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How to be productive with a simple calendar

Calendars date back thousands of years. In one way or another we’ve been tracking time and actions using what some may argue as an arbitrary system for centuries. Whether it’s an Egyptian papyrus or a Julian scroll, dates have been noted probably since we’ve had the ability to write.

But, are we using this ancient tool to its fullest ability? Is the calendar working for us or are we working for it?

In this post I’m going to give you eight simple ideas to work on when looking at your calendar. I’m not going to call them rules as what works for one persons system may not translate to anothers but hopefully it’ll give you something to think about and tweak your system into a super productive calendar system for organising your actions, tasks, appointments and life in general.

In my next post I’ll be looking at diaries and apps to help you manage your calendar. But before that:

Here go the tips….

#1 – There shall be only one

I’ve tried for some time to run a paper-based and online based calendar at the same time and it doesn’t work. Appointments overlap or get missed from one calendar or the other, we write tasks in on our paper based calendar that don’t get entered in on our online tools… the list in endless.

Choose one system and stick with it whether it be paper or computer based. Currently I prefer computer based, I run a lot of my apps through Google and I have an Android phone so it makes sense to use Google Calendar to run my appointments.

When I was running a paper calendar and my Google calendar neither of them ever seemed to match up which lead to a lot of confusion and missed appointments – or at least turning up at the wrong time. Putting all appointments in one place has (hopefully) fixed this.

#2 – If you plan it note it ASAP – and have a system that lets you do it

Don’t think to yourself “I’ll add that later”. After a couple of Pino Grigios that dinner date you made with Velma will go right out of your thoughts. Have a system that lets you note something quickly and easily against the time and date as and when the appointment crops up.

Don’t be that person who forgets an event because you’ve had a couple of beers and can’t remember to write it down – or can remember to write it down but can’t think what it is or where or with who you need to add to your calendar.

#3 – Always add a time and a location

Don’t just add “Meet Paul” to your calendar. You need to add some specifics – the more the better.

“Meet Paul, 3pm Cafe Rouge, Central City” makes more sense than a random note in a calendar. Not only that, if you’re using a computer-based solution adding a location allows you to link you event into your sat-nav to get directions and (depending on your phone) reminders of when to leave for appointments.

#4 – Split your calendars (and use colour)

With the advent of online calendars, it’s become easy for each of us to run multiple calendars under one account and one calendar program.

Originally I had three separate calendars: “Personal”, “Work” and “Blogging” Calendar but this became a bit unwieldy and I soon realised that I could combine the “Personal” and “Work” calendars into one and use colour coding of appointments to show what activity belonged to what calendar.

cal_shot_

Above you can see different coloured events, the majority of which belong to one of two calendars. Rather than having everything look exactly the same, I have colour coded events so even if they’re on the same calendar they look different and can be differentiated at a glance.

(P.S Google has magically added one calendar for me which apparently is for birthdays)

#5 – Don’t confuse tasks with events (unless they’re time sensitive)

Try not to put tasks (i.e actionable items) on your calendar – they belong on a dedicated task list.

If you have a lot of time sensitive task such as “Pay Credit Card” or “Tax return due” these can go on your calendar but colour code it and, if using an electronic calendar, put it on a tasks calendar rather than one used for appointments.

Of course, you can get task lists that sync with your calendar so if this is a common factor you may want to check them out (my personal favourite is Any.Do and Any.Do Cal which I’ll be covering in my next post).

#6 – Can you use your system offline?

What happens if you don’t have internet access? Can you still add appointments and then sync them later? It’s worth looking at whether this will be a deal breaker or not.

#7 – Printouts are not evil

Feel free to print your calendar out, it’s seriously okay!

I know we’re supposed to be entering this eco-friendly era where we’re all paper free but there’s something to be said about having a paper copy of your calendar available to skim through when you need to – like recently when I was on the phone and had to answer a question quickly and didn’t have the time to boot up my laptop.

I recycle at least 75% of my household waste so my 1 A4 calendar printout sheet a month is allowable I think..

#8 – Your calendar is not your master

Don’t be beholden to your calendar. The whole idea of these tools is that they’re fluid – which is certainly true with the ease you can move items around on online calendars.

If you have a meeting to “See Janet at 10am” don’t think that you really, absolutely have to see her if you have something else coming up (or just plain don’t want to). Of course some of these things you can’t get out of so don’t ignore them completely.

Conclusion

Paper or electronic, the choice is personal but how you use it is up to you.

Don’t be a slave to your appointment schedule, use colour coding or different calendars to block out items and events.

If you have a really busy schedule, block out some time for yourself in there too – there’s no issue with having some “Me Time”.

Whatever system you use, make sure it’s something you’re happy with and will stick with, can complete easily and keep up-to-date.

Over To You

Paper or electronic? What’s your favourite way of keeping track of appointments? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

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