Do you remember the first time you have ever used a calendar to store important events? I was probably 10 years old and I was just using it for my friends’ birthdays. Then when I was 12-13 years old, I started using the calendar for school activities.
Fast forward to several years (I refuse to say how long) and my usage of the calendar evolved. I am sure that it’s the same for you as well. What used to be a birthday and holiday calendar, is now where you have your commitments, opportunities, and what’s going on in your life. Your calendar is a reflection of what is important for you since it shows where you spend your time on–it shows what activities you allocate time for.
The importance of the calendar
A lot of people that I know uses the calendar. This is also a tool that Asian Efficiency would always share with our more than 13,000 customers. Even my 74-year-old mother uses the calendar to keep track of when she needs to harvest her crops. I’m talking about the Facebook game FarmVille. She also uses the calendar to keep track of when she and her sisters are supposed to have a call via FB Messenger.
On the other hand, I use the calendar to keep track of appointments (personal and work-related), focus time, gym, etc. I do not use it to keep track of tasks–there’s the task manager for that. I don’t use it for bills as well. It’s important that you separate your tasks from your calendar events.
Of course, there are levels when it comes to calendar expertise. Are you a beginner? Intermediate user? Or are you an expert calendar user aka a calendar Jedi?
No matter what your calendar-expertise level is, here are 3 ways you can take things to the next level and master your calendar.
4 tips to master your calendar
1. Pick the calendar type you want to use
Analog? Digital? Both?
Despite the numerous apps and software available, the analog calendar or physical planners will not go obsolete. According to studies, you remember things better when you write it down. Also, when you use an analog calendar or a planner, you can see everything at a glance and at the same time, prioritize and organize better.
- for next week, on a piece of paper, write down everything that you need to put in your calendar
- go over what you have written and decide the order it should go in your calendar
- now that you have a better understanding of what needs to happen next week, add them all to your analog calendar
Our recommendations for analog calendars:
- NeuYear Calendar
- Whiteboard (believe it or not, everyone on the AE team has this)
- Bullet Journal (we have a Dojo course just for this)
The three main reasons why users would go for digital calendars are: portability, convenience, and recurring events.
Using a digital calendar means that as long as you have your device with you, you have access to your calendar. At the same time, you can easily move events by just dragging it to a different date. It’s also portable in the sense that you can sync your calendar across devices. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a computer or your phone, you’re assured that whatever change you make on one device is carried over to other devices as well.
It’s also super easy to share events with other people. Then there’s the recurring events and reminders–which can be very tedious when you do it manually. Remember when I shared about my mom having a calendar event to speak with her sisters? I created a recurring event on her phone and shared it with her sisters. I also shared it with myself so that I can gently remind my mom about it a few hours before.
Our digital recommendations are:
- Google Calendar (iOS/Android)
- Fantastical (iOS/Mac)
You’d think that the Asian Efficiency team are all digital users. You’d be surprised to know that we are hybrid users. Our main calendar system is digital and we use the analog system as our secondary calendar.
I have a 12-year old and we have a shared family calendar. However, we still list down her weekly appointments on our fridge’s magnetic calendar. On it are birthdays that we need to attend as a family, school activities, doctor’s appointments.
You can use the Hybrid Calendar system to stay on top of projects and tasks.
It doesn’t matter which one as long as you pick the right one suitable for your usage.
2. What do you need to put on your calendar
This might sound controversial, but we don’t recommend using your calendar as your task list. There are task managers or to-do apps for that. If it’s the actual task or project that you need to work on, put it on your task manager. If you need to set some time aside specifically for that task or project, put it on your calendar.
Your calendar may include the following:
- Appointments & Meetings
- Time-specific tasks
- Time blocks
Why breaks? Breaks are important for you to continue being productive. A tired person is an unproductive person because a tired brain can mean mediocre work.
Anything that is date and time-sensitive should go in our calendar. Do not stress your brain out trying to remember when your due for your next dental appointment or when you said you’d have lunch with your friends.
Aside from that, when you block out these events in your calendar, it means that no one can surprise you with an unplanned event (meetings and such) since it will be marked busy on your calendar.
3. Color-code your calendar events
When you are using a digital calendar, you can color-code different events. For example, you can have different colors for the following events:
- Focus time
- Calls / Meetings
This way, with just a glance at your calendar, you know which event is happening next and adjust your state of mind when needed. Do you need to mentally prepare yourself for your focus block? Or since gym time is next, it doesn’t matter which state you’re in as long as you go to the gym and sweat it out…?
Most of the calendar apps out there have the turn on/off feature so that you can focus on one area of your life at a time.
You can also use this technique even if you have an analog calendar. You can use colors OR emojis/icons.
Thanh uses emojis on his calendar (digital). He uses the camera emoji if it’s a video interview, microphone for podcast recordings, and then a star for an in-person meeting.
4. Add buffer blocks to your calendar
Do not fill your calendar to the brink of not being able to breathe or giving yourself time for changes. Use these buffer blocks to transition and use this time for a quick break.
You can use a buffer before a meeting to fill your water bottle and prepare for your meeting. If I have a meeting that I know will last for more than 15 minutes, I always use the restroom during the buffer block before the meeting. I also inform my family that I am about to go to a meeting.
A buffer block doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of your time. It depends on what you have on your calendar.
Decide what type of calendar you are going to use. Then add your time-specific tasks, time blocks, appointments for the rest of the week.
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