“If forensic analysts confiscated your calendar and e-mail records and Web browsing history for the past six months, what would they conclude are your core priorities?”

Chip Heath, The Power of Moments
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What is a calendar for?

Our calendars tell us what time is already spoken for. They show us what we need to prepare for. They give us the hard lines within our days.

Keeping a streamlined calendar system makes life run more smoothly with less stress.

Without a trustworthy, accurate calendar, we stare at a day planner or out the window, trying to remember if there was anything else today. We miss appointments or scramble at the last minute. We double-book ourselves or have to bail on a friend because we forgot about the orthodontist appointment.

But when we have a complete calendar, we know our commitments and can make plans confidently.

Our calendar is the most important organization tool because it gives an overview of your time. Missing appointments and double-booking ourselves is one of the key situations we’re avoiding by planning and staying organized.

And that depends on your calendar’s trustworthiness.

We have all experienced being late or completely forgetting an appointment. Having an accurate calendar at least reduces occurrences like that. What eliminates such occurrences is looking at the calendar.

The more we can keep our calendars trustworthy, the more on top of our time and plans we will be.

That’s why your calendar is only for time specific commitments. It is really easy to try to use it for wishful-thinking scheduling but if you do, you will begin to doubt or ignore it.

The calendar is also not the place to keep your to do list, random reminders, or irrelevant information. If any apps or websites are automatically filling in information you don’t need onto your calendar, turn those off. You don’t want to visually or mentally sort what’s on your calendar. The clearer it is at a glance, the more likely you will glance at it and the more useful it will be when you do.

Your calendar has to be trustworthy, and in order to keep it trustworthy, you have to keep it free of those wishful thinking plans.

For example, you don’t want to add a “Phonics Lesson” appointment at 10:30am with the six year old because we all know that lesson will flex depending on how the day goes. However, you do want to put what you’re committed to spending your time on.

So on my calendar I do not put specific appointments for specific subjects or specific students on my Google calendar, but I do block off our school hours in one, big “school” event. Before I did this I found that I would look at my calendar with only outside of the home commitments and think to myself “Oh look, I don’t have to do anything today, or tomorrow.” Then reality would come crashing in. It was another way my calendar was inaccurate, misleading, and requiring me to think harder.

We want our calendar to enable us to think less when we use it, not more.

The 5 calendar rules

To keep your calendar decluttered, complete, and accurate, you need to follow the 5 calendar rules.

1. Only keep actual appointments on your calendar.

I must repeat: your calendar needs to be trustworthy.

Don’t put your hopes or wishes on your calendar. An organized calendar is used for appointments and other time-specific commitments only so that you can see the hard lines of your day.

If you add things you hope to get to in a day, you’ll have to mentally sort and decide every time you look at it, which will make you not want to look at it. Keep your calendar reserved for real appointments.

Do not put tasks on your calendar unless they absolutely have to happen at that time. Tasks will go into a task management system. On the calendar they are merely clutter.

Do not use your calendar for reminders – especially ones you ignore half the time.

You want to break the habit of ignoring your calendar, and you do that by removing the items on your calendar that you can legitimately ignore.

2. Keep only one calendar and then always keep it current.

A lot of us may have more than one calendar; we may have a planner that only we see, plus a family calendar up on the wall, one of the monthly view ones. Maybe you have a calendar in a planner plus Google calendar. If that is working for you then stick with it, but if it’s confusing to maintain or events get missed or you have to think hard before you’re sure your calendar is right, then consolidate.

You can still have a separate family wall calendar or other specialty calendars, but these should be updated from one master calendar.

Choose one calendar to keep always current, always accurate.

We’ll talk more about how to do that as the course progresses.

3. Always enter commitments that you make to people right away.

Don’t say that you’ll be there and then think you’ll add it to your calendar later. If you don’t have your calendar with you, at least write it down somewhere so you can get it into your calendar as soon as possible. Don’t rely on remembering. That’s why it’s important to always take your calendar with you.

Your calendar has to be with you so that you can make those appointments on the fly when you’re out and have them be in your calendar right away. So say you’re at the dentist or the doctor and they give you the little card that gives the time of your next appointment: don’t keep that! Put it on your calendar immediately instead. Just pull out your calendar and add appointments and commitments right away.

4. Keep your calendar synced with your husband all the time.

This one can be tricky. But if you reserve a time on the weekend or during date night or somehow find a way to stay in communication with your husband. He should know what your commitments are and you should know what his commitments are.

My husband and I do this by both using Google calendar and sharing each other’s calendar. We can turn each other’s calendars on or off if we want a less cluttered view, but that’s how we keep our calendars in sync and know what’s going on in each other’s day.

5. Look at your calendar.

You simply must look at your calendar least at the beginning of your day and at the end of your day. When you look, look at the current day, look at tomorrow, and look at the whole week view.

You must look at your calendar in order for it to be useful.

Step #1: Brain Dump

Having a helpful, accurate calendar doesn’t begin with adding next week’s schedule. It begins with adding recurring events that sneak up on us.

List the annually recurring events that you need to keep track of – your family’s birthdays, holidays you celebrate, dates you send cards to particular people.

What dates do you need to remember for larger projects? Do you need to know the last frost date for your garden? The date you have to get continuing education credits complete? The due date for annual paperwork like a homeschool letter of intent to the state or personal taxes?

What seasons or dates or kinds of appointments tend to catch you unprepared? Why or how does that happen? What can you try to prepare yourself better?

Step #2: Set up your one master calendar

What one calendar will you keep always up to date? How will you make sure it stays current?

Choose one calendar to be your master calendar that you always keep 100% accurate. You might have other calendars, but one should be the primary source calendar.

Get your master calendar fully up-to-date 3 months out. Fill in even routine weekly events that you take for granted if they are actual appointments requiring you to be someplace or do something at a particular time. You want your calendar to give you an accurate picture of your available time.

Keeping an accurate calendar is one of the first steps to take when you want to get organized because your calendar is your most important organization tool. If you are are learning how to organize your life, your calendar is the best place to start.

Master Calendar Examples:

Step #3: Start with a baby step

Your calendar is a way of keeping track of your time-sensitive commitments. If you need to be somewhere or do something at a specific time, it needs to be in a spot where you will remember the time of that obligation.

Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, a coordinated phone call, a lunch date, or a gym class, you need to see the landscape of your day, of your available hours, by looking at your calendar.

Our calendars tell us what time is already spoken for. They show us what we need to prepare for. They give us the hard lines within our days.

Without a trustworthy, accurate calendar, we stare at a day planner or out the window, trying to remember if there was anything else today. We miss appointments or scramble at the last minute. We double-book ourselves or have to bail on a friend because we forgot about the orthodontist appointment.

However, your calendar will do you no good if you don’t look at it.

You can use a large wall calendar, a portable planner with a calendar, or a digital calendar – but the key is that it is easy and convenient to look at it.

How can you make it convenient and memorable to check your calendar in the morning?

How can you make it convenient and memorable to check your calendar in the evening?

Can you or should you use notifications or set alarms for events on your calendar?

Double-check before you commit.

“I actually LIKE not having a digital calendar with me where I am. Early on in marriage I was tempted to overcommit, especially since my husband is a lead pastor. An older woman once told me if a commitment couldn’t allow me time to pray and talk to my husband before making it, I could know I probably needed to turn it down. We still take on a lot because we want to be diligent, fruitful, and faithful, but forcing myself to go home, review, pray, and talk with my husband before committing has been a huge help.”
Lexy Sauvé,
Simply Convivial Member

Digital + wall calendar

“I use Google Calendar mainly, but I also update a large wall calendar in the kitchen to help me see it all. It’s a large format monthly office calendar, spiral-bound at the top. I have it filled out a couple months in advance. I try to update it weekly so that the next 3 months are accurate. I also use a sticky flag to mark today so I can see at a glance from a distance where we are in the month.”
Sarah Nelson,
Simply Convivial Member

Step #4: Iterate for progress

But when we have a complete calendar, we know our commitments and can make plans confidently.

The calendar is the organizational tool we should begin with. Before we set up apps or elaborate task management systems, we need to have a working calendar.

Sit down sometime with your husband and look at the next 3 months together. Does your calendar have everything your family is committed to? Do you need to add or subtract anything?

Are you able to take your master calendar everywhere you go so you can add things right away? If you’ve chosen not to have a portable calendar, do you have a ubiquitous capture tool to write things down before it makes it onto your calendar?

Consider experimenting with color-coding of your calendar events to make it easier to filter at a glance. Repeating, regular obligations can go in a lighter color so that the one-off appointments stand out more boldly. Commitments that simply involve you dropping off and picking up your kids can be in a particular color, separate from your own obligations.

A reference calendar

I like to check websites of various places for kids’ programs, such as local museums, libraries, aquarium, etc., and jot down all of the activities I can find for the month. Then on a weekly basis I decide what we might attend. I was getting frustrated looking at my calendar/planner and seeing so much on it and not knowing which were definite plans. Now I was keep a separate, generic calendar to write down options that I can refer to when I plan the week, but my master calendar isn’t cluttered.
Jennifer,
Simply Convivial Member

Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.

How to have an organized calendar in 3 easy steps:

  1. Have one calendar.
  2. Keep it 100% accurate.
  3. Look at it daily.

You need to put any time-based commitment on that one calendar, without fail, right away.

Then, you need to look at it morning and evening and sometimes even in between.

It’s simple; it’s difficult. Yet it is worth it. It is a keystone habit to being organized.

Related Seminars & Meetups:

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CALENDAR QUOTE

– George Grant