A couple of years ago, I asked my fellow engineering managers at Etsy to contribute their favorite calendar hacks. The result blew my mind - and I adopted a number of hacks that I still use today.
I have a ton of meetings during the week: one-on-ones with my direct reports, one-on-ones with their reports, team meetings, personal appointments. Here’s a real example of my calendar during a four-day work week, due to a company holiday:
A view of my calendar during a four-day work week
Why are things so crammed? Losing that one working day that week meant that I had to squish a bunch of meetings close to each other. Weeks like these can mean that I get much more tired, much more quickly, because of all of the context switching that happens between meetings.
There are two things to notice about this schedule, though: for one, I often use the “shorter meetings” tool in Google Calendar to make 25-minute and 50-minute meetings (versus half-hour and hour-long meetings). That’s why you see a tiny gap in between most events, so I can give my brain more time to switch to the next thing.
The other thing to notice, which has made my life so much better, is color-coding my meetings. At first glance, I’m sure that this calendar coloring looks bananas. But for me, knowing what color my next meeting is helps save me from some MAJOR brain drain.
I’ve organized my calendar around a few different themes:
Teal: One-on-ones with my direct reports (manager brain)
Purple: One-on-ones with their direct reports (dissemination-of-information, ear-to-the-ground brain)
Gray: Blocking out time for eating, or getting from one place to another
Green: Personal appointments
Blue: Director-y meetings (meetings with my manager, or coaching other managers)
While it’s not always possible, I try to group these kinds of meetings together - and grouping colors together really helps with that. You’ll see that, when I needed to condense my meeting schedule, I tried my best to group things that use the same brain together, which results in less context-switching.
This technique of grouping - and color-coding! - has saved my brain a TON of energy over time. And less brain drain means that I'm a better manager, and hopefully a better coworker overall.