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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 September 11, 2019

      Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

      Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

      How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

      Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

      To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

      Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

      Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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      • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
      • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
      • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
      • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

      Benefits of Using a To-Do List

      However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

      • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
      • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
      • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
      • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
      • You feel more organized.
      • It helps you with planning.

      4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

      Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

      1. Categorize

      Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

      It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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      2. Add Estimations

      You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

      Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

      Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

      3. Prioritize

      To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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      • Important and urgent
      • Not urgent but important
      • Not important but urgent
      • Not important or urgent

      You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

      Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

      4.  Review

      To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

      For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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      Bottom Line

      So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

      To your success!

      More to Help You Achieve More in Less Time

      Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

      Reference

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