Using and abusing your calendar

By johannatime On October 27, 2013 Under Getting Organised

Do you use a calendar? I think you do. Are you making good use of it? Check this post to see if you’re doing good or could do even better:

Your calendar is your schedule for tasks that are to be done at a certain date and time. You hold a calendar to make sure you don’t forget about meetings, appointments, deadlines and birthdays. And in fact, that’s all it should be.

Meetings and options

Sometimes I meet people, who have their calendars crammed with everything they could go to. Rather than deciding where to go when they add it to their calendars, they just let the options sit there to choose later. The thing is, you cannot be at two places at the same time, so you’ll have to make a decision eventually. My suggestion is to choose when you place it it your calendar. Off your plate is off your mind, and you can now focus on one commitment less.

Deadlines and deadlines

A deadline is a serious, non negotiable limit. However, when there is a deadline somewhere at the horizon, there’s another deadline too: the moment you should start working on your task to meet that deadline. At this point, it gets tricky, because you could also start a day earlier or even a day later.

Tasks and time slots

Do you write tasks in your calendar to remind you of things that need to get done? And does it ever happen that you didn’t do them? If so, how did you feel about that? My guess is you felt you cheated and you are disappointed because someone didn’t keep their commitment with you: yourself. It may be not all that dramatic; I’m talking about skipping a workout, or failing to work on that important but not very urgent project. However, it leaves you with a sense of failure.

But there’s another danger lurking: because your calendar holds both dead serious reminders as well as mild suggestions to spend your time on, you subconsciously start questioning your calendar and you run the risk of making mistakes, on top of feeling dissatisfied because part of the stuff in there you didn’t even get to.

Best practices for using your calendar, and how to deal with all the other stuff

You calendar represents the hard landscape of your day. It tells you where to be at what time, nothing more. You should be able to trust if fully and without reconsideration.

  • Use your calendar for date and time specific commitments only. That’s meetings, appointments, travel time, (hard) deadlines and birthdays
  • Use a tasklist for all the other non time specific reminders, with or without a deadline. Be specific about your task, make it do-able and finishable
  • If you do decide to place a task on your calendar, stick to it, do it, but whatever happens, don’t skip or postpone it
  • When there is a serious deadline in your calendar in the near future, make sure to place that on your projects list, determine the first action that needs to be done to meet that deadline, and place that on your task lis. Same works for projects that don’t hold a serious deadline, but are important to you

So does your calendar hold ambitions, options, suggestions and the like? Or is it cristal clear? Please share your calendar habits in the comments below:

  • […] Only schedule date and time specific meetings or stick with everything on your schedule as […]

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    2 Comments Add yours

    1. Steven Lederman
      October 30, 2013
      1:28 pm #comment-1


      Thank you for the article. I recently came across your blog and hope to glean some great insights. This topic is of interest to me as I have been totally overthinking how to implement calendars and due dates, causing me a lot of unneeded stress.

      If I understand correctly, your advice is to only place tasks which need to be done “at” a certain day/time (such as weekly project status meeting) as opposed to those which need to be done “by” a certain day/time (such as when your project status report is due) which should be tracked in your task list. Is that accurate? Should the actual project work only to be tracked in your project management tools? And is it OK to block off time on your calendar as “work on status report” to be sure that you actually find time to get the work done – I can’t see how the task list alone can drive that.



      • johannatime
        November 4, 2013
        1:09 pm #comment-2

        Thank you for your comment, Steven, and yes you understand that correctly. Your calendar represents the hard landscape of your day: when you need to be where doing what. Tasks you could do earlier or later, and that can often be done in different places, should sit on your tasks list. Reserve the time inbetween meetings (the soft landscape) for tasks on your list and they will get done. It is fine, however, to block off time for whatever task if you’re afraid you’d otherwise not get to it, but stick to that committment with yourself, otherwise your landscape gets swampy. Good luck and let me know how you’re going!

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