How to Stay Productive: Part 2-Keep a Calendar

By Andy Zweibel
Republished with permission from Music Major


Electronic Calendar

In the age of technology, there are tons of great electronic ways to maintain a calendar. Here are a few tips for staying organized using an electronic calendar:

* Use Categories – One of the standard features of many electronic calendars is the ability to categorize appointments. These categories can usually be color-coded, and make a great way to visually see the different types of activities that you will be taking place in. As you can see below, my Outlook calendar is like a rainbow. Some of the categories I use include: practice, rehearsal, concert, class, and band events.

* Use Multiple Calendars – Another great feature of electronic calendars is the ability to have multiple calendars overlayed on top of each other. This is another way to separate different types of commitments, but for a more general set of topics. For example, it may be helpful to have separate calendars for work, school, and personal commitments, so it is easy to see only one set of appointments at a time. Google Calendars is great for this, because with one click you can choose which calendars are displayed and which are hidden.

* Take It With You – The one downside to having an electronic calendar is the fact that without preparation, it can be difficult to update this calendar if you commit to an appointment while away from your computer. There are, however, a few ways to solve this problem. If you are fortunate enough to have a “smart phone” (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) or another type of PDA (iPod Touch, Palm Pilot, etc.), make sure the calendar you keep is in a format that allows you to sync from your computer to this device. Otherwise, print a copy of your calendar out before you leave your computer, so that you can jot down any appointments you make in the proper place and then make the electronic update yourself when you return. For me, printing out my calendar in weekly view worked best; I would print about 6 pages (with one week per page), and keep them in my bag at all times, so I could see a minute-by-minute breakdown, while still having a wide range of dates available to see.

Andy’s Calendar

Here is a list of just a few of the many e-calendar options that are available:

* Outlook Calendar-Lets you sync to a Microsoft Exchange server if your school provides one

* Google Calendar-Web-based application that has both an online and offline mode, provides multi-calendar overlay and email notifications

* iCal-Mac OS application for managing calendars with sync capability

* Yahoo Calendar-If you use My Yahoo as your start page, this can be a great option for managing your calendar

Written Calendar

There are many people for whom pen and paper is still the best way to keep track of things. For those people who prefer to keep their calendar on paper, here are a few tips for keeping a written calendar:

* Get a High-Quality Calendar – The best thing anyone can do to set themselves up for success with a written calendar is have a good starting point-a high-quality day planner or assignment notebook will do wonders for your calendar’s organization. Many schools have their own “branded” assignment book, which includes school events and holidays already. If this isn’t something you need, be sure to get a datebook that leaves enough room for you to not only write school assignments, but also to keep track of personal commitments. Also, make sure the planner has ample space to write on weekend days; just because there is no homework assigned on these days doesn’t mean you won’t have many commitments and appointments to take care of.

* Separate Different Types of Commitments – It can be a helpful strategy to split each day on the planner in half with a vertical line down the middle. Use the left side for school-related assignments, or more “standard” commitments, and the right side for additional commitments that come up, and less formal events (study groups, movie nights, etc.). This way, you will have an easier time locating the information you need.

* Color Code – This strategy can be just as effective on paper as it is on a computer. Use different colored pens (or highlighters) for different types of commitments, so when you sit down to study, your eye is able to catch on quickly to the homework assignments you need to complete as opposed to seeing the date you have planned for later that night.

* Take It With You – The same principle as above applies here, and once again there are different ways to keep track of this. If your planner is portable, as many will be, make it a habit of taking it with you wherever you go, so you always have it as a reference. If you choose to not take it to classes with you, jot down the homework and any other important dates in your lecture notes, and then transfer them to your planner when you get home. This strategy has the advantage of serving two purposes, as it will also give you an opportunity to review the notes you took.

Which Way to Go?

So do I keep an electronic calendar, or get a day planner and keep track of my commitments by hand? The answer to this question is simple: do what works for you! As someone who is almost always glued to some type of electronics (be it laptop, iPod Touch, or phone), the electronic calendar was the logical way to go. If you’re a more tactile person, or don’t generally bring a computer with you when you go somewhere, keep a day planner instead. The only way you’ll know, for sure, however, is to try, so pick a method, and start keeping your life organized today!

What About You?

Do you already have a method for organizing your calendar? What tips have worked well for you to keep track of you appointments and commitments? What is your favorite calendar application? Share your thoughts in a comment, and maybe someone else will gain from it!





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