Every business owner
wants needs to do more with the time they have.
While we can’t clone you quite yet, we do have something just as genius—a master Google Calendar inspired by the top productivity hacks from five small business owners.
Here are their top time management philosophies—along with a calendar you can copy to declutter your life and step up your productivity game.
The ultimate Google Calendar to maximize your productivity
The calendar above will help you prioritize your tasks, plan out your week, and give you time to focus on heftier tasks instead of flitting around from event to event.
(If you’re looking for more ways to step up your game, check out our list of the best productivity apps for small business owners.)
Now, keep reading to unpack the philosophies that inspired the Google Calendar above.
1. Don’t be scared to sync your work and personal calendars.
“When you run your own business, thinking of work 100% of the time is inevitable,” says Di Ter Avest, owner of Baltimore-based home organizing service, Di is Organized. That’s why she tries not to obsess about separating work-work and the rest of her life.
Her calendar blends both her personal and business to-dos, enabling her to get a solid amount of work done “during off-hours,” like her kids’ naps and bedtimes.
Brittany Miller is the owner of SAGE + FRANK, a graphic design, branding, and web design company in Overland Park, Kansas. She owns two businesses, so keeping track of everything can make her feel scattered—which is why she also links her business and personal calendars.
“That way I have all my personal, business, and family stuff in one central place,” Miller says. It helps her feel like everything she does connects. Clicking between different calendars isn’t a big deal, but psychologically, it can really make you feel like you can’t devote enough time to either side—which can feel stressful.
2. Give each day, hour, and minute a theme.
“I try to manage my time by using the time-blocking system when possible,” Ter Avest says.
The time blocking system is when you schedule big blocks of time to make sure you dedicate enough time to complete any given task. To take time blocking to the next level, the business owners we spoke with also make sure to add a theme to each block.
Miller drops blocks of GSD (get sh*t done) time in her calendar, which allows her to feel focused instead of frazzled by all the different tasks ahead of her.
“I block out my work time so I know I have the number of hours I need to work on things like branding and websites,” she says. She knocks out management and administrative tasks on Mondays and Tuesdays so she can focus on creative work during the last three days of the week.
Amanda Goldberg, founder of California-based living and preserved moss wall company, Planted Design, is also a believer in thematically grouping her meetings. Because client calls have the potential to swallow her whole day, she prioritizes her time by only taking calls that come in from 7:30–10:30 in the morning.
“It helps me be more thoughtful with my clients,” she says. It also allows her to queue up all the details necessary for each call, which helps her pack in more info in less time.
Maryellen Gatewood, owner of FLEXDOX in St. Charles, Missouri, is a firm believer in tying specific tasks to specific days.
“I make Thursdays my follow-up days and set aside Fridays for marketing. I blast out emails late on Sunday nights so they’re in people’s inboxes first thing Monday morning. Mondays are always hectic with follow-ups from the weekend and getting my staff ramped up and ready to go,” she says. And that’s okay, because she walks into each day with a pretty good feeling about what she and her team will be doing.
3. Color code tasks based on their importance and what they’re about.
“I work from a traditional to-do list and color code tasks in order of importance,” says Karen Doniere, a personal development coach based in Wilmington, North Carolina. On her to-do list, darker colors indicate higher priority tasks while lighter colors are lower priority.
But she does things a little different on her Google Calendar. “I like to color code things to make them stand out more.” That way, when she glances at her calender, she’ll instantly know what that block of time is about.
Ter Avest also color codes her calendar, but based on the type of time block she has scheduled. So all of her morning routine blocks are yellow, while meetings are pink. You can easily do this when you create a Google Calendar meeting by clicking next to the colored dot to the right of your email address.
4. Set up standing meetings—and hold them sacred.
At Planted Design, the whole team has set meeting times every week. Each meeting has a predetermined topic, because “there’s always something to talk about,” Goldberg says.
For instance, the team has regular sales, marketing, and business best practices meetings. Recurring meetings carve out a slot to talk about important issues that otherwise may not be prioritized properly if there’s no designated time.
Goldberg also stresses the importance of respecting the time that’s marked in everyone’s calendars. She makes sure every meeting owner creates an agenda so they can be extra thoughtful with everyone’s time. This can keep a meeting from turning into a “therapy or brain-dumping session,” she says.
As a meeting owner, there are also strict rules you need to follow. “If you can’t show up or if you can’t be there, you have to reschedule it,” Goldberg says.
5. Plan your week the week before.
It’s a little meta, but Ter Avest recommends studying the following week’s calendar before Monday rolls around. That way, you won’t step into any time block unprepared.
Like Ter Avest, Doniere focuses on frontloading her week with planning to make sure she stays productive throughout the rest of the week. So if she has four tasks to accomplish the following week, she:
- Schedules time on Friday of the previous week to analyze the tasks and get herself ready to tackle them.
- Then, she schedules time to work on them the following week.
- On Monday, Doniere reviews the day and amount of time for each task. She adds notes and any other research needed so she can tackle the task easily.
- Then, she completes the task.
Doniere also checks in with her to-do list on Wednesdays and Fridays to see how she’s doing. If certain things don’t get accomplished, depending on how important they are, she either completes them on Friday evening or carries them over into the following week. That way, nothing falls through the cracks.
6. Load up your calendar with these add-ons, extensions, and hacks.
Here are a few recommended tools these business owners use to supercharge their productivity with Google Calendar.
An add-on that allows you to schedule Zoom video meetings right when you set up a Google Calendar invite.
Google Calendar notifications
“Things do automatically drop into my Google Calendar,” says Gatewood, “and I am adamant about setting up alerts so I don’t forget to do anything.” Even if something isn’t a meeting, set up an email or notification alert here in the event screen:
This Chrome extension allows you to add your Google Calendar to your Trello boards. Miller is an avid Trello user and a huge fan of this integration. “I have my calendar loaded with Planyway for Trello, so I can schedule out specific tasks leading up to their due dates,” she says.
“The artist in me used to fight against strict schedules,” says Goldberg. But Goldberg and many of the business owners we talked to have morphed into organizational whizzes—and Google Calendar pros—out of sheer necessity. Follow their tips and soon enough, staying organized won’t turn into a daily struggle.