During this season of renewal, however, don’t just declutter your home and workspace. Also, spruce up your calendar. When you do, you’ll not only have more free time; you’ll also be able to add new items without completely shuffling your schedule around.
9 Ways to Spring Clean Your Calendar
To get you on your way so that this doesn’t seem like a daunting task, here are 9 tips to spring clean your calendar.
1. Take stock and track your time.
“I always say if you want to spend your time better, you have to figure out how you’re spending your time now,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. “People have a lot of stories they tell themselves about their time,” she adds, but those stories aren’t always accurate.
In other words, to truly clean your calendar, you first need to what’s in it. You can review past appointments and calendars to get some historical data. But, you should also track your time to see how it’s actually being spent.
Generally, you have two options here. You can either use a productivity journal or a time tracker. Regardless of what tool you use, you just need to record your daily activities for a week or so to figure out can go out with the trash.
Vanderkam also suggests channeling your inner Marie Kondo. For example, if that cooking, music, or yoga on Wednesday nights no longer sparks joy, chuck it.
“It’s a ridiculous thing to think that everything will spark joy,” she adds. “You might love your job, but your commute will not spark joy. You love your children but changing a diaper will not spark joy,” she says.
The idea, then? Ask yourself, “What is causing the most pain? And what is something I can actually do something about?”
2. Follow the rule of three.
“No matter how many different things you do in a week or a month, there are only three tasks and activities that account for 90% of the value of the contribution you make to your business,” states speaker and author Brian Tracy. Appropriately enough, this is called the “Rule of Three.”
Of course, narrowing down all of your obligations to three items is no easy fear. But, it’s not impossible. To get started, Tracy suggests that you make a list.
“If you make a list of everything you do in the course of a month, it will probably include 20, 30, or even 40 different tasks and responsibilities,” he says. ?If you review your list carefully, item by item, you will find that only three items on your entire list account for 90% of your value to your business.”
What are your “big three?”
To further help you determine your “big three,” he suggests that you answer the following questions;
- If I could only do one thing on this list, all day long, which one activity would contribute the greatest value to my business?
- Assuming that I could only do two things on this list, all day long, what would be the second activity to make the greatest contribution to my business?
- If I could only do three things on this list, all day long, what would be the third activity that would contribute the most value to my business?
“When you make a list and analyze your answers, you will clearly see that only three things you do account for almost all of the value that you contribute,” adds Tracy. “Starting and completing these tasks is more important than everything else you do.” Make sure that you pencil-in these priorities so that nothing else gets scheduled ahead of them.
As for everything else? You can either schedule them for when you’re free or delegate them. But, if they’re neither urgent nor important, they should take up valuable real estate in your calendar.
3. Question all recurring entries.
Just because you’ve spent every Thursday night for the last five years at a networking event doesn’t mean it’s still relevant. I know that for a couple of colleagues that it took the pandemic for them to realize this. It made sense when they needed to build up their network, but now that their businesses have taken off, it’s more of a chore.
Go through your calendar and see what recurring events and commitments no longer fit into your schedule. Even those monthly or quarterly functions will free-up some much-needed calendar space.
4. Remove the unnecessary.
Some could argue that this is subjective. But, I think that most of us could agree that unnecessary calendar entries include;
- Meetings without an agenda or purpose.
- Standing or back-to-back appointments.
- Minuscule activities, such as brushing your teeth.
- Activities that you’re probably going to skip — if you really wanted to do these, you would just do them.
- Excessive notifications and reminders, like “Take the dog for a walk.”
- Carving out time in your schedule for other people’s priorities before your own.
5. Address calendar conflicts.
No matter how organized you are, conflicts will arise. That’s life for you. But, that doesn’t mean you should just ignore these battles.
If you notice that there are any possible problems, fix them ASAP. For instance, maybe you booked a dentist appointment six months ago for 2 p.m. Since then, you have accepted an invite to a Zoom meeting at 2 p.m.
That’s cutting it way too close. So, you might need to reschedule the video call for earlier or on a completely different day.
Using an online calendar can help mitigate these conflicts. But, they won’t always solve issues like back-to-back appointments.
6. Say “yes” to “no.”
“Saying Yes to everything means you really have time for nothing,” writes Leo Babuta over at Zen Habits. “You can’t possibly say Yes to everything because where will you fit it all?”
Do you “want to go to every meeting,” event, or coffee? “Want to do every project that comes along?” If so, your days will be so jam-packed that there’s no time to rest. And “what’s more, you’ll likely not meet all your obligations,” adds Babuta.
“Saying Yes to everything means you’re not really saying Yes — it means you’re not setting priorities,” he states. “You’re not making a serious commitment. You’re not being conscious about your life.”
7. Stop using your Calendar merely for checklists and notes.
I’m not against checklists and notes. In fact, I have a whiteboard and notepad that I use daily to jot down reminders or random thoughts. Having a list for chores like grocery shopping ensures that I don’t forget anything — it also helps me stick to a budget.
Some lists don’t belong in your calendar — they’ll clutter up your calendar.
8. Time to move on.
Let’s say that you broke up with your significant other or ended a toxic friendship. You may have had recurring dates in your calendar, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or doctor’s appointments. Depending on how close you were, you could even have recurring dates for their friends and family.
It’s not easy. But, remove these from your calendar and turn-over-a-new-leaf. Besides cleaning out your calendar, you may also find this therapeutic.
Additionally, you could also unsubscribe from mailing lists if you’re no longer with an organization. For example, if you left your job or no longer attending a local networking event.
And, unfollow others’ calendars that you don’t want to associate with anymore. For instance, there’s no point in following a former employee or co-worker.
9. Consolidate your calendars.
Some people like to have multiple calendars for various aspects of their lives. You may have a calendar reserved for work and another for personal obligations. It’s also possible that you have calendars for holidays or your favorite sports team’s schedule.
Eventually, this makes it much more difficult to avoid conflicts. I know in the past, when I did this, I would accept an after-hours work event only to be horrified when that conflicted with a social function.
Besides, bouncing between calendars was too time-consuming. The simple fix was to consolidate all of my calendars into one master calendar.
To remain organized — I used color-coding.
“Most calendar apps will allow you to order your events by color, making it easy to distinguish them at a glance,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “Your online calendar will have different events for work, home, and leisure. Assign a color to each category, and it will be easy to locate exactly what you’re looking for.”
“For example, the color red can distinguish all of your work-related events from the rest of your calendar,” Howie explains. “You might use blue to indicate your at-home priorities.”
The best part? “You can customize your calendar with whatever palette you choose, making your online calendar unique to your style and preference.”
Image Credit: nathan cowley; pexels