Sunday, October 10, 2010

Calendars - What's Right for You?

This essay appears as a guest blog on The Dollar Stretcher

My boss and my husband have the world’s simplest calendars. They have folks write down their appointments on little appointment cards which they have been dutifully trained to tuck into their pocket and bring to me. I then compare it to their schedules. If the appointment doesn’t work for some reason, I call and reschedule. However, since not everyone has a secretary or wife to keep up with this stuff for them, here are some of my tricks and suggestions for doing it yourself.

I use an electronic calendar on my computer at home and at work. These are especially useful for keeping up with repetitive events like birthdays or monthly meetings because you can just enter them once and tell the computer to repeat them at a designated frequency. If you have one of those fancy new smart phones, you can synch your computer calendar to your phone so that you always have the information available.

A big kitchen calendar was a great idea when I had kids in the house. That’s how we kept up with special project due dates, soccer games, doctor appointments, birthdays and just about anything else you can think of. Sometimes we would even slow down enough to actually LOOK at the calendar and see where we were supposed to be next. HA Seriously, this calendar was a sort of control central – in addition to telling us where we needed to be and when, it was helpful in planning menus and grocery lists. Early evening events meant it was time to pull out the crock pot. Nothing on the calendar meant sitting down together at the table for a real meal. You get the picture.

For several years, as my other commitments expanded, I carried a small notebook-type calendar in my purse so that I could keep up with where I was supposed to be even when I wasn’t at home looking at the big calendar. I still use a scaled down version of this calendar. In addition to keeping up with my schedule, these calendars give you space for short shopping lists, to-do lists and are a great place to jot down telephone numbers you don’t want to lose or the model number of the special light bulb you have to buy or the measurements you need to remember when you are at the hardware store.

In recent years, school planners have become an alternative to the regular January to December calendar. These school planners are nothing more than calendars that run from August to July. These calendars usually have plenty of room to write notes and are a handy size to keep on your desk or in your purse or backpack. Using a calendar that starts in August takes a little mental exercise since we are conditioned to start our calendars in January – but as long as it lasts a year, what difference does it make?

Occasionally someone will give me a daily calendar – usually something with a snappy saying or funny cartoon for each day. These calendars are fine for using on your desk but they are bulky and I’ve usually got plenty of other stuff on my desk so I don’t need the clutter. I also find that I usually need to view my life at least a week at the time, so daily calendars aren’t really my favorites. On the other hand, my sister has a daily “sunshine” calendar that she’s enjoyed every day this past year so if you like it, go for it.

Some folks like to use desk blotter calendars that cover the writing area of their desk. These are usually really big and show one month at a time. The down side for me is that I write things on my desk blotter and then forget I’ve written it there.

No matter what kind of calendar you decide to use, here are some calendar “habits” you might want to consider:

At one point in my life, I divided up my household chores and listed a couple each day on my calendar. That way I didn’t have too many things to do any one day. That was a great way for me to get organized and to learn a routine. I don’t do that anymore and I have the dust bunnies to prove it. Maybe it’s time to take up that particular calendar habit again!

Calendar stickers are great fun and can be useful, especially if you have kids who are “helping” you keep your calendar updated. I sort of got over-the-top about using the stickers so I had to give them up but it might work for you.

When the kids were at home, I tried color coding our calendar a couple of times but it never really worked out for us. I’d lose one of the markers or I’d forget which color went with which kid or I’d just get lazy and stop doing it. However, I still color code our office calendars and I’ve carried that over to my personal calendar so I’ll know what I’m doing on a particular work day. If you want to color code your calendar, just keep it simple.

My husband writes on his work calendars in pencil so he can erase as things change. I, on the other hand, use ink because it makes me feel committed. Consequently, my calendars tend to be a little on the messy side but my whole life is a little messy so it’s okay. Whatever works for you is fine.

One thing I have found that does NOT work is to have too many calendars. Beware having too many places to look for the same information.

Also be careful not to put too much information on your calendar. If it becomes a chore to try to decipher it, you won’t use it.

If you try to do too many things in too little time, you will get stressed and discouraged if you can’t fit it all in. That reminds me – I’ve heard you should schedule time for your spouse or children on your calendar so that you don’t overextend yourself with other commitments. If you have to schedule your family, you already have too many other commitments. Period.

The great thing about calendars is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a calendar; in fact, you don’t have to spend any money. You can print one for free off the internet. Just do a search of “calendars” and find one you like. There are also free web-based electronic calendars you can use. We get several free calendars in the mail every year from charitable organizations or merchants. The pizza company calendar with coupons at the bottom of every page is always a big hit around our house. Of course, if you want to spend money on a calendar, the selection is huge and so is the price range. I just bought next year’s calendar at the office supply store because I needed a particular size so I could continue using a fancy cover I bought a couple of years ago but for years I bought my calendars at the dollar store and they worked just fine.

One last idea – those extra free calendars you get in the mail make great gifts for young adults or elderly relatives. Just sit down and label the calendar with birthdays and anniversaries of family and friends so these folks have the information easily at hand. Trust me – they will love you for it!

We all have places we need to be and things we need to do. Some of us are just naturally organized and some of us struggle to keep up with keeping up. There are many different types of calendars available to us today and lots of ways to make them work for you. Whatever style of calendar works is what you should use but you should definitely use something so that you can get the most out of every day because life is good.

1 comment:

  1. Honorable Mention BOOYAH! I love the sunshine calendar!