Staying on top of all the tasks, appointments, and deadlines in life can be tough — let alone just keeping track of basics, like birthdays and holiday weekends. It's why knowing how to organize your personal calendar is kind of clutch when it comes to simplifying and streamlining your life.
Even if you don't think of yourself as a naturally organized person, or someone who's "in to writing stuff down," you very well may positively benefit from an organized calendar system — especially if you find yourself struggling with stress and anxiety. According to psychologist Dana Gionta, Ph.D. in a piece for Psychology Today, control and stress are inversely related — meaning that the more control we perceive we have, the less stress we feel.
So being able to open a page or swipe through an app and see what your week has in store not only means you'll be more on the ball, but you'll probably just feel better in general. If this sounds appealing, or you're interested in improving the system you already have, here are seven tips that could help.
1. Assess What Works For You
This is a personal tip and I genuinely believe it is the most important part of any organizational system. Are you a digital person? Or do you work best with good old fashioned pen and paper? Do you need to see your whole month laid out in front of you to conceptualize what you need to do, or are you a day-by-day thinker? I personally have wasted a lot of time trying to organize myself digitally, and ultimately came to realize that I'm personally most productive when I can see my whole month laid out on paper.
2. Keep It Simple
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A piece on OrganizeYourWorld.net on the effective use of personal calendars stressed the importance of keeping things simple. They noted that having too many calendars can be just as useless as not having one at all, as the more calendars you have to synch and update, the higher the likelihood something will fall through the cracks. They recommended sticking to a single calendar if you can, and two at most for work and home.
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On her site Time With Thea, organizational blogger Thea recommended color-coding your calendar. She said she personally color-codes all weekends and holidays in green, birthdays and anniversaries (i.e: the "card sending stuff") in purple, and days with appointments or non-miss events, like concerts, in blue. This decreases the odds that something big will slip your mind or will double-book yourself.
4. Keep Your Calendar Where You Will See It
This is another tip from Thea, though it admittedly applies less to digital calendar users. "I leave my calendar at the breakfast table the night before so I can refer to it every morning and am consistently staying on top of upcoming events," she said. This might sound obvious, but the old adage "out of site, out of mind" exists for a reason!
5. Write Everything Down
And I mean everything. I even like to keep a section in my calendar for things I need to pick up while I'm out so that if I ever find myself at a CVS I know exactly what I need (as opposed to being faced with the eternal mystery of, "Is there anything I need?"). I also write down things that interest me, like museum exhibits or local flea markets so that I don't miss out on something I might have been free to do just because I plain forgot about it.
6. Set Reminders For Yourself
One of the benefits of most digital organizers like Google calendars is that you can set reminders for yourself. In a piece on maximizing productivity on My Domain, senior site editor Jillian Knox Finley noted that G-cal even has options to remind you of events by email, text, pop-up, or direct SMS. If you're the forgetful type or know you have a super busy week ahead where you might genuinely forget to call your Nana for her birthday, these features are super helpful.
7. Check It Often
The team over at OrganizeYourWorld.Net also reminded us to get in the habit of checking our calendars regularly. "No matter how diligent you are about writing things down in your calendar, if you don’t refer back to it on a regular basis, it will not be an effective time management tool," they wrote. I personally like to check in with my planner every time I'm on the subway, and checking it first thing in the morning and right before bed is also always a good idea.
Organizing our personal calendars can sometimes seem like an impossible task — especially if you don't consider yourself to be a naturally organized kind of person. Just remember that it really just comes down to keeping it as simple as possible and being honest about what system you'll actually use. Once you've got that down, you've already mastered the hard part.