. You also need to hold yourself to your own plans. Turn off notifications. Close email. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Respect your own time blocks and others will start doing the same. If you're absolutely forced to abandon your time block, move it to a new time to ensure you still reserve the time on you calendar.

Question every meeting.

One of the most common ways businesses gobble up productivity is through meetings. Unfortunately, many organizations have become so used to this method of communication that they don't realize when it's time to reevaluate their communication practices.

Productive organizations know that technologies like Slack and Mural are redefining how we can communicate at work. Instead of interrupting seven people's time for a decision, asynchronous communication tools enable everyone to chime in while still respecting their schedules.

The calendar of those who are unleashed...

When we recently asked ALU members what they look forward to most about getting unleashed from their bad-fit careers, "calendar ownership" was at the top of the list.

Calendar control means having the power to set your own schedule, determine how many hours you work each day, and when you take time off. This is a very different way of thinking about work than most people are used to. It's a huge benefit to finding career freedom and unleashing from the corporate status quo.

Are you ready for a life outside Calendar Prison?

Are you ready to be free from the corporate status quo and live a life that is truly yours? Join ALU and get access to our exclusive community of professionals who are no longer feeling trapped in their job because they're working towards living on their own terms.

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