NOTE: Although this blog is about calendars and planners, I highly encourage everyone to have a large wall calendar within sight of where they spend their time. Whether it’s the kitchen or the office (and sometimes the kitchen IS the office), a well-placed wall calendar offers a different visual perspective on the passage of time.
Almost everyone I know has some kind of physical or electronic planner or calendar. (If you are still looking for the perfect one, check out my recent blog about picking the right planner/calendar tool for your learning style.)
Just like owning a jigsaw doesn’t automatically make you proficient at the art of woodworking, having the right planner or calendar tool is only part of the process. First, you need to learn how to use it.
I have a paper planner because I’m a visual and tactile learner. The tips you see below refer to how I use my physical planner. I’m sure if you prefer an electronic version, the recommendations will work equally well, just in a different format.
Although there are hundreds of suggestions on how to get the most out of your planner or calendar, below are seven relatively simple steps that I use:
- Keep it accessible/visible. Depending on how you use your planner, one thing is for sure, if it’s not handy, it won’t get used. Keeping it accessible/visible will create a greater opportunity for vital information to get captured.
- Make it your storage device. If it’s important, put it in your planner. Besides the obvious answer of upcoming appointments, what do I consider important enough to keep in my planner?
- No searching for tools! I keep a pencil attached to the planner, ensuring I can capture information when I need to capture it. (I highly suggest pencils vs. pens for paper planners, life holds too much uncertainty for pens!)
- An 8″x10″ 2022 annual calendar. Although my planner has one page devoted to calendars for three upcoming years, the 2022 calendar on that page is too small for my use.
- A client list.
- An annual/monthly/weekly goal/task list.
- Sticky pads in various sizes.
- A picture of my family to keep me grounded.
- If it’s a paper planner, put an “if lost, contact” notation inside the cover just in case it gets unintentionally left somewhere.
- Check your planner often, up to three times a day: morning as a reminder of upcoming commitments; mid-day to gauge progress; end-of-day to recap the day and plan for tomorrow.
- Only fill 80%. One of my clients refers to the other 20% as “nonsense time,” those minutes and moments can’t be planned for. Be sure to block time for lunch and breaks. If they aren’t in the planner, they won’t happen.
- Be realistic. Block off the time for all the non-negotiables like meetings, then gauge how much time you have for tasks. Once you know much time you have, pick the top one-to-five tasks that can reasonably get done in the time available. The biggest challenge I see with time management is overcommitting, getting only a portion of our intentions done, then shame for lack of performance.
- Schedule in time blocks. Except for items with non-negotiable timing (like multi-person meetings), use the “flexible structure” theory. Giving yourself flexibility when a task is performed may keep your brain from rebelling. For example:
- Instead of :
- 8:00: Reconcile expenses
- 9:00: Prepare sales report
- 10:00: Prepare slide deck for the quarterly meeting
- 11:00: Make ten cold calls
- 8:00 – 11:30:
- Reconcile expenses
- Prepare sales report
- Prepare slide deck for the quarterly meeting
- Make ten cold calls
- 8:00 – 11:30:
So, now you have a planner/calendar and some simple steps to using it effectively. The universe awaits your productive greatness!
Cindy Jobs, PCAC
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