Time-Management Calendars and Planners
In this post we’re going to go over some of my ideas for physical calendars and planners that you CAN and SHOULD be using to enhance your personal rhythms and direct them towards your primary purpose or purposes in life.
These tips will work very well for high schoolers or anyone who wants to better organize their time and productivity.
We will also go into more detail on this later on in later posts, particularly when we’re discussing how high schoolers can use these planners and the special stuff they should watch out for.
But for now, I just wanted to describe some of my favorite calendar systems and how you might use them.
The Giant Dry-Erase Wall Calendar
Let’s start with the inexpensive but GIANT dry-erase wall calendar I have up on the wall of my office, which is one of my favorite possessions.
I’m not kidding - this thing is HUGE, like 4 feet by 3 feet.
It’s for a whole year so even though it’s a giant calendar, each day only has a very small square.
I use this as a mini-journal at the end of each day to record the most essential highlights of the day and a numerical rating from 1 to 10 based on how much I enjoyed my day.
Over time the combo of journaling the highlights plus assigning a rating to the day has led me to some HUGE insights in productivity and personal happiness, so would I highly recommend it to everyone.
Going Digital With (Free) Google Calendar
Going from hard-copy calendars to digital one, Google Calendar is a fantastic FREE online calendar with automatic reminders, color-coding, event-sharing and more features than I could possibly name.
You can also connect your calendar between all your devices so that updates from your cell phone immediately display on your laptop as well.
Since Google is currently one of the most powerful and productive companies on earth, I believe they probably have one of the best online calendar programs as well.
Of course, insert your favorite online calendar software if you have a different preference. Do some research to find which is right for you!
Online Calendars are an insanely powerful way to keep organized, so if you haven’t started using one yet to structure your days, weeks, months, and years, you’re behind the curve.
They also function as a searchable database of your past events, which is another way to get some extra utility out of your online calendar.
Inspiring Yourself With Beautiful Wall Calendars
Now, to take it a little more old-school, actually one of the coolest things you can do for yourself is to get several beautiful and inspiring wall calendars with cool pictures on a theme that you really like.
For example for me, it’s a little silly but pictures of sailboats in beautiful spots, and pictures of super-cool motorcycles really get me psyched up every time I see them, so every year I look forward to ordering the updated calendars with full-color glossy pictures.
It’s just one of those things that you can use to get yourself excited about your daydreams and long-term goals, since sometimes during the day you need a little extra inspiration to stay focused and remind you to manage your time well - to remind you of the rewards of doing so.
What do you like to daydream about? What gets you super-excited?
Try ordering a couple wall calendars with those themes.
For example, if you go to Amazon.com and search for “Kitten Wall Calendars,” I PROMISE you that you will rapidly find some awesome kitten calendars.
Put those calendars somewhere you will see them, and then tell me if it doesn’t a little happier and more productive right away!
Use Weekly Planners To Maximize Your Time
On the daily time-management level, something nice you can do for yourself is get a cool weekly planner.
By “cool” I mean some sort of durable, inspiring planner that will last you a YEAR or more and has some sense of daily and weekly organization built into it.
Pick one that you think is cool-looking and well designed so you will constantly want to open it, write in it, read it and keep track of it.
If you’re looking for an incredible selection of daily planners and journals, I will recommend searching Amazon.com again!
Use Daily To-Do Lists For More Productivity
Now for many productive people, the daily to-do list is the most classic and popular way of handling basic time management on a day-to-day basis.
You can even make multiple lists per day - you can make one at breakfast and a revised one at lunch, for example.
Daily to-do lists are definitely a staple of my personal time-management methods.
Along with the giant yearly wall calendar providing me with the BIG perspective, the daily to-do lists keep me chugging along at a slow-and-steady pace.
I use 3 by 5 inch index cards which I constantly crumple up and throw out as I finish them.
3 by 5 inches isn’t enough space to fit a ton of to-do items, so it forces me to remain focus on what I need to do first.
The more often I make these type of to-do lists, the more refined my system becomes and now my to-do lists are actually an INCREDIBLY important secret weapon of my productivity.
Also, for the most important daily tasks that you CANNOT afford to forget, use your phone alarm to schedule a reminder!
Prevent Forgetfulness With An Ongoing Task List
Finally, for anything from your daily list that doesn’t get done but can’t be ignored, you can use your ongoing task checklist.
This is basically an “indefinite” list with no limit to how many tasks you can put on it to do in the future.
There’s just. One. Rule. And don’t ever break it, or you’ll be in trouble:
Anything on this long-term list must have what I call “cross-offability” - or in other words, you can ONLY put things on this list if they can actually be completed within a reasonable time span - as in, under two hours.
If it would take more than about two hours, find a way to break it down into sub-tasks and THOSE are what should go on your to-do list, because THOSE are smaller sub-tasks that you can accomplish in a reasonable time.
For example, “Win college scholarship money” can NOT go on this to-do list because it’s too open-ended and has NO finish point; it does NOT obey “cross-offability”.
Instead, you must break it down into smaller bullets, for example:
- Create a list of five potential scholarships to apply for
- Draft your re-usable scholarship resume.
- Complete each of the five applications one-by-one.
- Go the post office to send them in.
- Find five more scholarships and repeat the process until college is paid for.
To win more college-scholarship money, get my complete online course Winning College Scholarships!
Carefully Manage Your Task List To Prevent Overload
If any of THOSE steps still look daunting, break it down into sub-sub-steps until you’re faced with a simple task that can be completed in under a couple of hours.
If you don’t follow this rule the ongoing-task list will just spiral out of control with tasks that can’t actually be completed and removed from the list and cause you anxiety since we can always THINK of waaaaay more ideas than we can actually do.
Try to keep it focused and only add tasks to this ongoing list if they are important AND they contribute towards your top passions AND that they are tasks which can actually be completed and aren’t just open-ended goals or dreams.
A Review of Calendars and Time Management
So to review, we’ve covered some timeless methods we can use to track and organize our time –
Remember, the purpose of all this documentation and calendar usage is to HELP you, not to slow you down!
You don’t have to use EVERYTHING I’ve just listed - just pick the one or two methods that you think will help you overcome your scheduling weak spots, and try to make them part of your daily habits.
So now I’ve told you ALL about my own personal system for using multiple types of calendars to solve a bunch of scheduling problems that I used to have.
Now, Tell Me How You Use Your Calendars!
Now turn to yourself: What sort of calendars do YOU like to use, and how do you use them?
And, what sort of fun PICTURES do you like to get on YOUR monthly wall calendars? Kittens? Motorcycles? Nature photos?
Let me know in the comments section how YOU’RE using your calendars, and how well your methods are working for you, and I’ll see you in the next post!