Google Calendar can be a really useful tool in keeping your life organized, but it doesn’t do you any good when it fills up and leaves you stressed. We often don’t have enough hours in a day, but the calendar itself can come to our rescue. Plan your schedule smartly and you won’t have to do everything at once.
Here are 10 tips that help you use Google Calendar to keep your schedule in check.
Schedule Free Time
Google Calendar isn’t just for reminding you of meetings, due dates, and travel arrangements; it can also be a great way to remind yourself to take some time off. Scheduling a couple hours each evening for reading, for example, will remind you every day that you need to do something for yourself. Add a lunch break to your schedule with a note that the time shouldn’t be spent working. Put dates with your spouse and time with your kids into your calendar.
Adding free and leisure time to your calendar will make it look a lot more full, but it will also remind you that taking some time for yourself is important — stress can really run you down, make you more likely to get sick, and decrease your productivity.
So use your calendar to help you relieve some stress by scheduling in your favorite activities! Even if it’s something as simple as taking a walk or playing with your dog.
Make Time for Self-Development
We have a tendency to focus on the things that need to get done, especially at work. And when you put all of that on your calendar, as well as all the things you want to do in your free time, there’s not a lot of room left. But it’s still important to make time for self-development, whatever that means to you. It could be time spent reading about a skill that you’d like to develop, practicing an instrument, working out . . . it could be almost anything. Just make sure that you’re spending on time on things that help you grow.
It’s easy to let these activities take the back seat when other things come up, but having side projects and out-of-work interests can help boost your creativity, relieve stress, and improve your skills — whether those skills will help you progress in your career or just make you happy. That’s why scheduling time to play with your Arduino is just as important as scheduling time for finding a career mentor.
Time blocking isn’t for everyone, but it can do wonders for some people’s motivation. Rob wrote a great article on time blocking where you can get the details, but the basic version is this: each evening, take 15 or 20 minutes to break the following day into different-sized chunks of time, each with a specific goal (even if that goal is replying to email).
Having a particular block of time scheduled for an activity will help you stay focused on your goals and get more done. Cal Newport, who wrote the post that inspired Rob’s article, claims he gets a staggering 50% more productivity out of a week with this tactic.
Give Yourself Extra Time
No matter how focused you are, how single-minded you can be about your projects, things always come up. Do you have a perfectly planned schedule that will let you build a website in a day? You’ll get called into an unexpected meeting. Did you give yourself two weeks to edit a book? You’ll get sick. Plan on building an Arduino alarm system in a weekend? Your in-laws will stop by for a surprise visit. It’s an unpleasant fact of life: we just think we can get things done faster than we can.
Google Calendar can be a big help here. Every time you put something on your calendar, think about adding a little extra time. Think your meeting will take 30 minutes? Better give it 45. Plan on driving to your interview in 15? Give yourself at least 30. These little bits of extra time add up and will help you keep from feeling rushed.
Plus, if you finish the task well before the exaggerated deadline, use the “bonus” time for anything else!, like exercising your brain.
Consult the Forecast
Have you ever been late because you got stuck on a highway in a snowstorm? Google Calendar can help. To display the weather forecast directly in your calendar, just go to Settings and choose whether you’d like the temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius.
You’ll now see little icons above each day in the week — they won’t give you the best weather information, but if you see that it looks like rain, snow, or heavy winds, it could be a reminder to pad the task with some extra time or to think of a schedule workaround because of the weather.
Add Drive Time
One of the most useful features of Google Maps is that it will give you an estimate of your travel time if you leave right now; but you can also choose your departure time to get an estimate based on traffic in the past. This can be hugely useful when you need to take drive time into account.
If you’ve entered an address into your Google Calendar event, you can click right from the event to a map, making it even easier to get an estimate of your travel time and build it into your calendar.
Don’t Overbook Yourself
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s worth a reminder. Google Calendar makes it easy to put a lot of things on your calendar, and even adds some automatically (it can now add travel itineraries directly from Gmail, for example). And because it’s so good at sending you reminders for things, you might not keep it open. This is a recipe for double-booking some time slots, which will contribute to your calendaring stress.
Even if you don’t find yourself scheduling two things at once, taking the time to make sure that you haven’t planned out every minute of your day is a good idea.
Integrate Other Calendars
Having easy access to your calendar is paramount — but being able to see other calendars can also be very useful. For example, if your spouse also uses Google Calendar, and you can’t remember if you’re supposed to pick up the kids from school, you can see if she’s working late that day by checking her schedule. If you add your professional schedule from whatever calendaring service you use at work, it’ll be easier to see your personal and work calendars next to each other, which can help in planning. Google supports multiple calendars.
Ryan wrote an awesome article on a bunch of things you can automatically add to your Google Calendar, many of which can be very useful.
See Where You Can Make Cuts
Remember that the “No” button is there to be used. In many workplaces, employees are asked to take part in too many meetings that don’t accomplish much, and this can make you feel more stressed about your schedule. Taking a look at the week ahead and seeing where you can replace a meeting with an email or a phone call will help clear out valuable time. If there’s anything else that can be cut out, don’t hesitate — you can put that time to better use!
Use Relaxation Reminders
Reminding yourself to stop and take a breath every once in a while is a great use of Google Calendar. It could be a single reminder to practice being grateful for a few minutes, a short block of time for journalling, a daily meditation slot, or any other sort of relaxation practice, even for just a couple minutes.
If you’re feeling over-scheduled and stressed, these things are invaluable, and it’s worth putting them on your calendar so you don’t forget. Set aside a block of time each day (or every couple days) and set up a repeating “mindfulness” appointment with yourself so that you don’t accidentally schedule over it.
Google Calendar to the Rescue
Google Calendar is a surprisingly effective resource when it comes to getting organized and decluttering your schedule — don’t be afraid to use it, and don’t be afraid to be ruthless when choosing which events to accept and which to decline. The secret to effectively using a calendar is simple: cut out the things that you don’t need, make time for the things you love, and keep it all organized!
Do you use Google Calendar to keep everything in order? Has it helped keep your stress under control? What are your favorite ways to use it? Share your tips and thoughts below!
Image Credits: pushpins on calendar Via Shutterstock