The following article is an excerpt from the Time Management chapter of my new book, The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, which will be published by Peter Pauper Press in February 2011. Stay tuned for details on how to pre-order a copy of the book and join The Ultimate Life Organizer Book Club!
“It is the curse of the modern world. Too much to do and too little time to do it.” ~ Jeremy Laurance
In the 21st century, we are experiencing opportunity overload. We have never been busier, and yet most people say they crave a simpler, less harried existence. The problem is that most people spend a lot of time “thinking” about how much or how little time they have, but not planning or managing their time. Yet, preparing and planning for the future is the most critical step to time management. If your schedule is stuffed with too many tasks and activities, you will experience opportunity overload. At that point, you need to unclog your calendar.
Unclog Your Calendar
Start by realizing that each person has a certain capacity for getting things done based on time, energy, and the reality of life. Identify tasks on your calendar, agenda, or to-do list that you don’t really need to do and let them go. You can revisit them again on another day, or delete them altogether. If you cram every moment of your life with activity, you will wind up late for something. You will also feel stressed out, and not have time for transitions and spontaneous moments. Leave some wiggle room in that schedule! How? Here are some tips for unclogging your calendar.
Keep Just One Calendar
Keep just one calendar or planner to have a place to write all appointments. It doesn’t matter what kind it is. Just be sure it is only one. Why? Because as soon as you add more than one calendar to the mix, you create an opportunity for conflicting appointments.
Paper, Electronic or Both?
Visual people tend to do better with paper calendars, which allow them to see time and lists in a layout rather than as individual items. Tactile people like pen to paper and enjoy writing, color coordinating by category, and being creative. If this matches your style, by all means, stay with a paper system, but make it work for you, and realize its limitations.
The disadvantages to a paper calendar/planner in this day and age are many. A paper calendar or planner can be lost and there is no back-up. Paper calendars also can be bulky to carry around and have a limited and finite amount of space. Electronic calendar/planner devices are small, easy to carry, allow you to set alarms and issue reminders, store an amazing amount of information in a small space, and are backed up in case of theft or loss.
If your company or family uses an electronic calendar system, it makes sense to synch with that same system. If you like the visual layout of a paper calendar, you can always print out a week or month at a time, but remember that you then have to update the electronic version every time you add in an appointment on the paper printout.
Create a Master Calendar
Regardless of what type of time management tool you are using, consider creating a master family calendar. Any appointment of your spouse’s that will impact you or the children goes on it, and vice versa. A master calendar is helpful for facilitating communication in a family or office environment. Or, synchronize electronic calendars so that family members or staff can check each other’s schedules and invite each other to appointments and meetings without having to take the time to call. Give access to all family members at home and to all individuals in the workplace that you frequently need to meet with regularly.
Love (and Learn) the One You’re With
If you use an electronic calendar system of any kind, learn how to use it! Many people have all of the gadgets with tons of bells and whistles, but don’t know how to use them and maximize their power. Read the manuals, watch the tutorials, play the instructional DVDs they come with, and harness their productivity power!