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7 Ways You Shouldn’t Be Using Your Calendar

7 Ways You Shouldn’t Be Using Your Calendar
    photo by woody1778a http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodysworld1778/

    For some people, their calendar is the be-all-to-end, sacred tool of their productivity system. And for others it is just a dumping ground for anything and everything that they think they should do.

    And here is exactly where the problem is.

    Calendars aren’t meant to hold every piece of data that you need for getting things done. There are meant to hold time specific data that if it isn’t done at a certain time that is marked on your calendar, the task dies and it is too late to do.

    Let’s take a look at 7 different ways that you shouldn’t be using your calendar.

    Setting up false due dates

    Setting up false due dates will not only clutter your calendar, but will also make you frustrated and possibly even less productive. False due dates are those things that you add to your calendar when you say, “well, I think that I should have this part of my project done by this date here,” and then mark it with your fake due date.

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    What this does is help you put off tasks that are related to that project until you are closer and closer to the date.

    This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with milestones, but to put a hard date a piece of a project when it isn’t actually do will most likely set you up for failure.

    Time blocking

    This is another one of my pet peeves; something that I tried in school that never, ever worked. Time blocking is the idea of setting a portion of time in your calendar to devote to one specific thing that you need to get done.

    Maybe you have some work that you have been meaning to get done for some time now, so you “block” out 3 hours of your day to work on that one specific thing. Now, if you actually get through the 3 hours of working on that one thing that you need to do, you are a much better human than I and most others.

    The reality is that if you are a “knowledge worker” the chances of blocking out a portion of time to work on one thing is somewhat unrealistic and almost always gets ruined by something else that comes up.

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    Instead of time blocking, try something like the Pomodoro technique or just starting a task or project with no expectation of how much you are going to work on it.

    Checklists

    People love lists, but calendars are not at all where they belong. If you are finding yourself putting things like, “make lunch, take out puppies, grab wallet, grab watch” etc., as calendar items or notes of a calendar item, consider using a checklist application or a simple piece of paper to keep track of this data.

    What I have found, is that if you aren’t actually checking things off the checklist and just looking at the items on your calendar, sooner or later you are going to overlook something.

    Sorry, but checklists are meant to be checked.

      Taking notes

      Some people take meeting notes or notes during an even on their calendar within the calendar’s notes field. This is not bad place for putting more information about an event in your calendar, like a description of the place where your meeting is, or a little reminder of what the meeting attendees names are. But, this isn’t the place for full fledged meeting notes.

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      Try taking notes on paper or in a dedicated note taking programming (even a mass of text files will do). These are easier to link to or access later, rather than going into your calendar program.

      As a ubiquitous reminder repository

      This is an extension of the last two points.

      A calendar is meant for time and day specific things like meetings and tasks that must absolutely (and can only) be done on a certain day. Keeping all kinds of little pieces of data like reminders of things that need done in your day or even just information about something doesn’t really belong in your calendar.

      Once again if you need reminders of things try using a task management app and if you need to store information related to projects and things that need done, this type of data better belongs in a text file or even personal database.

      Keeping track of standard events

      This is something that I found myself doing up until just a few weeks ago; putting standard events like “Work” in my calendar. I think that this was to make myself “seem” more busy than I actually was. I mean why would anyone have to block out 8 hours everyday that says “Work” on it?

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      I say if you have something standard that you do everyday like Work or go the gym or whatever, don’t clutter your sacred calendar space with it.

      Not using it

      And of course the most important way you shouldn’t be using your calendar is not using it!

      Hopefully by now you realize that your calendar is like a holy place, it is reserved for things that are going to “die” if they aren’t handled at the certain time or day that they are placed on the calendar. And because of this realization, not using your calendar to keep this type of information is setting yourself up forget things and not get these important things done.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on March 23, 2021

      Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

      Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

      One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

      The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

      You need more than time management. You need energy management

      1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

      How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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      I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

      I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

      2. Determine your “peak hours”

      Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

      Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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      My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

      In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

      Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

      3. Block those high-energy hours

      Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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      Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

      If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

      That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

      There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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      Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

      Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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