Organize Your Calendar to Protect Personal Time

Organize your calendar with this one simple but effective tip to ensure you protect time for your personal priorities. Stop missing date night, exercise, and time with friends.

The best way to organize your calendar so you can protest personal time is beyond simple: block time for your personal events.  This sounds so obvious, but when was the last time you actually put time on your calendar to:

  • Log off at 5pm so you could do a Peloton ride
  • Start your meetings at 9:30am so you could meet a friend for coffee before work
  • Save an evening for date night 

Free, open windows of time on your calendar are an open invitation for anyone to book it. Organize your calendar and block the time you need for your life priorities. This is absolutely key to increasing happiness and avoiding burnout. And be sure to block time for focused work time too (but that’s another topic!)

Organize your calendar to protect time for exercise and personal priorities

What personal events to book on your calendar 

Think back to a recent Friday afternoon as it creeped closer to 5:00pm.  You’re kicking yourself because you did not get to workout two times that week as you’d planned.  And your date night got swallowed by a last minute work dinner that you felt you had to attend.  You kept hoping you could squeeze in a walk with a friend between meetings, but the break never came. Oh ya, and you forgot to call your mom.

Sound familiar? When you don’t protect your calendar with blocks for personal priorities, the time seems to disappear.  Start by thinking about your next few weeks:

  • When do you want to exercise?
  • When do you want to save time for your significant other or friends?
  • When do you want to do something fun or creative?
  • When do you have doctor or self-care appointments?
  • What other must-do obligations do you have, like picking up kids from school?

Now it’s time to start scheduling.

How to organize your calendar with personal time blocks

Now that you know you have time you want to protect, you actually have to block the time on your calendar for your colleagues to see. This will help your team know what time is off limits. And calendar blocks help you stay focused on your needs too!

Sometimes people hesitate to put the name of the actual event on their calendar.  Does everyone on your team really need to know you have a date night planned for 6pm this Thursday?  Probably not.  So use your judgement about when a simple placeholder is best (“Dinner plans”) vs. saying exactly what you’re doing (“Pickup kids from school”).

Protecting your personal time helps your team too

As a mom of two school-age kids, I blocked time every morning called “Allyson with kids” until 9:00am.  This signaled that I was not available for early morning calls. It also signaled that anything urgent could slip past me until I was truly focused on work. Rather than always have to repeat myself, my calendar blocks let people know the mornings were mom time.

But perhaps the most important thing this signaled was that I made my kids (and their dropoffs) a priority in the mornings. I had multiple team members who were parents share that they felt more comfortable booking personal time after seeing my blocks. So if you’re a manager, think about how you title events and what time you protect as a role model for your team.

That said, this trick is definitely not just for parents. It’s for everyone. Every single person has time they need to protect to invest in relationships and wellness. Plus we all need to save time just to have fun and blow off steam to be our best at work. These needs are important, and blocking time is a great tool to help.

Organize your calendar to protect time for exercise and personal priorities

Watch-outs when you organize your calendar this way

Adding a calendar event to protect your time is pretty close to a silver bullet. But you need to keep a few important principles in mind to make it work over the long haul:

Be realistic about when you’re expected to work

All jobs and companies are different. If your job requires you to start most days with an 8:00am team meeting, it’s going to be impossible to protect time for a 7:30am workout. But get clear on when you can have flexibility (lunchtime? Late afternoons?) and plan for those windows.

And sometimes you can block a couple evenings a week for personal time, but you have to be flexible about which nights. Go ahead and schedule a placeholder event. But as your week takes shape, slide your calendar event over to the day that works.

Actually use the time you block

Ironically, the hardest part of protecting your time may actually be doing the thing you planned to do! It’s so easy to say “yes” to that last minute request. Or when you’re feeling overwhelmed at the end of a long day, it can be tempting to just keep cranking. The exercise can wait. But remind yourself that this constant delay of personal needs is the cycle you’re trying to break.

Scan your calendar the day before. Know what times you blocked, and stick to them. People will soon realize that you’re serious about your personal obligations. People will ask before they try to book over your personal blocks. And they may even notice that you are more calm, happier, and more focused when you’re at work. You know you have time to take care of your needs.

Be there when it counts

Your goal at work is to drive results and be an outstanding member of the team. If something urgent comes up, seriously consider being flexible with your time. Yes, the whole goal here is to protect your time and meet your needs. But you’ll know when something at work trumps your personal schedule that week. Be attentive and flexible when it will be a real game changer for the team.

On that note, be aware of different seasons and events at work. If your team is hosting a big sales conference, the weeks just before the event may be packed. This is still a great time to protect your calendar, but be judicious and respectful about how many personal things you book.  And it may be a non-starter to protect time the week of the actual event. Get back into your routine the next week and protect that time on your calendar!


Let's unlock your marketing growth

I work with VC-backed startup founders and leadership teams to define the most effective marketing strategy.  I’ve built and scaled highly-engaged marketing teams, all with limited resources and tight timelines. I’m a decisive, action-oriented leader known for my empathetic style. Let's get results for your startup too. 

Allyson Letteri
Marketing Leader & Startup Advisor

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