I am obsessed with my calendar because I have an extreme case of FOMO. When a notice arrives or a request comes in for me to attend something. My immediate reaction is to go to my calendar – I check whether I am available, put the date on the calendar and file the invite in a special folder. I schedule events well in advance, place reminders to do things like renew my license and remember birthdays. While it may feel over-organized to some, my calendar keeps me sane. I am annoyed by people who just don’t seem to be able to keep track of their appointments. So, for those of you who may be calendar challenged, I offer these ideas:
- Keep only one calendar. I have tried many calendaring options over the years. I’ve tried paper, I have tried calendar and project lists, I’ve used several online options. The one thing I know for certain that works is use only one calendar and ditch multiple versions.
- Put key dates and reminders in your calendar. If you are part of a project team that keeps a separate calendar, put milestone dates on your personal calendar and a note to yourself to check the team schedule regularly for changes. I also add reminders about when my credit card statements are issued, when I need to follow-up with friends and clients, birthdays and anniversaries. I have some weekly commitments and even though I know what they are, since I use an online calendar, I schedule them as recurring events.
- Carry your calendar with you at all times. If you are using an online calendar, this is easy – it is likely you can see your calendar on your phone. If you chose paper, carry it with you – this will be an important consideration when you purchase your calendar. Why carry it? Inevitably, you will meet someone or see something while you are away from your desk and you will be able to check your availability as well as suggest alternate dates on the spot.
- Do not book appointments back-to back. Even if you only need a bathroom break, it is impossible to attend one meeting until 10 AM and be at your next meeting at 10 AM! You need to end the first meeting a few minutes before 10 or start the next one a bit after 10. Keeping people waiting or leaving a meeting early is rude and disrespectful to others, so make sure your bookings don’t make you rude. On a related point, make sure you build in travel time between meetings.
- Block time to do follow-up work. If you are the convener of a meeting, be certain to block time before the meeting to prepare the agenda and put together any needed materials. You also need time after the meeting to prepare a meeting summary. So many people go from meeting to meeting and then do their “work” at night or on weekends because there is no time in the day. If someone else is managing your calendar, make sure they understand this and they protect work time for you.
- Set your priorities and stick to them. If you need to attend your child’s school play or sports event, put that on your calendar complete with travel time to and from. That way if someone asks for your time during that event, you won’t disappoint your child and you have the will to say no and negotiate a different time for the meeting. One of the tricks I use for this is that I colour code events that cannot be compromised.
- Make it personal. Whether you are using an online calendar or a paper one, you can use colour coding, stars or whatever else you need to make your calendar work for you. I have a colour scheme on my calendar that allows me to see at a glance what’s happening.
I know that not everyone is as obsessive as I am. What I also know is that having a single calendar that is consistent with my priorities and gives me time to breathe makes my life a lot less stressful. Experiment a little to find what works for you.