The Keys to Time Management (Part 3): “The Right Calendar”

Thank you for coming back for more Keys to Time Management!

Calendar management is the other important component of time management where many of us struggle. Calendar management itself is also not a single skill, but a set of skills that need to come together to be effective. Once we pick or create a calendar, there are 3 Essential Behaviors for Effective Calendar Management: (1) Always have Access to your Calendar when you need it; (2) You need to Include All Commitments in your calendar; and (3) you need to Refer to Your Calendar Frequently. For most of you reading this, although this sounds simple enough, you know that it is not! These 3 Essential Behaviors are like gears in a machine: if any one gear gets out of sync, we’re sunk! Our calendar management falls apart. We miss commitments. We’re late. We don’t follow-through.

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For starters, don’t assume you need to be using “The Right Calendar“! People ask me all the time, What’s the BEST calendar to use? My answer is always, the one you use! There is no perfect calendar—there never has been, and there never will be. If there were, I’d just be giving you a link to buy it on my website! But seriously, it’s important to really listen here—because I know you want the magic solution to end your time management woes–but there really is no such thing as the perfect calendar! Deep down, you know it’s true! You’ve already tried to fit yourself into someone else’s solution, and it doesn’t work! You need to tweak and individualize any system into something that works for YOU with your own style, your own needs, and your own strengths in mind.

So many of my clients spend a lot of energy, time, and money trying to find the perfect calendar, only to end up frustrated and resistant. But a lot of their frustration comes from over-complicating the process, and thinking there is some perfect calendar with some magic trick that the rest of the planet has figured out while they weren’t paying attention. So I’m going to save you a lot of time, money, and anguish here! Stop trying to find the perfect tool for you! It doesn’t exist. There is no perfect tool because there is no such thing as perfect—it’s just an illusion! So, let go of perfect, and grab a ‘good enough” calendar to use as a tool to help you manage your time more effectively, and as you learn more about what works for you and what is most comfortable, you can make small tweaks as you go.

 

So, let go of perfect, and grab a ‘good enough” calendar to use as a tool to help you manage your time more effectively! We’re striving for better, not perfect!!

Of course there are differences in calendars, but those differences are much less important than you might think! We all have preferences, but we need to think about which of those preferences really affect a calendar’s usefulness and aren’t just making it “shiny” or appealing in the moment, because that wears off while we still need our calendars to support us! Think about the practical components first: Does it need to fit in your purse or attaché? Do you have lots of appointments each day and need lots of room for detail? I know some of you hate to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway:  Focus on practical first, and worry about aesthetics later when you have put those 3 Essential Behaviors firmly into place!

Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s true! If you are not using your calendar and checking your calendar very regularly so that you’re aware of your time commitments at an appropriate time, again, even the prettiest, most aesthetically pleasing calendar won’t be of much help to you! Creating solid habits around these 3 Essential Behaviors is key! Create habits around where your calendar goes so that you know where it is at all time. Create habits around recording commitments, and create habits around checking those commitments. Again, the 3 Essential Behaviors are:

1. Always have Access to your Calendar when you need it:

Regardless of what kind of calendar you choose, you need to have it with you so that you can put things in it, right?  So if it’s on your phone, are you pretty good about remembering to have your phone with you?  If it’s a paper calendar, are you good at always having it with you?  If not, then what do you always (or almost always) have with you when you go somewhere? Your car keys? The keys to your home? Your purse or wallet? Your transportation pass? Whatever it is, think about how you can link those two things together. Picture them together. Store them together. Physically connect them with a zip-tie if you have to! Seriously, think about how you can connect the purpose of the calendar to the thing you will connect it to. It makes it a lot easier to create that habit.

2. Include All Commitments in Your Calendar:

If you’re not putting every single time-based commitment in your calendar, you’re never going to learn to rely on it and Trust your Calendar in the way you need to for it to be able to support you sufficiently. Putting only some of your commitments in your calendar plants seeds of doubt and mistrust in your calendar! You’re also putting a lot of unnecessary strain on your less-than-reliable memory, which causes a lot of stress. If you can’t trust your memory, or your calendar, you’re sunk!

3. Refer to Your Calendar Frequently:

Finally, creating the habit of checking your calendar regularly is as important as any other of the Essential Behaviors! Again, regardless of whether you choose a paper or electronic calendar, it does you no good to become aware of an appointment or commitment after the fact or when it’s too late to prepare or follow-through! The behavior of referring to or checking your calendar regularly is what puts you in control of your time. It’s what enables you to be proactive rather than reactive. And, really, this is a form of Planning.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of calendar you use as long as you keep up the 3 Essential Behaviors for Effective Calendar Management. Any calendar will serve you well and help you take back control of your time. And that’s the bigger reason for all of this anyway, right?

The goal of improved Time Management is to have More Time and More Energy for what matters most!

In Part 4 of this series, I’ll explore how your To-Do List impacts your time management skills.

Until next time …

The clock keeps ticking!

Lynne

P.S. A few words on Electronic vs. Paper Calendars:

The big dilemma I hear from many of my clients is whether use a paper or an electronic calendar. And, really, it is a matter of preference! Both have advantages and disadvantages, but whether or not you choose to use a paper calendar or electronic is much less important than whether or not you use it with those 3 Essential Behaviors!

So, briefly, here are the benefits of one over the other, as I see them myself and for my clients:

Electronic calendars on our phones or computers can be really helpful because we can set alarms and reminders and notifications for events. Of course, this can be really helpful unless we’re over-using them or not using them well. Too many bells and alarm tones will make you start to ignore all the sounds your device makes, so it’s important not to create too much clutter with alarms and reminders. And reminders can be really helpful, but not if they’re not used carefully. A reminder for a Dr. appointment can be really, really wonderful, for example, but not when it goes off 15 minutes before the appointment and you are 20 minutes away. Also, not if it goes off 30 minutes before the appointment (from which you are 20 minutes away), but you don’t have the insurance referral for the Dr. Appointment because you weren’t checking your calendar in advance. The long and short of it—reminders and alarms can be helpful, but they’re not a substitute for creating the habits we need to create!

Electronic Calendars can also be synchronized across a variety of platforms, and accessible or “shareable” with others. For some of us, this is an important feature. For others, it adds an element of unwanted complication.

Paper is great for some of us because the act of writing things down reinforces the information for us. Some of us also like the tactile feel of paper, and being able to lay the calendar out in front of us, visually. That’s hard to do with some electronic calendars—but there are ways to work with that, too.

Pick whichever one seems most practical for you for starters. If you’re already using one, stick with it. Focus on solidifying your 3 Essential Behaviors, and make small tweaks as you go.

And if you need more  help, feel free to schedule a Complimentary Phone Consultation to see how I can help You make the most of your Time!

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