The other day while taking a walk on a gorgeous day, I went past the local yesterday. What was different on this particular day was that it was graduation day. And, that got me thinking. I wish I could tell these younglings just how important a calendar will be as they enter college and then the workforce. COVID may change many things this fall — but the need for a Calendar will never change.
A Calendar may not be the most riveting advice someone could share with today’s youth. How can a calendar compare to words like those iconic commencement speeches from JFK, Steve Jobs, or Oprah, or Steven Spielberg. It’s not — but when you make a calendar part of your life — it does something else.
Having a calendar is the secret ingredient for constructing and maintaining a well rounded, successful life. I mean without a calendar how can you make plans, like study sessions or hanging out with your friends — and make sure you get there — with so much going on? You don’t know it now, dear grad — but you want to be there, you want to show-up for the important stuff — and the fun stuff. How will you be able to keep track of important dates and follow through with commitments?
Not enough reasons? Know that a calendar can help you achieve your goals and ensure that you take care of your health and wellbeing — staying up all night to finish a paper or assignment isn’t good for your physical health and can lead to anxiety. And, most importantly, it can help you become the responsible and reliable individual your parents always dreamed that you would become.
Let me address the adults in the room. If you want your recent high school or college grad to capitalize on those benefits, then you need to teach them well. It’s like when you taught them how to ride a bike or drive a car. They needed some instructions, guidance, and advice before they could speed off down the street.
So, how can you help your new grad accomplish calendar success? Well, focus on the following ten areas.
It’s all about priorities.
“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.” — Leo Babauta
If there is just one thing I can’t stress enough, it’s learning how to prioritize. The reason? It’s the only way to guarantee that you are spending your time on what truly matters. As for the things that aren’t so important? They get tossed out with the trash or recycled so that you have the availability to do what’s most important.
Not everyone has the same priorities. And, as life goes on, they may change. But, for most of us, the main priorities in life are:
That’s short for mind, body, and spirit. Because they affect all facets of your life, you simply can not neglect them. Schedule time in your calendar for self-care and use your downtime wisely. And, try out techniques like time blocking so that you get things done while still having time to attend to your own well-being.
Strong connections with family, friends, and colleagues are essential to a healthy and productive life. In fact, there was an 80-year Harvard study that found embracing community helps us live longer and be happier.
Dreams and aspirations.
In order to have a fulfilling and meaningful life, you need to pursue your passion and purpose.
Whether if it’s learning a hard skill that you will make you professionally valuable or a soft skill to improve interpersonal relationships, scheduling time for continual self-development is a must.
Time and productivity.
Without proper time management, you’ll never be able to focus on your priorities or be as productive as you want. Track your time to see how it’s being spent and when you have the most focus and energy.
Life is way too short to be miserable. That doesn’t mean that every day will be sunshine and rainbows. But, you should spend more time doing the things you love. Even what you wear affects your mood and productivity.
What this means is having a roof over your head and food on the table. You know, the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that I’m sure you’ll learn more about during your college career — or that’s a refresher if you’ve just graduated from a university.
Your calendar won’t just magically manage itself.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just wake-up and have a productive day without having a plan?” asks Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. “It sounds liberating. But that’s just not how it works.” You need to make and stick to a plan.
That can be overwhelming at first. But, the first step is to get organized. That means getting everything you need to do out of your head and onto a piece of paper, planner, or calendar. Next, go through these items and identify what’s essential and necessary — you know those priorities that we just discussed. After you know what these are, add them to your calendar so that they’re protected from less important time requests that may pop-up.
Other ways to protect your calendar?
- Don’t multitask. It’s a myth since the human brain just isn’t capable of doing it.
- Forget about being perfect. It’s a figment of your imagination. Just do your best and keep moving forward.
- Say “yes” more strategically. In the immortal words of Derek Sivers, “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say ‘no.’”
- Think 168 hours, not 24. Having this mentality will make you realize that you have more time then you think. To get started, set an intention for each week, create theme days, and block out time for the unexpected.
- Set time limits to help combat decision fatigue and create a little sense of urgency.
Follow Lombardi Time.
Even if you aren’t a sports fan, I’m sure you’ve heard the name Vince Lombardi. He was the legendary head coach of the Green Bay Packers. And, the NFL named the Super Bowl trophy after him.
In addition to those accomplishments, he’s also known for something called Lombardi Time. As described over at Forbes:
“Basically, it worked like this: Lombardi expected his players and coaches to be 15 minutes early to meetings and practices. Not on time — 15 minutes early. If they weren’t, he considered them ‘late.’ Thus, it came to be called Lombardi time.”
When you’re on-time, it shows others that you’re respectful of their time. It also helps prevent stress and anxiety from creeping into your life. Don’t believe me? How hectic is to rush from place to place or brush up against deadlines?
How can you implement Lombardi Time in your life? Well, if you have to be somewhere at a specific time, leave 15-minutes earlier. If you dedicate an hour for a task, block out two hours just to be safe. And, add time buffers between events. For example, if you have a meeting at 10 am that ends at 10:30, schedule your next appointment at 11 so that there’s time to travel.
Learn what your calendar can do.
Regardless of the calendar app that you use, spend some time getting to know what it can do. Take Google Calendar as an example. There are a lot of hacks you can master to help you get the most out of it. These include using your voice to add new entries, color-coding events, adding meeting locations, and keyboard shortcuts.
Of course, Apple, Microsoft, or whatever calendar app you use have their own hacks. So, instead of wasting your time on Instagram, set aside some time to familiarize yourself with your calendar.
Calendars aren’t for tasks.
“Once upon a time, I used to try to shove literally everything onto my calendar. Homework, to-do’s, errands, you name it,” writes Thomas Frank, aka the College Infor Geek.
“The reason for this is, historically, I’ve always trusted my calendar more than my other systems. I’d let to-do apps get crowded with old and irrelevant tasks, making them all but useless until I’d force myself to do a reset.” Eventually, Thomas realized that he “was just covering up the problem by shoving tasks over to the calendar; instead of shoring up my own ineffectiveness with to-do systems, I was weakening the one system that did work.
“Today, I’ve stopped doing that almost entirely,” writes Thomas. “Most tasks go into their own system now (currently Todoist), and the calendar is reserved only for events or tasks that must be done at a certain time. The principle is that there must be some external force or reason for doing something at a specific date and time in order for it to go on the calendar.”
Find the balance between scheduling and going with the flow.
Some people champion the idea that they need to schedule every minute of their time. “Scheduling my days means that I, not the circumstances around me, dictate how I spend my time,” explains Calendar Co-Founder John Hall. “My schedule is flexible enough to let me put out fires but rigid enough to ensure that I never find myself wondering what to do next–or when I’ll find time to do the things that matter to me.”
Also, this allows you to avoid scheduling conflicts. For example, you accepted the RSVP of a housewarming party on Friday night. But, you didn’t add it to your calendar and committed to another social function. Now, you have a tough decision to make — which is going to tick someone off.
“On the flip side, there are some perks to taking the ‘go with the flow’ approach,” argues Albert Costill in another Calendar piece. “The most common reason is that it allows for more flexibility in your schedule. Without being shackled to a strict schedule, you’ll become more spontaneous. As a result, you’ll be happier.”
In fact, studies show that “When scheduled, leisure tasks feel less free-flowing and more forced — which is what robs them of their utility,”
The solution? Strike the right balance.
“While this can vary from person-to-person, the most effective way to achieve this is by always scheduling your most important tasks and events,” adds Albert. “For example, if you can only take your car to the mechanic on Saturday morning, then block out the time for that task. Spouse, partner, or BFF’s birthday? Definitely put that date on your calendar.”
But, also leave blank spaces in your calendar. Examples would be those time buffers I already mentioned. Or, just leaving an hour or two blank each day on your calendar.