Join Suzanna Kaye for an in-depth discussion in this video Scheduling your to-do items on a calendar, part of Managing To-Do Lists.
- Whether you're a pro at managing your time or have difficulty fitting everything into your day, using your paper or virtual calendar to manage your to-do list can work well for you. We'll talk mostly about a paper calendar, but the same techniques and concepts work just as well with a virtual calendar. First, make sure you have a planner that allows plenty of space for appointments each day. I prefer a calendar that shows a whole day with multiple lines per hour block. Determine how you prefer to track your tasks on your calendar.
There are two main methods: batching and individual tasks. When recording tasks with the batching style, the individuals tasks are not stored on the calendar itself. The calendar will show time blocks for specific types of tasks, but the task itself will be recorded on another list. This style is great if you have a lot of small tasks that are a similar category, such as phone calls or computer work, where there would not be enough room on the calendar to add all the tasks individually. When using this style of entry, make sure your detailed task list can be sorted by task type to easily view what would be included in that batch.
Here's one way to set this up. My calendar shows the batches of time and my to-do list shows the individual tasks to complete. If your to-do list generally has items that take 15 minutes or more, then you can list your tasks individually on the calendar. Listing individual tasks on the calendar and assigning them a specific time only works if you're realistic about how long each task takes. Feel free to spend some time with your to-do list and a stopwatch to get an estimate of how long your common tasks really take.
You may be surprised. When listing the tasks, try to group similar tasks together. Along the same lines as batching, it reduces mental fatigue to do groups of similar tasks, rather than changing between tasks frequently. For example, in your calendar group phone calls together in the same time frame, and don't mix them in between errands or focused computer work. In addition to your regular appointments and tasks, make sure to schedule a fire time. I talk more about fire time in the What You Need to Know movie.
This is essential in a system like this to make sure you plan for the unexpected. Also, don't forget to schedule yourself breaks. Five minutes to stretch or a quick 10-minute walk around the building to get fresh air increases productivity and it should be planned just like any other task. In this example, you can see I've listed all of my individual tasks and some supporting information together. I also used a highlighter to help me easily view different task groups. Using a calendar to track tasks can help you become more realistic about how long it takes to complete them.
With practice, you're much more likely to avoid overcommitting yourself and to get through your to-do list for the day. The more you use the system, the better you'll get at time management. You may want to use a timer to keep you on track as you work through your list. My favorite timer app is called Time Timer. Now we've talked seriously about several ways to keep a paper list to stay on track, but sometimes you just want to have fun with your productivity. In the next movie, I talk about PocketMod. It's a paper list you build yourself that's both fun and functional.