When we teach time management, we present the participants with a smorgasbord of practical advice, tips and tricks. Not everything will work for everyone. Time management is a very personal thing. Depending on the individual's time management issues, there are techniques suited to address that particular problem. People suffering from procrastination need different tools than those faced with perfectionism issues.
Setting goals and prioritizing tasks call for different techniques than those dealing with constant interruptions. However, like it or not, there are two tools that you must employ to become good at managing your time. There is no getting around it. You must have an effective calendar and to-do list.
While these are admittedly simple tools, many people fail to use them correctly. This month's article will address some basic rules for calendars. You will find advice on to-do lists in next month's newsletter.
Let's start with the rules.
The first rule is that you only get one! This is tough on people who use different calendars for various parts of their life. For instance, they have a work calendar on Outlook or another electronic program that they use to record work-related activities. They may have a second paper calendar that they use to keep track of personal appointments. Women often keep this small calendar in their pocketbook. We have found that many people will have another calendar that details family/children's activities taped to their refrigerator.
The problem with multiple calendars is obvious - you don't have all your information in one place. Without accurate information, you can't make good decisions. If you are home sick, how do you know what is on your work calendar? If you are at work, how can you make decisions about possible weekend or personal activities? Remembering complicated schedules in today's hectic environment is impossible for most people - mistakes will happen. The better solution is to have one calendar - and only one calendar. If you don't want work colleagues to see personal activities, you can mark them "private" when you post them on your calendar. You will be able to view them, but others who might have access to your calendar will see the time blocked, but will not be able to see the nature of the event. I find that color-coding activities by family member or linking multiple calendars can replace the need for the refrigerator calendar.
The second rule is that your calendar must be portable. A calendar loses its worth if you cannot access it. To be helpful, listings of work events must leave the office and travel with the employee either electronically or on paper. If you find yourself unable to get to the office, it is essential that you be able to access your calendar to cancel appointments, reschedule or arrange for someone to fill-in for you at meetings or on important or time-sensitive activities. Tasks are less likely to fall through the cracks if you have your records with you.
People often ask us if calendars need to be in electronic format or if paper will suffice. We believe that a portion of the population are uncomfortable with technology (we are not calling them closet Luddites). These folks love to write things down using a pen or pencil. They remember things better if they physically put pen to paper. They love flipping through the pages of their calendars, and gain clarity from doing so. For these individuals, paper will work best. If you are not required to use an electronic calendar for your job, some type of Day-Timer or other calendar system will work well for you. Just remember, paper does not automatically back up at night. If you lose your calendar, you will need to start over, and will have lost all your history.
Today's technology allows us to have our calendars on our phones, computers, i-Pads, or PDAs. Pick one or many, but use only one source-calendar to populate your devices. Following these two basic rules will make your life easier and less stressful. You will have all the information you need at your fingertips to make good decisions. In addition, you will never have to worry about want your schedules says!