Efficiency Tip of the Day: Digital Calendars

As I was gearing up for another packed week, I was looking at my calendar this morning, and it occurred to me just how extensively I use it to keep my life in order. I’ve written a lot about my To Do lists and my use of goals to get work done, but I think I’ve shortchanged the extent I use my Google Calendars to stay on top of all my commitments. I don’t think I’d be able to be nearly as efficient if I didn’t use them, and more and more, if something doesn’t make it onto my calendar, it doesn’t get done. (For better or worse . . . )

I have two separate calendars I keep track of at the most basic level. The first is my personal calendar, where I keep all my commitments for home and church. Whether I have to pick the kids up from school, I’ve got tickets for a show, or there’s a church meeting across the state I need to attend, all I need to do (theoretically) is glance at my personal calendar, and I know what needs doing. I will take some time at the beginning of the week to see what’s coming up, and then I get prepared for it.

The great thing about this is that I can add something to my calendar and then not use any brain cells to keep track of it until it’s at a point where I need to worry about it. Of course, this can be both good and bad. Yesterday I realized I’d bought tickets for Denisa and me to go see The Color Purple in Orono this evening. Yay! It’s the calendaring equivalent of finding $20 in your winter coat pocket that you stuck there last year. On the flip side, this morning I realized there were some items I was supposed to put on my calendar for my new church responsibilities. They didn’t make it there, so I didn’t send out an email that was supposed to go out a few weeks ago. Being an effective calendar user can sometimes give you a false sense of confidence, but you need to remember that your calendar is only as good as you let it be.

My second calendar is my work calendar, and I really rely on it a ton, in the same manner I use my personal calendar. All appointments and commitments go on there, and I (almost) never forget one. I love being able to set up recurring meetings, or being able to add something months in advance and have it there waiting for me when the time comes to schedule or plan.

Denisa is a firm believer in a paper calendar, and I know those can be great as well, but for me, I don’t think I could go back to one. For one thing, my work and personal calendars share information with each other. I can see them both at the same time (color coded, naturally) to see when I might have conflicts come up. For another, I can share those calendars with other people, and they can share their calendars with me. I suppose if I really wanted to get things going, I could try to encourage my kids to all go digital as well. Planning out our week can sometimes stress me out, just because there are so many different moving pieces, and sometimes items come up out of nowhere, and I have to put them on my beautifully arranged calendar somehow, even if there isn’t any space for them at first glance. But I realize I can’t inflict my personal calendaring approach on other people, no matter if I might like to.

(Seriously. Another pet peeve is Doodle polls, a tool used by many (including myself) to determine when you can schedule a meeting. You put in a bunch of potential times and have people mark off which times they can meet. But if everyone was just using the same calendaring system, you could have technology take care of all of that mess. Just note who you want to have at the meeting and ask it to find times when everyone is free. But maybe Democrats and Republicans will get along before everyone starts using calendars that much . . .)

Still, I realize there are always ways to improve. Maybe you’ve got a killer calendaring approach that would work even better for me. I’m open to suggestions. How do you stay on top of your schedule, planning-wise? Please share.


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