Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Productivity is all about getting stuff done. And getting stuff done requires time. And the only way to know what sort of time you have available to get stuff done is to know what time is already committed.
Enter the calendar.
The calendar, with its days and hours , is a visual representation of time. By filling in a calendar, you have a picture of your time commitments.
Since the calendar is a visual reminder of things, it should be used to track things out of the ordinary. If you know you go to the factory every day from 9 to 5 to crank widgets, you shouldn’t put that on the calendar. You should put exceptions, like days off.
If your job is filled with non-repetitive hours, then all those things should go on your calendar. People who are in professions where their time is allotted to specific other people (appointments) should write these down.
Calendars for showing appointments start with monthly, weekly and daily formats. Which one you use will depend on how many time commitments you have. If you have a few a week, a month or week format might work best. If you have multiple commitments per day, an hourly or large format week might be a better choice.
One Calendar For Everything?
Some time management systems say you should have one calendar for everything. I disagree.
Your time commitments may impact someone else, in which case that person should have access to the relevant parts of your calendar. For example, if you are a dentist with four children involved in various extracurricular activities, you would need a calendar at work to track your patients, accessible to your office staff, and one at home that allowed your children to see where they needed to be. Sharing your patient schedule with your children, or the hockey schedule with your office manager is just clutter.
Some systems say that work and home should be combined. I believe that unless your work hours vary, it is better to maintain separate calendars for work and non-work because it helps firm the boundary between work and life.
The only time I could see using one calendar is if you are a single person, without dependents, who either works for himself or sets his own work schedule.
Setting Realistic Appointments
Many times we know the start and end of our commitments, and this makes it easy to put on a calendar. But what about the dentist appointment where there was only a start time given? We need to be able to estimate (or ask!) how long the appointment will take, and block out the correct time accordingly. Thirty minutes may be enough time for a routine dental exam, but if you’re getting a root canal, I would think you would need a bit more.
Transit and Prep Time
Another thing that needs to go on the calendar is the time you need to get somewhere. I will admit that I am one of those people who like to be on time, because I believe it shows respect for other’s schedules. But to be on time, I have to factor in travel time.
If you know your root canal is scheduled for 9 a.m. and the dentist’s office is 15 minutes away, you need to block out the time to between 8:45 and 9:00. You could also just include that time as part of your appointment block.
Some methodologies and experts recommend that you set appointments with yourself on your calendar in order to accomplish tasks. These “fake” appointments are to be honored as you would an appointment with another person.
I believe that this should be done rarely, for two reasons:
Part of you knows that the commitment is only to yourself, and that if you wanted to, you could do something else. The second reason is that if you overuse this technique, your schedule becomes inflexible, and you are forcing yourself to work when you could be just living.
Properly used, calendars provide a solid foundation for your time management and your productivity.
Photo by G. Rivas Valderrama