Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once. –Anonymous
The most basic time management tool is the calendar, also know as a dayplanner. The word calendar comes from the Latin word calendarium, which means “interest register” or “account book.”
As a Professional Organizer, I am frequently asked what type of calendar is best? Should it be paper, electronic or both? Well, the answer is… it depends. And, the general rule is only one! Otherwise, life becomes confusing when you have to rely on different methods of keeping your daily appointments straight.
A functional calendar, whether paper or digital, has certain characteristics: It must be handy, easy to use and depicts time in a way that works for you. Some sort of calendar/dayplanner system is imperative for tracking personal activities, appointments, events, meetings and daily tasks. If you want enough time to do something, then schedule it on your calendar. Scheduling is the act of making a commitment, a promise, and remember to keep your promises.
The Biggest Mistake
For most people, the biggest time management mistake is that they underestimate the importance of a calendar. This is a tool that needs to be used every day and throughout the day to manage life’s happenings. Here is an example: Today is an important episode on HGTV that I want to watch in order to facilitate a discussion with colleagues. If I didn’t have it on my calendar, I would have totally forgotten in the rush of so many other activities. Do not rely on you memory — write it down on your calendar and set a reminder.
We all have the same number of hours in a day. You know that, right? But then you say, “Why do some people seem to be able to accomplish more, balancing all requests and effortlessly sail through their days?” The secret is control—planning, self-discipline and life-management skills. The calendar is the tool to keep track of and control those moments available to you.
I am a digital, gal. My calendar is part of my smart phone which is usually with me most of the time. When I need to jot down a commitment, my phone is handy. In addition, I can set up alarms, reminders, color-coded appointments, make a call, access the Internet, receive/send emails and take a picture all in one place.
But, just because digital is efficient and effective for me, it may not work for you if technology is not your forte. Paper calendars still have many pluses. Visual people often do better with pen and paper, and, you could have both — a little cumbersome, but doable. Using calendar software offers all the advantages of technology with the ability to print out a paper copy for portability and easy reference. Think carefully before you rely on this digital-paper system because you will need to reprint the paper copy if you make any changes on the computer, and if you make any notation on the paper copy, you will need to input that information on the computer. Eventually, you will forget to keep both copies updated and there in lies the dilemma of having more than one calendar system.
Choose Your Calendar Wisely
Decide how you plan to use your calendar, then choose the one that works for you. Don’t try to tailor yourself to fit a system that doesn’t match with the way you prefer to see your plans–the way you think and work. You will just be setting yourself up for nonproductive frustration.
If you want to see your activities for the full week, then select a-week-at-a-glance type of calendar. Planning a full week allows you to see time from a broader perspective. It helps you to maintain a more realistic idea of the amount of time available.
If you are interested in detailed daily plans, then look for a-day-at-a-glance. Do you need a calendar that breaks down time on an hourly, half-hour or quarter-hour basis in order to keep you on track? Or do you need one with just lines where you can create your own system? For me, it is the daily calendar set at 1/2 hour time blocks where I can write in particular projects or events. It becomes my to-do list as well, and, what gets scheduled gets done!
My digital calendar has the half-hour blocks as well as the capability to use color. Color provides a quick glance of the commitments I have made and recorded in my calendar. It gives me a good idea of how I am spending my time and what is truly important. All my activities with the grandchildren are displayed in purple. Yup, I know where my priorities lie!
Time is the most precious commodity you have and using time wisely gives you control of your life while decreasing stress.
You may be interested in a calendar that has simple blocks where you can write important information; such as phone numbers, addresses, or what you need for the next appointment or that call you plan to make? Think carefully about how you schedule and keep track of everything that requires your time and attention: appointments (even those appointments with yourself), projects, activities outside your home or office, and all information that provides a gentle reminder. Choose your calendar format carefully so that it works for you.
And finally, the family master calendar, one that displays every family member’s activities. How else will you know who goes where and when? This type of calendar is large with big boxes that represent the days of the week. And keep those colored pencils handy — one for each family member.
The family calendar is a visual labeling system that creates a shared expectation of where everyone will be and what needs to get accomplished. It keeps the whole family informed. Anyone can look at the calendar and understand what is happening on any particular day.
No matter what decision you make in choosing the best calendar/dayplanner for you, it will be of little use if you don’t use if effectively. People most often write down those appointments, meeting or events that will take them away from their home, but forget about other types of time-use; such as, calls to make, time for writing, reading time, travel time, wait time, guests, parties, deadlines, personal time (quiet time), family time and, of course, appointments with yourself. You can even add in time to run errands along with your list of what to take, where to go and what you need to get. What you want visible is the flow of activities from morning to night and not just a lot of white space which subconsciously signals your brain that you have nothing to do.
Remember, don’t over commit. Always check your calendar the day before, day after, week before, etc. before you make a commitment. Take into account what is already scheduled and allow yourself enough time between one commitment to the next.
Choose your calendar wisely and use it effectively. Having a good workable calendar allows you to maintain control of your commitments and your life. Remember, you cannot control time, you can only control how you use those moments.
There really is no such thing as time management. Time just keeps ticking away minute by minute. Pay attention to how you use those minutes.
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