run your college life on auto-pilot + Let Your System do the hard work for you
The worst feeling in the world is forgetting an assignment. Just thinking about it makes my face feel hot and my chest feel tight. Ugh! I hate forgetting an important deadline or event and remembering when it is too late.
If you are serious about improving your time management and want to never forget an assignment or exam again, you must implement a calendar strategy now. I will teach you how to:
- choose the best calendar system for you.
- organize and optimize your calendar.
- review your calendar quickly and efficiently
- incorporate calendar reminders on your devices
- make your calendar work for you as I do
A Calendar is Non-Negotiable
A calendar is the best way to keep track of time and date-specific information, like course assignments or exams. Events that belong on your calendar:
- course assignments and exams
- school closings
- birthdays & anniversaries
- work deadlines
- trips or travel
- medical & dental appointments
To increase productivity you have to know what you are working with. What are your commitments and when do you need to meet them? This means utilizing a central location to detail everything you have going on in life.
The purpose of a calendar system is universal, but the specifics of your own solution should fit your specific situation. Ask yourself these questions:
1. What would I have with me at all times?
Do you always have a notebook handy? Will you always have your phone with you? Do you constantly carry your laptop with you for work?
2. What would be easiest for me to use?
Do you love embracing technology and find it easy to work with? Does technology make you want to smash things into tiny pieces? Is it faster to write something on paper or type it on your device?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer. I know some people who LOVE a paper calendar and are very productive using it. I am really into technology and always have my smartphone with me when I am out, and a computer nearby when I am at home. My ideal solution is an app to sync with my computer and phone. I’ve tried a few calendars over the years and use Google Calendar. It is free, easy to use, syncs across devices, and has some powerful tools to get organized.
Organize & Share Your Calendar
Once you commit to a calendar system, spend 10-15 minutes, and get organized. Think about the categories in your life which you need to manage and create individual calendars for each area. In Google Calendar you can color-code your calendars to easily see at-a-glance what category each event fits into. Here are some calendar categories to consider:
- individual course calendars – Name by course name or course code and enter every assignment, exam, and due date.
- work – Include your work schedule, travel dates, meetings, etc.
- family – Jot down your family traditions, trips, and holiday events.
- birthdays – Be an awesome friend and family member and never forget a birthday again.
- kids – Keep track of your kids’ activities and school events.
- meal plan – Productivity hinges on optimum health.
Obviously, you can have more or fewer categories, but this gets you thinking about the various aspects you need to be on top of in your life.
A huge bonus for creating separate Google calendars like this is the ability to easily share an individual calendar with someone else. Share the family and kids calendars with your spouse and you can both keep track of what you have going on. There are options for permissions to decide if one or both of you will add to and edit the calendar. Automating how you manage activities as a family is a huge time-savings!
Never forget an assignment or event
The most important part of maximizing your productivity using a calendar is to use it regularly. It needs to be an integral part of your daily habits. Rely on the calendar system to keep track of dates for you.
If you don’t put the date of your assignment down, you may forget the assignment.
The benefits of this are amazing. Your brain is wired to store a finite amount of information at one time. The purpose of time management strategies and tools is to free up your brain processing power from tasks like remembering dates in order for it to work on more important tasks like acing your upcoming exam.
Remember, a calendar is just a tool. It can’t do all of the work for you.
You have to build regular habits and routines to use your calendar. This will be most effective if it becomes part of your normal routine. You need two habits to really make your calendar work for you:
- Immediately add all events.
- Regularly review your calendar.
The first habit is really a no-brainer. If you are at the doctor scheduling a follow-up, add it to your phone right then. When you find out about an upcoming work conference, immediately jot down the dates. If you aren’t adding every date to the calendar, it will never be a useful tool.
For the second habit, try adding a 5-minute daily calendar review to your existing daily schedule. You might try:
- In the morning while eating breakfast spend a few minutes looking at your calendar for today.
- Use your lunch break to get a few quiet minutes and review your calendar for the upcoming day.
- While you wind down for the evening, look at your calendar for the upcoming day.
How I use my calendar routinely
To make the most of your calendar system you want to be using it at the macro and micro level. For me this means spending
10 Minute Monthly Planning—During the last week of each month I do a monthly planning session for the upcoming month. I look for major events, travel, birthdays, and holidays.
30 Minute Weekly Planning—At the start of each week I look ahead and do more detailed planning for the upcoming week. I plan meals for the week, which is why this takes a half hour. Otherwise, I could wrap this up in around 10 minutes.
10 Minute Daily Planning—Each evening I look at the next day and get specific about when I can accomplish my to-do list items. They each get assigned a specific time. Check out this free Study Planner to help you work through the process.
60 Second Daily Review—Each morning I look at my calendar first. It is a quick reminder of what I have going on for the day and helps me to be intentional.
Each day I spend 6-11 minutes planning. It is a very minimal effort which results in amazing productivity. I still allow time for spontaneity, and I don’t plan every individual minute of the day. This habit of reviewing my calendar does help me to be very intentional about what I want to accomplish each day and how to get it done. I never forget an assignment, exam, birthday, or appointment.
Other tips for using your calendar regularly
You can also incorporate calendar reminders on your devices. Here are a few bonus tips for keeping your digital calendar front and center:
- Add your calendar to the notification screen of your phone.
- Set up pop-up notifications for important appointments to get reminders during the day.
- Have your calendar in a pinned tab on your computer browser so it is always open.
Once you have put your calendar to work for you, check out these other time management tips and strategies.
Try It Yourself: 30-minute Challenge
- Determine the calendar system you will be using and commit to one system.
- Spend 10-15 minutes and determine what categories you need to include. Set these up as individual calendars.
- Spend 10 minutes and add all dates you can think of to your calendar.
- Spend 5-10 minutes and make a plan for reviewing your calendar monthly, weekly, and daily.
Leave a comment below and let me know which system you use to make sure you never forget an assignment, and why it works best for you?