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10 Tips to Prepare Your Small Business Calendar for 2017

Managing a calendar is a necessary task to maintain your small business and your schedule. Some days, it’s difficult to even get today’s tasks done, never mind thinking about tomorrow. But as the year draws to a close, you need to be looking ahead for your small business. In a recent study of calendar use in the workplace, 84 percent of people said calendars were important in their daily lives. While you no doubt use a calendar, now is a good time to think about whether you’re maximizing it to work for you. Here are some ways to better manage your calendar for a productive year. 1. Consider the calendar itself. These days, most business owners rely on electronic calendars, as they can easily be shared with their team. But if paper calendars, or day timers, work better for you, go with it. Just like paper calendars, electronic calendars come in many forms. Don’t stick with the calendar that comes with your email program if you feel it’s not working for you. The end of the year is the perfect time to start over.

2. Creatively Use Color. Some people love color on their electronic calendars. Others loathe it. Color can be useful to help visually separate things. For example, if your calendar has a mix of work and personal items, consider using a different color for each. Color might also be used for a shared work calendar to differentiate between employees or to note holidays.

3. Block Dates. This is the best time to go through and mark any holidays or other days next year that your business will be closed or you will be out of the office. Some calendars mark the major U.S. holidays for you, but you may choose to work on Labor Day, so make note of it for anyone who relies on or reviews your calendar. You can also mark personal days and vacation plans, plus conferences or other times you will be out.

4. Note Benchmarks. Mark any other reminders, important dates, or benchmarks you feel would help. These might be client or employee birthdays, your company’s anniversary, or a date on which you want to check in with yourself to see what progress you’re making on a specific goal.

5. Review Meetings. Review the regular meetings you have each week and consider whether you want to change the time, day, or location. For example, if you find meetings disrupt your mental flow, you might want to move all your recurring meetings to one day of the week. If you find yourself snoozing during that after-lunch meeting; change it to a time you’re more alert.

For small business owners, consider if you can have meetings by phone versus driving to meet people which takes even more time out of your day. Or, try to maximize time out of the office by scheduling at least 2 meetings to run consecutively while you’re out.

6. Mark reminders. If you have a recurring task, the calendar is a wonderful place to put it. This might be the task to reconcile bank statements or invoice clients. Anything you often need to remember that happens regularly should go on your calendar.

7. Block out lunches and breaks. This might seem silly, but if you are someone who has difficulty maintaining boundaries, these can serve as daily reminders to be conscious about taking care of yourself. Taking breaks is important, not only for your personal health, but the health of your business—you can’t take excellent care of others unless you first take excellent care of yourself. So, block time to eat, workout, talk a walk if it helps you stick to it.

8. Schedule time for admin. Block off time now in your schedule for time to brainstorm, take a class, think big, or manage administrative tasks. Some people need one day per week while others require more regular sessions.

9. There’s an App for That. If you don’t have any administrative support, you could consider Apps such as Schedule Once, Time Trade or Calendly, which link with your electronic calendar and allow others to schedule their appointments with you automatically. They can be set up to send a confirmation and reminders so you can really let them go. This doesn’t work for all types of business and one down side of using them is that people feel more able to cancel or reschedule without much thought, which can disrupt your work planning.

10. Schedule a date in January to organize your paperwork and emails. Create a 2016 folder in email files and move old emails across into that, organized by subject, or client, or however you work. For paper, create 2016 folders for any subjects that collect a lot of date-related material and archive your documents accordingly. Keep in mind your state and federal rules for how long you are required to keep business files, which generally tend to be 6-10 years, depending on the nature of the document and the industry.

A few proactive changes before the end of the year can make a big difference to your 2017.

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