'Choosing The Best Calendar For You'
Author; Rosie Gray
When deciding to ‘get organised’, one of the first things people often do is invest in new time planning tools to support their new organised ways. It might be a Smartphone, a Blackberry, new diary or a posh new leather folio.
But often these new tools are abandoned quickly, and the results can be disappointing. It’s not that the tools don’t work (clearly they do as used successfully by many) – it’s more usually a case of the wrong tool has been selected for an individual’s personal needs, and the time required to get used to the new system is underestimated.
So to help you choose a supportive system for you, here’s a quick review of one of the most basic tools needed to manage your time. Some of you will call it a calendar, others a diary depending on what you are used to – for simplicity, I’ll refer to a calendar in this article.
What Do You Want To Use A Calendar For?
A calendar simply records your fixed appointments, meetings, deadlines and scheduled tasks. Don’t trust yourself or use precious mental RAM trying to remember details such as your dental appointment next Tuesday afternoon. If it’s in your calendar – relax, you’ll remember. And you can give your attention fully to the task in hand.
Use calendars only for recording the time dependent ‘must do’s’ that are going to occur on a specific day. This creates a valuable ‘reality check’ on what you’ve committed to. By marking in the meetings, and nominal time each day to handle e-mail, return calls etc you can quickly see how much (or how little) time is available for use at your discretion.
Block out dates you know are committed months in advance – events, regular meetings/activities, deadlines and holidays. This will make it easier to avoid double booking and help your colleagues know when you are available.
Keep It Simple
If you have more than one calendar (for example you cannot access one while on the move) there’s always a risk you may forget to transfer vital information across, so I would recommend you use just one.
I suggest you combine both your business and personal life in this single calendar. After all, most of us have some element of blurring between the two. Perhaps you make occasional personal calls during the day or undertake some work activity at home.
If all information on your activities is in one place, it’s easier to check both are in balance and receiving the attention deserved. Of course, this may depend on who can access your calendar, and you may choose to keep elements private.
When you start looking at the choice available it can be dizzying. Do you want a day at a glance? A week to a view? Pocket sized or a large planner with a whole page to schedule detailed appointments, or even a wall chart?
Do you prefer a paper or electronic format? All can work well, and the best choice for you will depend on your style of working.
I’ve known many Clients have found switching to a ‘week to a view’ very helpful in taking a longer perspective, especially those who travel extensively, to plan a less punishing schedule. Personally I love being able to see a month to a view - this helps me schedule my travel more sensibly and also block in realistic time to meet project commitments.
Paper is very easy and quick to access, enter information and set up initially. You don’t have to worry about access to electricity or charging batteries. The big problem – if you lose a paper calendar, you have no back up and could be in difficulty! Paper calendars can be bulky and of course, other people cannot access your schedule, and you can’t search for information.
If you prefer a paper product, consider whether you are likely to be carrying it around with you. If so, you probably want something small and pocket/handbag sized.
And if you have a partner and family with complex schedule of travel, school events etc. to co-ordinate, you might find one of the multi-column ‘mums diaries’ an asset.
Consider the size of your handwriting – will you be able to include all you need in the allocated space? Or if you have a large number of scheduled appointments such as interviews during a day, you may prefer a large desk diary with a page for everyday and plenty of space for notes, telephone numbers etc.
Electronic tools make it extremely easy to schedule regular appointments into the future, or reschedule the inevitable changes, with just a few keystrokes. And of course the ability to back up data and share with colleagues is valuable.
Many people have to fit in with organisational requirements and make calendar information accessible, even if they might prefer a paper approach. It can certainly be a great advantage to colleagues who want to know availability for meetings etc. Printing out daily activities can give the tangible tool to carry around during the day.
So this New Year, why not review the calendar formats available? Maybe there is an even better choice for you to keep track of what you need to know.
Next Article; 'Beginning The Shorter Working Week'