Using your calendar

My calendar is one of my primary tools for staying organized and I’d be at a total loss without it. I always check it before I end my day, to be sure I remember what’s coming up the next day.

I happen to use an electronic calendar, but I’d put the same things on my calendar if it were a paper one. What is on it?

The basic reasons almost everyone uses a calendar

  • Appointments
  • Due dates
  • Personal celebrations, like birthdays and anniversaries
  • Holidays, including religious ones that don’t always come with the calendar

Unconventional items to track on a calendar

  • Major local events — My small town has three annual events that draw a lot of visitors. I don’t tend to go to these events, but I want to remember that traffic will be horrible on these days.
  • Events I might want to attend — I put these in a different color than any other items, so I have a visual reminder that it’s a possible event when I look at my calendar.
  • Freecycle pickups — Since I freecycle a great deal, I may have lots of people coming to my house after each major offering, staggered over a number of days. I want to quickly remember whose bundles I need to put on my porch on which days.
  • Library book return due dates
  • Dates for canceling special offers — Every once in a while I get an offer for a free month of Amazon Prime, which I accept and then cancel before the automatic payment begins.
  • Reminders to send out email notices — I serve as the secretary of an organization and I need to send out email notices to other board members at specific times.
  • Important dates for close family and friends — It’s common for me to write down when they are on vacation.
  • Flight information, car rental information, and hotel information for my own travels — I’ll have confirmations of all of these in email, which I’ll copy to my Dropbox to have handy when traveling. But, the easiest way for me to quickly see all this information is to check my calendar.
  • Estimated tax due dates
  • Reminder of postage rate increases — I noted this when we had one January 26.
  • Things that happened that I didn’t plan for — For future planning, I like to remember when they happened.

Sometimes I include progress tracking toward a goal. For example, the number of emails in my inbox each day, as I’m working toward inbox zero.

There are a couple things I don’t include, which some other people do. I don’t include anticipated driving time to appointments, although I can see how that could be helpful. I also don’t include blocks of time for getting tasks done. Some time management systems recommend you schedule these on your calendar, to ensure they get done — and if that works for you, that’s great. I follow the Getting Things Done approach, where only items that have fixed times go onto my calendar, and that works better for me.

Each of us will have our own preferences on what goes onto our calendars and my choices won’t work for everyone, but they may give you some ideas. The key factor is to use your calendar consistently, however you choose to use it.

17 Comments for “Using your calendar”

  1. posted by Glen on

    I’ve been putting garden tasks on my calendar. When to fertilize next (every ten days), when to treat for whiteflies (every five days), special manual watering schedules, when to plant seeds etc.

  2. posted by Katie on

    Oooh, I like your approach! I’ve been hemming and hawing about going all electronic for my calendar but haven’t found one that I really like. What type of electronic calendar do you use? Have you explored different ones and have pros/cons with them?

  3. posted by Amber on

    Boomerang is an add-on to Gmail that lets you schedule emails and lets you set reminders etc based on email activity. I know I rely on the scheduling function in Outlook a lot for work, so that would be helpful at home.

    I used to have tie-in my Google calendar that tied in to the local library and it would add return dates to my calendar automatically, worth searching for something similar. This looks similar: You can also use IFTTT recipe if your library emails you when you check out books.

    I made a shared Google calendar for my family with all our birthdays on it and the years. Others can turn on that calendar in Google, or add dates to their personal calendars.

  4. posted by Amber on

    @Katie, Google calendar has worked for me for years. I have a dozen “feeds” on my one calendar. I have free days at museums, a shared family calendar, my personal calendar, my cycle, meetings and I had used it to track daily blood sugar and meals even. There are also public calendars for phases of the moon, holidays, movies/sports, etc and it auto adds events I RSVP to. You can share calendars and individual events with others and color code your feeds and add reminders/alerts.

  5. posted by Katie on

    Thanks, Amber! I will have to check it out!

  6. posted by Leslie on

    I use Outlook for my calendar. Started using it years ago for work and simply kept it up as it allows me to do other things as well. I love that I can color-code (family, health, pets, work, events, etc), so it makes it easier to search for things as well as having a great search function. I have everything from appointments (for me and others) to annual reminders (vet visits, pet shots, birthdays, annual check-ups, car maintenance, etc) to reminders about expiring warranties/service work needed to work-related stuff (when to expect a client project, due dates, conference calls, etc). It’s been my go to for ages and I can sync it up to my mobile so I don’t miss out on anything as I have multiple reminders.

  7. posted by Andrea on

    I have used my online calendar as my primary planning tool for over a decade. I put in everything, often after it happens (things like unplanned items, such as when we run out to a movie, etc), and it is amazing to look back and see what was happening on any given day.

    Other things I include: On April 15 / Oct 15 – I get a reminder to change my batteries in my smoke detector and flip my mattress (one says rotate top to bottom, one says flip over – that way all four possible positions get used for my mattress). I put it in once and just repeat on that date forever.

    On October 1every year – i have my ‘Christmas shopping list’ note. Throughout the year if i see something online as an idea for someone, i put a link there. I usually get whatever i am buying in October so, it’s all in one place, plus a reminder that it’s time to start thinking about it.

    When i get a new passport or Driver’s license, i put the expiry notice in, even though it is years away, with a reminder 6 months out for the passport and one month for the license.

  8. posted by Alice F. on

    Andrea, great ideas in your comment – thanks for sharing.

  9. posted by Jane on

    I add recurring events for mundane events such as putting the trash curbside once a week, the bi-weekly recycling pick-up, a recurring reminder to water the indoor plants (yes I need a reminder for this or else – dead plants) and reminders for when special promo codes expire for certain stores I frequent.
    Also for items I have bought but am still on the fence about keeping or returning, I set a calendar entry based on that particular stores return policy – so if I have 60 days to return an item, then I want to know a good solid week prior to the cut date.
    I aslo make entries for items I am considering buying. I do this in order to cut down on impulse purchases. I set a date, might be 3 days later or 30 days later & re-eval then if I still need (or want) the item then. This alone has done wonders in curbing errant impulse purchases like nothing else!

  10. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Katie, I use the Apple calendar that comes with MacBooks and iPhones. I didn’t investigate options; I just began using what Apple provided, many years ago, and it worked for me so I never switched. But many people like other electronic calendars, as you can see from the comments.

  11. posted by alfora on

    I also use a calender to track things that I have done just now or that happened a short while ago:

    * the parcel from X arrived
    * exchanged the backup hard disks with a new set of HDs
    * worked on task A for client B
    * the backup of that server ran for x hours (from y to z)

    These items are stored in their own calenders of course. The point is that you can view a calender in list view, search a calender, and thus can see very quickly how long it took you to do something and when did it happen.

    A calender is very good at attaching a date and a time to a note.

  12. posted by Christy King on

    I use Google Calendar to keep track of pretty much anything I don’t want to forget. Makes life so much simpler. I get emails to remind me of library book due dates, but I find listing events really helpful. When you go to schedule something, it’s nice to know when the county fair (or whatever) is happening if possible you can schedule around it.

  13. posted by Vicki on

    I use a big paper desk calendar. I recently switched to color-coding and I love it. I can glance at my calendar and see immediately how balanced my month is – in terms of work, responsibilities, and fun.

  14. posted by Shannon on

    I love your idea about listing local events, esp for the traffic snarls. Never thought to do that.
    I have a suggestion for organizing along this vein…
    I fully recommend using TripIt as a electronic “travel info organizer”. I joined with them last year and it’s been a revelation. I used to put all my travel details into Outlook, referenced with links to the site where the airfare or rental car was purchased. But TripIt does it so seamlessly (especially if you feel comfortable giving them your email to scan for travel info) that I’ll never go back to putting it all individually into Outlook again.
    Other bonuses are you can share your travel info with anyone you wish on a regular basis (ie business colleagues or family) or individual one (ie surprise bday trip).
    TripIt will even monitor your flights and alert you if there are cancellations or delays. On my past trip, the delay alert from TripIt came a full 2 hours earlier than the alert notice from the airline and 30 mins before anything was posted to FlightAware!

  15. posted by Amy Bailey on

    Just learned about UpTo. It’s an app that lets you have a standard and a hidden calendar – for things like those community events, tv shows, sports schedules, etc.

  16. posted by Justin on

    I think this article begins to address an important yet under-appreciated problem faced by many people. Especially as it relates to health, time management and prioritization of important versus urgent matters is an ongoing challenge. I personally find it helpful to have a fun, visual platform with which to design my day, called Owaves ( Hope this is helpful a relevant audience.

  17. posted by Elaine Willis on

    I also schedule when to change the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder. It has to be changed every 2-3 days.

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