The foundation of being organised is loving your calendaring.
Calendaring is my favourite thing in the world and I can talk your ears off about it for hours (scheduled hours of course!). Calendaring makes time, goals, dreams and life tangible.
Everyone needs a calendar. Everybody needs some sort of calendar-based tool to manage their life. When working with clients, I assist in setting up systems that make them want a long-term partnership with their calendar, having it become their partner-in-crime when it comes to scheduling life.
I used a physical calendar in the blog image because while most of us work digitally now, we should never forget where most of us started.
One home, one tool
Does this sound like you? Calendars set up in multiple programs? Does it triple you work and do you find you get annoyed with yourself when things get forgotten, bills don’t get paid on time and appointments are nearly missed? All of this is happening because you’re not using your calendar to its full potential. This can easily happen when your calendar has not been delegated as the one and only place to record your commitments and to-dos. Once you get this part organised, trust me, you’ll let out a sigh of relief and feel a rush of excitement.
Life has a lot of moving parts so it makes sense that all of them should be accounted for in one place. If your calendar captures your work, personal, and social commitments, it will serve as a record of your actual time usage. Doing this will help you get a sense of what your time is being spent on and how to manage it a way that is more effective.
Setting up a calendar system is easy these days. I personally love Google Calendar, which is cloud-based, and I see that it’s a preference these days with clients. But there are other options as well such as Outlook or iCal. It depends on your device, how much you like the interface and what flows well with your other programs. A cloud-based service is one of my top recommendations because you can easily switch between your smartphone and desktop. It’s flexible and syncs to keep your entries up-to-date.
If you currently have multiple calendars, choose only one and condense all of the spread out information into it. You can always trial the one calendar and if it doesn’t feel right, try another platform. It’s about finding a system that suits you, not the other way around.
The next phase of implementing a calendar system that works, is capturing everything that’s happening in your life.
You build your life into the calendar. The level of detail you capture is a personal preference.
Some of my clients go to the extent of capturing every minute life aspect. They use their calendars to encourage habit changes, such as sleep hygiene and regular mealtimes. I suggest going heavy on the detail as you set the system up. You’ll soon find the level that’s right for you.
Enter all your key activities and think about the recurring time blocks in your life. They most likely include (but obviously not limited to):
- Family commitments (such as school pick up, Thursday dinner with the parents, regular Skype calls)
- Doctor appointments
- Home maintenance
One thing that I cannot stress enough, is how important it is to capture your commute time. If you regularly must get from A to B by train, think of it as a block of time. If it takes 10 minutes walking to station A, 30 minutes on the train, and 15 minutes walking from station B – that’s already 55 minutes of your day blocked out.
Recurring time blocks are the anchors that you’ll build your schedule around. Around these anchors, you can create a life that has room to breathe with intention and balance.
Colour coding is incredibly valubale, especially for those who are very visual. Grab a list of the colours available in your calendar and create a legend. As an example, in my calendar the anchors and tasks are colour labelled like this:
- Yellow is client work
- Orange is Admin, behind the scenes work (like writing this blog post)
- Pink is meeting work-related
- Blue is social
- Red is romance
- Light blue is a personal appointment
- Purple is Gym, Health stuff
- Grey is for a reminder
- Greens are on the go entries that later I will assign a time for
Colour blocking allows you to glance at your calendar and quickly analyse where your life isn’t balanced. It helps you to understand where your scheduling doesn’t match up with your priorities. Is it too work heavy / too yellow or orange? Is it lacking in social events / not enough blue? Ask yourself, is this how you want your week to be patterned? Are you going to feel accomplished, satisfied and nourished by the end of the week?
Personally, if I see an extreme lacking in blue entries (so tempting to just Netflix and Hermit), I know I need to reach out to some friends and connect. If there’s not enough blue in my calendar, I’m going to start feeling well… blue!
Whether you work 9-5 or not, it’s important to have intention around your work hours.
The statement “work expands to fill the time available” is so unbelievably true. Sometimes, work hours flow unwittingly into your “me time”. Work becomes everything and life becomes a second priority. By creating boundaries, you enhance your productivity because you have time to rest and recharge. To take a step back and think differently.
I have business owners come to me because they don’t know how to effectively start and stop work. We workshop solutions that help them time block, giving them structure and a visual of their week’s availability. Placing buffers like this helps with stress and revitalises productivity.
The goal isn’t to create a set-in-stone rigid routine; it’s so you can see what’s possible with intention and planning.
Once my clients have the foundation of their calendar in place, their next piece of work is to observe themselves for a couple of weeks.
They observe what they add to their calendar, tweak recorded entries and develop a habit of checking it the night before, the morning of, and during the day.
Until they find a flow that fits their unique needs, I encourage my clients to be okay with moving anchors (such as the gym or grocery shopping) around until they find what fits. Some anchors can’t be moved (such as traditional work hours etc and those time blocks that are outside of your control) but others are more flexible than you think.
It’s at this point that clients will often find that their calendar is evolving and become a living to-do list. As Marie Forleo, one of my favourite motivational speakers says, “If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real.”
Let’s say you’re out and about and have the thought that you must buy milk. It’s easy to think “oooh I do need that!” but unless it’s in your calendar, it’s easy to forget. So, when you have that first thought, jump into your calendar and assign it in-line when you’ll be completing a time block near the shops.
Schedule in a weekly maintenance session
Getting into the habit of adding everything into your calendar may seem tricky, but in the end, it’s one of the most productive things you can do.
It’s often said that your brain is great at having ideas, but not for holding them. By getting everything out of your head, you’re giving yourself a break. Your calendar becomes responsible for keeping track of all the threads and commitments in your life.
Sometimes calendaring can get a bit wild. You can get caught up in the doing of calendaring but miss an opportunity to make it even more effective. Weekly maintenance sessions make you regroup and rethink the level of priority you have given some tasks. Maybe you’re letting work slip a bit too much into self-care time and you haven’t noticed.
These sessions help you adjust your time blocks for must-achieve tasks for the upcoming week. We adjust your schedule for priorities that have come up and resolve any calendar clashes. Sometimes it’s half an hour on Sunday evenings, or twenty minutes on a Monday morning. It’s whatever works for you and your schedule. Something that gets simpler to organise as your calendar becomes more of a habit.
Calendaring (AKA your loyal Executive Assistant)
Essentially, calendaring allows you to design the life that you want.
Using it as a visual guide generates awareness around how much control you have over your time each week. It’s there to help you get back on track when life inevitably happens. Your calendar can be your loyal Executive Assistant, someone who you can check in with and see if you have the capacity to do something or not. This will save you from over-committing and double booking.