Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
The Four Laws Of Simplicity: Calendars
After bumping into the Four Laws Of Simplicity, I realized that they can be applied not only to physical stuff, but also the aspects of every productivity system. In this series, we have already talked about applying it to “stuff“. Now we’ll take a look at how to apply them to simplify your calendars.
The Four Laws Of Simplicity
Let’s start out with a review of the four laws:
- Collect everything in one place.
- Choose the essential.
- Eliminate the rest.
- Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely.
It’s fairly straightforward, right?
Applying The Four Laws To Calendars
Next we’re going to look at how to apply this to your calendar.
The first step is to collect everything that has a date and/or time attached to it and pile it up. This can include things such as:
- Doctor/dentist/vet appointments
- School schedules
- School special event flyers
- PTA events
- Sport schedules for family members
- Club schedules (Girl Scouts, Drama, etc)
- A printout of your current electronic calendar
- A printout of your work calendar
Some other things you might want to consider pulling in:
- Sales flyers
- Professional sports schedules
- Phases of the moon
- Feeding schedules at the zoo
Having all the information together will help you move on to the next step.
The purpose of this step is to choose what to put into your calendar and what you will exclude (notice I didn’t say trash).
The underlying principle here is to put things on your calendar that you are committed to doing. This would be your own appointments and things you are obligated to do for others (such as provide rides to and from child activities).
Before we begin the sorting, though, you need to decide if you are going to keep your personal commitments mixed in with your professional commitments. The decision will drive whether you are picking information for one or two calendars. These will be your primary calendars. You might have need for information-only calendars as well, but we’ll get to those in a minute.
For each item that you have collected, you need to look at each one and ask yourself if this item represents a commitment on your time. Not a would-like-to or a nice-to-do, but a definite commitment that you will be keeping. If you are keeping separate work and personal calendars, you need to note which work items are on your personal calendar, and what personal items are on your work calendar.
The next step is to remove the items that are not commitments. These items to be removed will generally fall into two camps: those that have no value to your life, and those that are things you need to be reminded of.
You might ask, what sort of things do you need to be reminded of? Here are some examples:
- School events. Unless they are for a school you are currently attending, and you are obligated to attend the event, or if you have committed to do something for that school’s event, it is just something to be aware of. Specifics might be field trips, dances, etc…things you might want to know to answer the question, “where is my child today?”
- Sports teams. Growing up near Green Bay, I am a Packer fan. It’s in my blood. But that doesn’t mean I am going to commit myself to sit down and watch every single Packer game. Particularly if it will keep me up too late. If it happens to be on my local channel, I will probably turn it on, and I need to know when that will happen.
- Moon phases. My grandfather, a dairy farmer, planted by the phases of the moon. Since I’m such a lousy gardener, this doesn’t apply to me, but I know many people who need to be aware of what the moon phase is for that reason.
For those things that don’t have a relevance in your life, get rid of them, cross them off, or whatever. For those that have informational quality that you want to stay aware of, we will deal with during the organize phase.
What does organizing your calendar mean? It means that it is in one place and it is all up to date. It means that there are no sticky notes lying around with miscellaneous appointments on them. It means that all those little cards you get from doctors, dentists and other professionals are entered into the calendar, and not mouldering at the bottom of a bag somewhere.
But it also means that the information is in its proper place.
I advocate a three calendar method for most people. A work calendar that holds your work appointments during working hours. A personal calendar that handles the rest of your commitments. And an informational calendar to hold those items that you want to be aware of, but not commit to.
This is one of the features I love about modern calendar software: you can import and link to calendars, and hide and show them as you need. I use Google calendar for my personal calendar, and I have separate calendars set up for my daughter’s activities; I also have links to the school calendar, the Girl Scout calendar, and the Packer schedule. I can hide any of these informational calendars as I choose.
That’s not to say that an electronic calendar is the best for everyone. If you find that paper is the best for you, then keep the informational calendars on separate papers. You can print out calendars for just about everything, and slip them into your paper calendar for reference.
How does your calendar look? Is it simplified? Clean? Or filled with stuff you aren’t committed to? Share below.
Photo by Lee J Haywood. Licensed under Creative Commons.