What You Don’t Know About How To Use A Calendar

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Photo by danielmoyle

You probably have a calendar. Whether it is on your phone, email program, desktop, or tacked to a door, there is generally a calendar around. But the question is: are you using it well?

What A Calendar Is For

A calendar is for appointments you have made for yourself (or family) at a specific date, usually with a time.

It is for things like soccer practices, doctor appointments, days off from school and work, holidays, and phases of the moon (so you know when your teenager will turn into a werewolf).

Fairly straightforward, right? Yet I see calendars with all other sorts of things on them.

The problem is if you fill your calendar with stuff that shouldn’t be on there, the stuff that should be on there gets lost in the clutter. So then not only do you have a full calendar, but you will probably lose track of what you needed it for to begin with.

What A Calendar is Not For

A calendar is not for things that don’t have a date or time, tasks, or reminders to do something.

Why? A calendar is meant to track things by date. So if it doesn’t have a date associated with it, you have imposed one by sticking it on the calendar. It’s not for reminders or tasks, because these are not appointments. They are simply things you need to remember to do.

It is also not for scheduling appointments for yourself to force yourself to work on something (I fully expect to get scalded on that remark).

Why You Shouldn’t Schedule Project Time

For some people this method works, but from my experience they are few and far between. This method involves putting blocks of time on your calendar to work on specific tasks. The theory behind this is that the act of putting stuff on the calendar will force you to commit.

I don’t know about you, but a piece of software can’t make me commit to something I would rather not do. It has no teeth.

When I tried the method, what I found was that not only was I not working on the projects during those appointment times, but I also started to treat the rest of the items on the calendar with less respect. I had lost credibility with myself and my ability to follow through with appointments. Scary stuff.

Things You May Be Missing From Your Calendar

As long as we’re talking about credibility, though, I have to point out that most people do not put all of their appointments on the calendar. They put certain things on, like doctor appointments, and leave things off, like a regular meeting you might attend or the time you spend in church.

What is the point of putting your church time on the calendar? You know you will be there and you don’t need a reminder, right? The point of putting it on the calendar is so that when you glance at the day, you can get a good feel for how much free time you actually have.

I made the mistake this year of not putting my Girl Scout meetings on my calendar. They happened every Friday, after all. And every Friday I would plan to do more than I possibly could, because some part of my brain looked at that empty Friday evening and decided to fill it in, when it was already filled.

Another Reason To Fill In All Appointments

The other reason you want to fill in your calendar with all the commitments is because you can then take a look at it and get a sense of whether or not you are stretched too thin.

When I did my first major jettison of commitments back in ’09, I hadn’t realized how busy I was because things weren’t filled in. My Wednesdays, when I spent the entire evening at music rehearsals, were empty on the calendar. All of my regular meetings for my volunteer commitments were missing as well. When I took the time to fill in the blocks, my schedule went from “sure I have time” to “how can I possibly get everything done?”

A calendar is a really powerful tool, if it is used well. Do you use your calendar well? Share below.

Photo by danielmoyle



  1. says

    Really great tips, but I think the best point of all is that whatever system we decide on it has to be something we will actually USE or it doesn’t matter how cool or efficient it is it’s not going to work. I used to work for a company that required us to use a particular brand of personal organizer and carry them with us where ever we went – those things were huge and heavy and I hated it more than I can possibly say. Now that I work for myself I have calendar software installed on my computer and it works beautifully for me.