5 Ways to Make a Calendar Work For You
Do you use a calendar to help you stay on top of things?
Most of us know that we need to be better organised. We know that organisation can save us time and energy.
If asked what our goals are for the year, many of us would write ‘get organised’.
But what does this actually mean and how do you actually do it?
The Problem With Calendars
I’ve lost count of the number of diaries I’ve bought over the years. Notice I said bought – not used.
If I look through any old ones I can see that at the start of the year I enthusiastically go through and mark in people’s birthdays (dates that quite frankly I am not likely to forget anyway). Then for January and February it’s not too bad. Then March slowly peters out and by April I’ve given up. (To be honest it kind of looks like 2020 every year).
And it’s not because I don’t want to be organised. In fact I desperately do, and I frequently kick myself for being hopeless.
The thing is that I’ve just never really found a diary or calendar system that works for me. One that actually helps me get organised and use my time effectively.
I know that just trying to keep track of everything in my head is almost impossible – especially as life gets busier. But the problem with a calendar is that it lulls me into a false sense of complacency and I somehow think if I write it down I’ll remember. Then I don’t look at it for days and when I do I have a mad panic about all the things I need to get done in a short amount of time.
I will work through them all methodically, but unless I create a system by prioritising and organising tasks, it’s still not going to be an efficient use of my time.
So, I decided to stop relying on others to solve my problem, and create my own calendar system that actually does what I need it to do.
And now I’m sharing it with you.
Each day I focus on 5 key steps in my calendar.
- To-do list
- 1 thing to get ahead
- 1 positive for the day
1. Set Goals
We tend to think of goals as being long term things, but setting them for each day and even each separate study session is a great study strategy.
I always find it hard to focus if I have an endless amount of time and an endless amount of work in front of me. It all just feels overwhelming and I can’t see the wood for the trees. I don’t know where to start, so I waste a lot of time ‘getting organised’ (read creating piles and using pretty labels). This is known as Parkinson’s Law – the fact that work expands to fit the time you have to do it in.
Or I make the huge mistake of checking emails and social media before I start and spending a couple of hours down that rabbit hole and then stressing that half the day is gone!
The solution? I need to set myself clear, manageable goals for the day. In fact, I like to break it down into chunks of time and set a clear goal for each chunk.
That way, before I start work I know exactly what I want to achieve and the time frame in which I want to achieve it.
If I finish the goal early I can reward myself with time off, or get a head start on another project. But I get a great sense of achievement knowing that I have done what I set out to do.
The thing is, there will always be more I can do, and unless I break it down into small goals, I will never get that boost from accomplishing something – I will just constantly feel that I am drowning in things I need to do.
2. Create a ‘To Do’ List
Another very effective study habit is to write down all the things you need to do. I have always been a firm believer in ‘to do’ lists. I know that if I don’t write things down there is little to no chance that I’ll remember them.
But a list of things you have to do isn’t going to keep you organised by itself.
The key trick is to go back to your ‘to do’ list and prioritise or organise it.
Work out what tasks absolutely have to be done today and make them top priority. No matter what else happens today, these tasks have to be completed. Limit this to just one or two things. This way you again get to enjoy that sense of satisfaction when you complete the task – and a bonus boost if you manage to complete more!
Look to see if you can group any tasks. For example if there are 4 things on your calendar during the week that all require you to go to the shopping centre, can you combine them all into one day so that you only have to make one trip?
Just because you think of something today that needs to be done, it might not have to be done today. Take a more long term look at your calendar and decide where it fits best.
Make your to do list and your calendar 2 different things. During the day, write anything you think of on your to do list, but don’t worry about an order. Before you go to bed that night, transfer these items into your calendar, assigning them to whatever day they fit most conveniently into. Obviously you won’t have total control over the timing of every task, but you will be able to group and organise most activities in a way that saves time and energy.
A regular revision timetable is the best possible study technique.
We lose 80% of learned knowledge within 24 hours of learning it, unless we take the time to revise it.
With this in mind it is vital to revise any new work covered each day. It may only take 10-15 minutes per subject, but by spending that time now, you won’t need to re-learn it before the exam. Regular, spaced revision is the key to studying and to avoiding all-night cramming sessions (that simply don’t work by the way).
It is important to schedule revision time into your calendar as well as basic homework. That way you can stay on top of things and never face an enormous workload leading up to exams.
Even though I’m not studying for exams, I know that if I leave a task for too long I almost have to start again when I come back to it. That’s a really annoying waste of time.
4. Do 1 Thing To Get Ahead
This next study technique is rarely used, and will give you a huge advantage over most students.
If we only do what we have to do each day, we begin to feel like we are always playing catch up. This can feel very disheartening and lower our levels of motivation.
But, it’s amazing what a psychological boost you can get from feeling like you are not only on top of things but ahead of the game.
Each day, aim to do one thing that gets you ahead. For example, if you read the chapter in the textbook the night before, you will get so much more out of the class the next day.
If you have a draft due on Friday, aim to have it written by Wednesday.
This also helps you deal with any little disasters or hiccups that may occur during your week and stop you from following your planned schedule.
List 1 Positive Thought
Although this study tip seems to have little to do with actual study, it is a great habit to get into.
If we can train our brains to think more positively, we can gain a number of benefits
Expressing gratitude improves:
- Physical Health
- Psychological Health
- Mental Strength
- Energy Levels
By intentionally looking for the good in each day, we can make ourselves feel so much more confident, in control and healthier.
Even on the worst of days we can all find something to be grateful for – maybe even just that your friend stood by you as you made a total fool of yourself!
Add one positive thought to your calendar each day and see what a difference it makes to your overall attitude and mood.
If you would like to explore these ideas further, our 5 Daily Activities to Ace Your ATAR will provide you with a calendar and step you through the process of how to get the most benefit from it.
To purchase one for $9, please click this link.
For more help for students, watch our Youtube videos on study skills.