Time Management Wizardry: Scheduling What’s Important

Allison Kade

In 2011, our goal is to be so organized and emotionally balanced that daily life feels like one big yoga class: Full of deep, calm breaths. Last year, we spent too long being so busy we couldn’t keep up. This year, Zen. Here’s how.

Death to Post-It Notes and Lists

Put each of your work and personal tasks on your calendar, no matter how small. Appraise your time honestly—taking your blouse to the dry cleaner may seem like a five-minute errand, but is it, really? People tend to ditch their schedules in frustration after they fall behind on more than a task or two, so err on the side of overestimating. There’s lots of stuff you’d like to do, but ask yourself if your energy is going to peter out some time between editing your sister’s college essay and making a big pot roast. Be totally, no-holds-barred honest with yourself.

Rules of Thumb for Crafting a Successful and Stress-Free Calendar:

  • Estimate how long each task will take and then add at least fifteen minutes to that number.
  • Schedule a short break for yourself every hour and a half, no matter what you’re doing.
  • Build in 30 minutes to go over your calendar at the beginning of each month. At the beginning of each week, spend 15 minutes reviewing it. Spend no more than five minutes on your calendar each day.
  • One month ahead is as far out as you need to think. If you’re big into planning ahead, it’s okay to chart out the whole year (when you’ll buy gifts for friends’ summer weddings, when to choose Thanksgiving plane tickets, etc.). Otherwise, don’t sweat it.

Break Every Project Into Manageable Chunks.

Don’t put “presentation to the marketing department” on your calendar. Instead, break it down into micro-tasks: Tracking down last year’s budget, calling people for artwork, etc.

Deal With the Dumb Stuff

Hide annoying chores that won’t take too long in other activities. For example, set water to boil for tea and knock off a quick chore by the time the kettle whistles. If you run over the time limit, finish your task (jotting off an email, paying your credit card bill, throwing out stuff in your fridge) before treating yourself to the tea. For more time-consuming chores, buckle down on a leisurely weekend morning. Wake up at a comfortable time, brew yourself a cup of coffee, scramble some eggs, flip on your favorite music, and tackle whatever it is (going through your closet, grad school applications, rebalancing your portfolio).

Get Technology to Do Your Dirty Work

If you feel like carrying around an old-school agenda planner, do your thing—but we’ve joined the 21st century. Follow us into the technology age:

  • Pick one program to store your calendar and stick to it, rather than splitting up bits of your schedule between Google Calendar, Outlook, iCal, BlackBerry calendar, or any other program.
  • If someone invites you to an event on a different platform (like getting an Outlook invite when you’re an iCal user), always accept the event on your platform. Add it manually, if you have to.
  • Sync up your smartphone so that the calendar on your computer matches up with your portable calendar. (This should be relatively easy, whether you’re using Google Sync, iPhone/iCal synching, Outlook synching, or any other program.)

Websites and Apps Make Sure We Never Screw Up

Our favorite two apps are so good at managing our lives that soon, we’ll never having to think again:

  • Diacarta: This iPhone app makes a visual representation of your schedule, using big, clear graphics. It’s visually beautiful, but doesn’t sync up with other tools like iCal. If you’re the kind of person who can stick to a real schedule, we suggest you do that instead. If you know you won’t maintain a hyper-detailed calendar and yearn for something simple, this is a great option.
  • RememberTheMilk: This free site will send reminders about anything to your phone, IM, or email. New source of that friendly text reminder to, uh, pick up the milk on your way home.

May the new year bring you organization, peace of mind, and all the yoga breaths you can handle.

  • CopyEditorGirl

    Just an FYI…I think you mean “No Holds Barred” above, which is derived from wrestling and means “without restrictions or rules.” “No Holes Barred” has a slightly different meaning…you can find it on UrbanDictionary.com.

    • http://twitter.com/amkade Allison Kade

      Hi CopyEditorGirl,nnWhew! Thank you so much for catching that! We really appreciate it!nnAllison

  • Kodemonki

    I love GoogleSync. Everyone at work uses it (even though it’s not technically allowed) and it matches up perfectly with my Droid. It’s a great app, especially if your company doesn’t have Exchange.

  • http://twitter.com/alexavontobel alexavontobel

    time is money!!!! i believe time management is critical to happiness. i schedule time on weekends for things like gym, rest, calling my mom, calling my friends to make sure i make time for myself. I think considering your happiness as your most important appts. helps make you happy!! I love time mgt tricks and would love any insight people can share! ps, i am scheduling right now to make time to get a massage next weekend!

  • Anonymous

    I’m currently in the middle of a calendar crisis — my old one ran out and I don’t have a new one yet. It’s v. stressful…

  • Anonymous

    The idea of rewarding yourself for tasks well done always works for me. For instance, if I get a new book in the mail, I’m not allowed to open it until I’ve crossed a thing (or two!) off my to-do list.

    • http://www.JamillahWarner.com Jamillah Warner

      I do this too SavvySaver and it seems like the book just tastes better (when I do sit down to consume it).

  • The Christianista

    i really love this site and this great advice. thank you

  • The Christianista

    i really love this site and this great advice. thank you

  • The Christianista

    i really love this site and this great advice. thank you

  • The Christianista

    i really love this site and this great advice. thank you

  • The Christianista

    i really love this site and this great advice. thank you

  • http://www.bmwysp.deviantart.com Jennifer Megan Varnadore

    I definitely need help organizing my time properly. I have trouble sticking well to many schedules past a to do list, and those even scatter me after a time.