Of course, you can’t really just forget your schedule. What you can do is create a good calendaring system, freeing up mental energy so you can use your brain for more important things.
Another post talking about getting something new? You might be starting to wonder if this is truly a blog about minimalist living. Don’t worry – I won’t send you to the store for desk organizers and plastic bins. We really will be getting rid of a bunch of stuff.
My last post discussed how shopping lists can help us simplify our lives, and the same is true for calendars. Not only will using a calendar save you time, but you can also save money and even eat more healthfully. For example, you’ll know when your schedule is tight, and you can plan to make something quick for dinner. That way, you won’t tempted to make a fast-food run.
Choose Your Calendar
If you don’t already have a good calendaring system, you need to pick one that fits your lifestyle and personality. Depending on what you’re most comfortable with, how much time you spend away from home, and whether you have a smart phone, you might choose a paper calendar or software to keep your schedule.
I’m what the marketing industry calls a “laggard,” so I kept my paper day-planner for years after everyone else I knew had switched to electronic. About a year and a half ago, I switched to Google Calendar and really like it.
What finally changed my mind? Writing the birthdays in every year. No longer necessary. In fact, setting up any recurring event is a breeze using an electronic calendar. It’s also easy to move appointments to a different time or day.
I’m still a little paranoid about technology, so I occasionally print a copy of my full calendar to PDF “just in case.” And, though I’ve had my smart phone for over a year, I’m still not that good at typing on it, so I usually enter my information on the computer.
There are plenty of alternatives to Google Calendar, including Yahoo Calendar, Cozi and DayHaps. When choosing a digital calendar, make sure it has the features you want – perhaps syncing with your phone, color coding, sharing with others, having separate to-do lists or audible alarms.
If you prefer to keep your schedule on a paper calendar, think about when and how you’ll use it. Will you be more likely to use a wall calendar, a desk calendar or a small version to carry in your purse or pocket? You may need two, for instance, a family calendar in the kitchen and a personal calendar you carry with you, though I don’t recommend having two calendars unless you have a really good reason, since not only will it take more time to keep up two calendars, but you’ll be more likely to make mistakes.
What to Put on Your Calendar
Once you have your calendar, whether paper or digital, enter all your appointments, birthdays, etc. You should include not only your own schedule, but any plans that might affect you such as your spouse’s business trips, school holidays and times you have to be at work because of meetings or vacationing co-workers.
If you already have a calendaring system but haven’t been using it effectively, take some time now to add all of this information.
If you have a calendar at work, you don’t have to put everything on your personal calendar so long as you have everything you need to know when you’re not at the office. I put work appointments on my personal calendar, but I don’t waste time duplicating the details. I just block off the time with a short note like “client meeting.”
It’s also important to make sure you record events on your calendar as soon as you find out about them, no matter how far in advance.
Checking Your Schedule
Remembering to check your calendar may be your biggest challenge. If it’s on your smart phone, it’s probably easy to make sure you’ll see it regularly.
I use the Business Calendar app, but there are lots of other options. I have it set up to show my current calendar on the bottom half of my home screen.
It might be harder to make sure you see your paper calendar, especially if you keep it in your purse or briefcase. Until it’s a habit, you might want to try putting a post-it note somewhere like your bathroom mirror to remind you to check your schedule. Other options include sending yourself a reminder email or voice mail.
You need to check your schedule at least twice a day. Review your calendar in the evening so you’ll know what you have the next day and can plan ahead. This will help you sleep better too, because you’ll be a lot less likely to remember something you need to do it in the morning just as you start to fall asleep.
Check your schedule again in the morning before you leave the house so you don’t forget anything. If you wait until you get to work, you might find that you’ve driven to the office instead of the dentist.
Whenever you’re building a new habit, it’s easiest if you tie it to a habit you already have. There are probably a lot of things you already do every morning and evening. Choose one, like brushing your teeth, taking your medication, feeding the cat or walking the dog, and always check your schedule either right before or right after you do it.
If you’re not already used to using a calendar, it may take you awhile to get used to it, but stick with it. Once it becomes a habit, you’ll appreciate how much simpler such a small step can make your life.