Productivity tools are high in demand. In your quest to make yourself more effective, you look online for the best tool to use, compare features and switch from one tool to another hoping to stumble upon one that’ll change your time management skills forever.
But, most people ignore the calendar – one of the simplest and powerful productivity tools.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the lesser-known tactics of using the Calendar to help you get things done.
- 5 tips to use your Calendar effectively:
5 tips to use your Calendar effectively:
When you hear the word ‘calendar’, all you think of is scheduling and meetings. But you can use it for many other purposes with minor tweaks.
1. Use all-day events
One of the least used features of the Calendar is setting an all-day event. I won’t be surprised if you don’t even know what it is.
If you’re hearing about all-day events for the first time, they’re like any other event on your calendar, but they are set for the entire day, instead of a specific 30 min or 1 hour slot.
You can create an all-day event on any calendar by clicking right under the date(before the time slots begin).
When you create one, you’ll notice the checkbox ‘All Day’ ticked by default.
All-day events are commonly used to mark Out of Office, but you can use it for two other purposes.
a. To remind yourself of any deadlines or milestones:
Let me share an example.
I’m working on a productivity tool called Focus. I have a development schedule planned with a date fixed for an upcoming update. So, I mark two all-day events to remind myself:
- on the day of the update
- 2 days before the update
Both these events ensure that I don’t forget my deadline. And the best part is that I only need to glance at my calendar once every morning to know what’s on my plate for a particular day or on the upcoming days. If you enable notifications for all-day events, you’ll be reminded automatically.
b. To set tasks that need to be completed on a day
Many of your tasks don’t need a specific time of execution as far as you complete them by the end of the day. Set such tasks as all-day events instead of putting them at a specific time slot.
“What’s the difference between setting it as an all-day event instead of marking an event at a specific time?”, you ask. Good question. If you mark a task at a specific time you’re putting undue pressure on yourself if you have to finish it only by end of the day. Besides, when other jobs interfere with your schedule and prevent you from finishing the task as planned, you feel anxious and demotivated. To make that worse, you might forget the task altogether once the time window passes.
Instead, if you set the task as an all-day event, you can shrug off any last-minute changes because you still have the rest of the day to get to it. Keep calm.
A word of caution for chronic procrastinators: When you have many tasks set as an all-day event, you postpone them all for “later” leaving not enough time at the end of the day.
2. Use recurring events for activities that help your long term goals
Another underused feature on the calendar is recurring events. They’re commonly used to set up meetings that repeat frequently so that participants remember to show up.
But what if you used the same technique to remind yourself to work on your long-term goals? Set a recurring meeting to help you take one step a day towards your dreams.
Here are the recurring events I have for myself every day:
- 20 min of thinking time
- 15 min of article drafting time
- 90 min of writing time
- 15 min of writing exercises
- 120 min of app development time
You’ll notice above how some of the events are only 15-20 min. I often hear the question, “Just 15 min? What can you really do in 15 min?”
The answer – a hell lot.
The difference lies in consistency when you repeat them every day with no distractions during that short time window.
With 15 min of article drafting a day, I research and gather content to write a 3000-word article a week. 20min of thinking time each day has led to numerous ideas. 15 min of writing exercises have sharpened my writing skills.
My ideas don’t match Elon Musk’s and my writing isn’t Shakespearean, but when compared to my past self, I have come a long way.
Often, I’m unable to stick to the time slot I’ve set for a specific activity. Those days, I move the task around based on my schedule. On busy days, I skip the activity altogether. But, all in all, there’s magic and healthy addiction in making consistent efforts to work towards your goals. Try it out for yourself.
Don’t underestimate the power of short task slots. When repeated with discipline, they yield results that will surprise you.
3. Use multiple calendars
Every calendar tool allows you to create multiple calendars within it. I segregate my calendars based on the purpose it serves.
I use 3 calendars
- Office work
- Long term goals
- Routine tasks
I use a different color code for each of them. Therefore, when I glance at my calendar, I can intuitively figure out my tasks and responsibilities for the day.
My breakdown is based on my personality and work style. Instead of trying to replicate it, come up with a degradation logic that suits your scenario the best.
A word of caution: Do not create too many calendars making the job of maintaining them itself a hindrance to your productivity. 3-5 calendars are the ideal number for most people.
4. Allow time between your events
If you’ve read articles on productivity, you’d have read that Elon Musk and Bill Gates block their whole day in slots of 5 minutes each.
That sounds electrifying and also inspires you to try it for yourself. But, I’d never recommend anyone to go that extreme. If I had to look at my calendar every 5 minutes to determine what to do next, I’d go bonkers and my focus would drop faster than a stock market collapse. Not to mention, the time spent on creating the schedule and the attention residue involved with switching between tasks would make it a no-go for me.
Maybe such an approach works for Musk and Gates, but for me, it doesn’t.
Instead, I’d recommend you allow time between your tasks. If you don’t space out your tasks, one slip or delay would throw your entire schedule off balance creating anxiety, pressure, and confusion.
If you allow 5-10 minutes between tasks, you’d have the breathing space to manage any delays or unforeseen events. If at all things go as per schedule, you can start the next task early or enjoy a few moments of peace by yourself.
5. Use reminders
If you rely on memory to remember your tasks and timelines, you’re bound to miss some. No matter how good your memory, it can’t be better than a machine.
So, instead of cramming your brain with tasks, timelines, and schedules, let the calendar do it for you. That’ll allow your brain to focus all its energy on executing the task instead of remembering what needs to be done and when.
Should you set reminders for all-day events and every event on your calendar? Now, that’s a personal preference. I like to only set up reminders for critical all-day events because I dislike notifications popping up on my screen now and then. I have a habit of peeking at my calendar every morning. Once I know my plan for the day, I can hold focus throughout the day without any further reminders.
That said, I know highly productive people who set up reminders for every task on their plate.
If you’re not sure which of the two methods suits you best, I’d encourage you to try them both and improvise. Do keep in mind that the purpose of reminders is to help you get things done. If they turn into an intrusion for productive work, you should consider toning them down.
Calendar is a powerful productivity tool, but unfortunately, most people only look at it as a tool to set meetings. But, with just a few tweaks, you can turn it into a system that aids your productivity.
Once you start experimenting, you’ll invent ingenious ways to use the calendar’s features to keep yourself organized. So, what are you waiting for? Tickle your brain cells and get started with your calendar now.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.