Don’t Keep it in Your Head: Use a Calendar!

CalendarThis week we are talking about calendars and how to use them effectively and it’s a good thing we’re addressing this now because December has only just started. During the month of December you won’t be able to leave any place of business you’ve entered without first picking up a free calendar emblazoned with said business’s name and info. In my collection so far, I’ve got a Milk calendar, one from the pharmacy, a race car calendar from the local garage where I get my winter tires put on, one from the grocery store, and an alumni calendar sent to me in the mail by my old university. At the rate they’re giving them away this month I could put one in every room and still have some left over. Jokes aside, I enjoy having a calendar on my refrigerator so that my family members can keep themselves organized. (As for myself, I like to use both a paper and an electronic calendar.) Choose a calendar that works best for you.

I prefer to use a hard copy calendar as well as my electronic calendar just to be thorough. I use my hard copy as my master calendar because I find it has lots of space for keeping me organized. Call me old fashioned, but I like having a hard copy back up just in case my electronic calendar fails. I realize that the chances of Google going down and me losing my online calendar are almost impossible, but nonetheless, I still feel compelled to have a version in writing. The benefits of my handwritten calendar are that I can write things down much faster when I’m on the go and I don’t waste time trying to get my phone to spell someone’s name without first trying to autocorrect it from something obscure. The greatest benefit I find in using an electronic calendar is that I can separate it into home and work and can easily share it with any member of my team with a click of a button. However you choose to do it, make sure to have a single master calendar and put all appointments on it.

Now that you’ve chosen a master calendar it is time to decide what goes on it and what doesn’t. In my early entrepreneurial days, I used to cram everything into my day timer and would always have to scan the day carefully to ensure I didn’t miss anything. I have since realized that some items belong on my calendar and some items belong elsewhere. It is the best practice to use your calendar only for date- and time-specific items and leave off things that aren’t. A meeting belongs on your calendar because it is both date and time specific but an item like buy birthday gift for so-and-so does not because it can be done anytime (Tasks are a good place for these kind of to-dos). Remember, your calendar is not your to do list, it is to be used as a way of scheduling actual events that are time sensitive.

When scheduling events using an electronic calendar you should be taking full advantage of the added features like location, duration, notes, and reminders or alerts. For example, if you have a doctor’s appointment you write it in on the proper day at the specific time you are to be there and then add the address and phone number under Location.  Under Notes you could write down questions you want to remember to ask your doctor and then set a reminder or more than one to alert you as you get closer to your appointment.  If you had a meeting coming up you would write in when and where under Location along with the phone number. Adding the phone number is a good idea that saves you having to look it up if you are running late. Always ask for an alternate or cell number for appointments. Under Notes you might want to put the meeting’s agenda or some talking points you don’t want to forget. Finally you can set an alarm to remind you that the meeting is tomorrow and to give you time to plan or get your presentation ready for it. A second reminder would be set for the day of the meeting with enough advance notice to guarantee that you make it on time. If using a hard copy you can add all of the above information in the space provided or, if there isn’t space, use a post-it-note.

Another tip for maximizing your electronic calendar’s effectiveness is to use multiple calendars with designations like, home, work, and any other label you feel you need. The benefit of using different calendars is that when you look at all of them together on your master calendar, you see things color-coded under their respective labels. You can also choose to only look at the calendars you want to see at that time which makes planning easier.

Be sure to use a calendar that gives different viewing options as well. You want to be able to see what you have scheduled for the following day before you schedule something the night before. By having a week at a glance view you are able to schedule your life more efficiently and avoid committing to a late night event the day before an important appointment.

By streamlining your calendar and putting only appointments and events on it, you create an easier way to plan and schedule each day.

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