14 Sep A Day in the Life of Midwest Venture Capital: Keeping Schedules on Track for Success
Keeping a well-organized calendar is both an art and a science. It’s not enough, of course, to pencil in (and color-code!) dozens of meetings and appointments if you’re only going to re-schedule them at the last minute due to your stretched-to- the-max bandwidth. In order to keep commitments and stay sane, I recommend treating your calendar like a dance card. A well-choreographed calendar enables you to move effortlessly from one task to the next, like moving from salsa to the two-step.
Ready to let your calendar become a helpful partner rather than a constant source of stress? Consider the following tips.
Keep It Professional – And Personal
No one ever said that you have to track your life on multiple calendars. In fact, that’s a surefire way to miss appointments. As a working mother of two and the Executive Assistant for Lewis & Clark Ventures, my mind is always churning. To stay organized, I put everything on my calendar. I mean everything. “Do laundry.” “Water the plants.” Grocery lists. My menu for the week. Whether the to-do item is personal or professional, I ask myself: What needs to happen?
I often think of that ever-popular math riddle: If train A leaves the station in Kansas City going 60 mph, and train B leaves St. Louis at the same time going 60 mph heading toward Kansas City, when will they cross paths? How can these two worlds coexist, and run effectively? Calendaring.
Calendar Items Are Promises
There’s no faster way to wreck your calendar than by thinking of tasks, meetings, and appointments as mere suggestions. Instead, think of each item as a promise. This is your plan to do something; this is a commitment. For both work and home, I have a running, handwritten list – but when I input a task into my digital calendar, it’s serious. I now have a designated time to knock this item off the list. Sure, I’d like to say that I can remember everything, but with so many tasks to do on a daily basis, we all know that’s not realistic. The solution? Put it on the calendar, treat that time-slot as non-negotiable (just like you would an appointment or meeting), and get it done.
For example: I may need to pick the kids up at 5:30 p.m. and check in for a flight at 5:31 p.m. With the chaos of loading kids into a minivan (spoiler alert: it does not happen within one minute of arrival), pulling up the Southwest Airlines app is probably not at the forefront of my mind. However, if a task pops up on my phone, I am exponentially more likely to do it. This is a logical concept for our mobile, digital lives. It’s not difficult to understand and ultimately saves us all time, so why aren’t we all doing it? Quite simply: We need to stop viewing calendar items as small (or big) annoyances and start seeing them as promises – to our colleagues, to our family, to our friends, and to ourselves.
Remember That Time Holds Value
A big part of venture capital is valuation. It’s important to keep in mind that valuation applies not just to dollars and stock, but also to time. At work (and at home), I make it a practice to place great value on everyone’s time. On any given day in the busy VC world, our team may take five to ten intro calls, listen to a detailed pitch from a pipeline company, research a variety of industries, and meet with limited partners. Fitting all of those activities into one day doesn’t just happen! With so many moving parts, it is absolutely critical to map out your day, week, and month.
When the team asks me to “work my magic” in getting something onto their calendar, they know I’m not just taking a shot in the dark and guesstimating how long a meeting will take. There’s thought required for the execution. That’s why when I book calls and meetings, I am crystal-clear upfront about how long the call or meeting may take. This shows that our time is valuable – and so is the time of our LPs, portfolio companies, vendors, and partners.
This Can Be About You!
A successfully managed calendar is all about what works best for you and your work style. That means you should make it a point to schedule activities around how you like to tackle the day. Be honest with yourself about what you enjoy and what you dread. Hate doing expenses? Put it on your calendar for first thing in the morning and block off plenty of time to get it done. If you’ve prioritized it, you’ll do it – even though it may not be your favorite activity on the planet. Events can be moved, but they should never be deleted if the task remains unfinished. You can minimize the likelihood of having to move a task by giving yourself ample time to complete it, realistically. That means always allowing for travel time between meetings and appointments (don’t forget to take traffic into consideration at busy times of the day and in hectic parts of town) and giving yourself a buffer between tasks, which have the habit of running longer than anticipated.
Whether you’re fairly new to calendaring or have been making to-do lists since you could first hold a pencil, you owe it to yourself and your sense of well-being to implement an organized system. A finely orchestrated “dance card” of a calendar will keep you, your family and your office in step.