by Catherine Carol Lott
Organization is an amazing thing. It seems to make everything in life just a little bit easier. Establishing and maintaining that organization, though, can be a burden that gets pushed aside for “real” work. I’ve found that focusing on organization in some of the more important aspects of life allows me to reap the benefits without feeling like I have to organize everything. Especially at the start of a new year, a great place to start is with your calendar.
The Match-up: Digital vs. Print
First, you have to decide what type of calendar is best for you. I don’t think I’ve met anyone in the professional world who doesn’t use a digital calendar, but there are some true benefits to putting a pen to paper to schedule out your year.
With digital, your calendar is always with you when you’re on the go, you can set recurring appointments, and you can add details in the notes section. On the downside, it isn’t always easy to see a month in review, you can’t truly highlight an important event, and what about things that need to get done that week but not on a specific day?
With print, you have more flexibility with developing a layout that works for you, it’s more visually appealing, and there are psychological benefits to physically writing something down. However, it can be cumbersome to keep a print calendar with you at all times, and you can’t share an event with others or invite people to a meeting. But in all honesty, after staring at a computer all day, it’s nice to take a break and review something on paper.
If you want the best of both worlds, you can use both a print and a digital calendar. Of course, you must be cautious of this route, because it can become both time-consuming and leave room for error. I use both because I like to keep my work and personal life separated. Work appointments still sometimes get added to the personal (print) calendar, but it helps me to mentally maintain a work-life balance.
Once you’ve chosen your calendar format, use the following tips to get organized and stay organized.
This is by far the most essential step in organizing your calendar. You can color-code your calendar any way you like — by level of importance, type of work, specific projects. Take a look at your calendar as it is now and try to visualize how it could be broken down. What tasks are similar or work toward the same goal?
I use multiple coding schemes for my own calendar. The color it’s written in indicates the type of project I’m working on. The highlighted color indicates its level of importance.
Not only is color-coding good for organization, but the visual aspects help your mind separate the different tasks and make the day, week, and month ahead seem less overwhelming.
2. Regular checkups
Schedule some time at least once a week to review the week and month ahead. My calendar checkup is on Sunday, which allows me to be prepared to get to work first thing Monday without having to stress over the week ahead.
During your regular checkups, create a mental checklist to make sure your calendar includes all of the tasks, meetings and deadlines for the week ahead. Then look at the month ahead — is there something that needs to be complete by the end of the month and needs attention this week? Add it to the calendar now.
3. Devise your own shorthand
Writing in shorthand saves time and space, but it has to be in a format that works for you. More often than not, this happens organically over time. I tend to abbreviate the names of organizations and my coworkers.
Think about the things you write out regularly — specific words such as meeting and appointment, or the names of coworkers or clients — and decide on abbreviations that you can use to simply your schedule.
4. Personalize it
By making your calendar specific to you, you automatically place more investment in it. Think about it: Which would you rather look at every day — a black and white sheet of squares and words, or a photo of your family, favorite vacation destination, or a quote from your mentor inspiring you to thrive?
5. Think ahead
You know better than anyone else that just because there’s not a scheduled appointment on your calendar, that doesn’t mean you’re not working on anything. If you have blank space in your calendar, go ahead and dedicate it to a project that needs work. Or maybe you need the opposite, and you have to schedule breaks in your calendar to keep yourself from burning out.
By putting something on your calendar, you’re mentally dedicating your time to that. It’ll fill up your daily schedule, but by planning ahead you’ll know you’re being a good steward of your time.
It’s a new year; time for a fresh, organized start. Getting your calendar in order can mean the world of a difference for you and your business in 2015.
Catherine Lott is a public relations and communications professional with a passion for connecting organizations and people in inspiring ways. When she’s not helping others achieve their goals, she is a small business and entrepreneur blogger for TinyPrints, Catherine’s preferred site for all her organizational tools (here). Follow Catherine on her blog.
francois schnell | Courtesy of Catherine Carol Lott