Are You Afraid of Your Calendar?

I was recently working with a colleague who was trying to get more control over her schedule. She said that she did not have enough time and that she was too reactive during her day.

When we took a look at her calendar, I was astonished to see that it was almost empty.

“Why don’t you have anything on your calendar?”

“I don’t want to write on it.  It might get messy.”

Huh?  That’s what it’s for…

Fear of Commitment

It seems that she was afraid of putting things on her calendar either because she did not want to clutter it up or was nervous of commitment.

The only things on her calendar were meetings that others had set.  She was letting her calendar run her life instead of the other way around.

Why are people so quick to put things on their todo list but hesitant to put things on their calendar?

For many people, as in this case, the only things that end up on their calendar are those scheduled by someone else.

That doesn’t sound very much like being in control.

Here are some of the reasons people use for not putting things on their calendar:

– I don’t want to commit.
– I don’t want it to be cluttered.
– I don’t want to write on it.
– The appointment is not confirmed yet.
– What if an things change or something else comes up?

Of course, all of these are excuses or forms of procrastination.

You have to use your calendar if you want the benefits of managing your time.

Don’t Be Afraid

It is ironic that many people do not use their calendar for themselves, but only to track the obligations placed on them.

After all, it is your calendar.  You can put whatever you want on it.  And you can change it when necessary.

Here are a few tips for taking control of your calendar:

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Write On It – Especially with paper calendars, people seem hesitant to add things to them.  That is why you got it… to write on it.  Use your calendar for its intended purpose.
  2. Put Things On It – Some people are afraid to put things on their calendar because they feel like they are setting things in stone.  You can change your schedule later.  You can re-prioritize if needed.
  3. Make Appointments with Yourself – Don’t let others monopolize your time.  Schedule time with yourself before letting others on your calendar.  Otherwise, you will find that you have no time left for yourself.
  4. Make Appointments With Your Tasks – Get those tough todos done by scheduling a meeting with them.  If you don’t schedule time to get things done, you will find that your work gets pushed aside by meetings and other appointments.
  5. Fill It Up! – Don’t be afraid of filling up your calendar.  Blocking out large amounts of time on your calendar is key to getting projects and creative work done.  You’ll find that a full calendar is a productive one.  So, fill it up!

Own Your Calendar

It’s your calendar.  Schedule your time first, before you let others take your time.  Don’t be paralyzed by the fear that things might change later.

You can always change it.  Either way… take control.  Own it.

It’s your calendar and your time, after all.

What about you?  Do you run your calendar or does it run you?

12 thoughts on “Are You Afraid of Your Calendar?

  1. I’m often perplexed by one of the easiest ways to have a calendar that you want to write on and isn’t a huge jumble of cross-outs and scribble.

    I write in pencil.

    I erase when plans change, because life happens to the best of us. But I always carry both a pencil and a pen in my planner. Pencil for calendar info, pen for To-Do lists (if I’m going to write it, I’m for darn sure going to do it!)

  2. I find that I don’t want to look at my calendar or to-do list because it feels like a list of things I don’t want to do which I suspect means something, or maybe alot of things, isn’t really working!

  3. This story is hilarious: actually, the problem with calendars is that people usually over-fill them.

    By the way, I don’t use calendars (I’m a fan of to-do lists), but I would never use PAPER calendars. It’s a given that you’ll fail to estimate your tasks’ duration, so the tool need to permit some editing.

    Why people are so obsessed with paper, anyway? We don’t need paper anymore!

    1. @marcoricci Thanks, Marco.

      There are still some that love their paper calendars. 😉

      I personally prefer a sync-able calendar that I can access on my iPhone, iPad, computer, etc.

  4. I use a paper calendar, and use pencil as well. But, I know some folks who say you should have “project lists” and such and only put items set in stone on the calendar so it doesn’t become one big “to do” list… (David Allen, for example, says this I think). Thoughts on that ?

  5. TMN, thank you for this excellent post! It’s very common for people to be intimidated to write in their pristine new calendar at first.

    Anyone who has seen my blog knows I love paper planners. I prefer paper because I can’t be bothered to fiddle with electronic devices. I want to open my book and know my plans are all right there without having to wait for the thing to boot up, or wonder if the system has crashed and lost all my info. Also, I keep my old planners for reference, which has proven to be a very useful record. It’s amazing how easily I can look things up. 10 or 20 years from now, the information in an electronic organizer will be long gone. For example, when applying for a new job I was able to look up trainings I took at a previous job, because I had written the list of completed trainings in my planner, which I still have. If I’d kept the list on my computer at work, that information would have disappeared after I left that job. There will always be a need for paper. 100 years from now, our current computers will be useless and all that information will be gone. Human history is written on paper!

    Anyway, on to actual calendars: I think of my planner like a living thing, which needs to be “fed” (with writing) and given attention often. The thing about a paper planner is that you have to write in it, and you have to look at it, in order for it to work for you. Don’t be afraid to get it messy, because it is for YOU. For people who like to be very tidy about it, use pencil or white-out to keep it neat. Personally I feel satisfied looking at a full calendar because it means I’m being very productive.

    There are endless websites and books on how to “best” use your calendar. In the end, you have to decide what works best for you and go with it. But the two basic rules are: write in it, and look at it often!

    (ReneeLabelle, I know what you mean! Sometimes when my To Do list is full of mundane stuff I think, “I really don’t want to do any of this crap!” Some boring stuff is inevitable. But when I start to dread everything on my list, I think maybe it’s time to make a change!)

    1. @plannerisms Laurie, good to hear from you!

      I thought you might have some advice for the paper-based planning fans out there. 🙂

      Let’s connect soon. Still would love to have you do a post for TMN.

  6. Excellent advice. The lack of organization by many very talented professionals never ceases to amaze me. The daily, weekly, and monthly planning of your “to-do’s” should be a constant negotiation with ourselves. I use both Outlook and a paper Calendar. Outlook is for the detail and the paper calendar is for the higher level planning such as upcoming travel. You are absolutely right in that you have to schedule time for yourself and your projects or your day will be filled by everyone else. Schedule large blocks of time to focus on that specific project and all the tasks included in it. I would, however, advise against scheduling every little “to-do” in a calendar. The small tasks should be worked off a list during assigned “task” times.

    1. @MikeGusky Good stuff. I agree with you that you should not schedule every todo on your calendar.

      I tend to schedule time for projects, and when necessary, high-priority tasks. However, I agree that your calendar and todo list should be separate entities.

  7. While it’s not exactly the start of a new year any more, but if you’re having problems ‘fighting’ your calendar, it may not be a bad idea to start fresh. Paper calendars are underrated in my opinion. But if you’re unsure get a new one and try it out. Here are some cheap calendars.

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