Each year I make goals for myself and my family. Goals help me stay focused, grow and improve, and live the kind of life I want to live. For a long time, I’ve used the SMART model of goal development – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound. Using this model helps me develop goals that might…Currently selected link settings
It’s no secret that I love Google Calendar. Don’t get me wrong, I love a paper calendar too, but Google Calendar helps me stay focused on my goals and get all the things done. Over the last year, I’ve been able to use Google Calendar to plot out time to work on goals, do the weekly/monthly tasks of general life, plan time for rest and play, and keep family members informed of our family events. And since I have the app on my phone, I always have my schedule on me!
While I find Google Calendar to be easy to use – and it’s FREE (you just need a Gmail account) – all of the features or ideas on how to really use it for streamlining your schedule may not seem easy to everyone.
Here are the ways I use Google Calendar to automate my schedule.
- Regularly recurring events: When there is an event that happens on a recurring basis, I set that up to automatically be in the calendar. Some examples for me: Sunday worship (weekly), birthdays (yearly), counseling (every 4 weeks), karate for one kid (weekly on M/W/F), barn time for one kid (weekly on M/Th), my clergy women’s group (1st and 3rd Mondays), Sabbath (weekly), gym class (weekly on M/F), and even family meal time (daily). Having these events automated into my schedule blocks out the time needed, keeps me from accidentally scheduling something in that time, and lets me know if I need to get someone else lined up to help with the kid stuff.
- Regularly recurring tasks: There are things that I need to do on a daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual basis that I need to make sure I allot time and energy for. Setting up a recurring task or time block to complete these tasks helps keep me from overscheduling my time and energy and trying to fit too much into too little time. Some examples for me: grocery shopping (an hour each week), a weekly email newsletter, picking up consignment store funds (monthly), menu planning (weekly), create next month’s budget (monthly), financial work (weekly), look ahead to the next week (weekly), big picture planning (monthly), clergy check-in calls (weekly), office/paperwork round-up (monthly), social media scheduling (monthly), website updates (monthly).
- Goal work time: If I want to reach my goals, I need to make sure to allow time to work on those goals! There are 2 different ways I use Google Calendar to automate time to work on my goals. For some things that work best on a specific day, I use a recurring event to block out time for that work. Every Thursday, I have a 1.5 hour block of time for writing. I have the 20th of each month blocked out for big picture planning for the next month and beyond. For other goal work where the timing of it can be flexible, I use the Goal feature in the app and allow Google Calendar to automatically fit the goal time/focus into open slots. This feature works well for things like reading, calling a friend or family member, or household chores.
Using the recurring feature in Google Calendar to automate my schedule isn’t perfect though. Things come up. Meetings get scheduled that I have no control over. Family activities and kids’ schedules get added in. New deadlines or tasks are handed to you. That’s normal life! When those things happen, I just move the block of time or task to another open slot on my calendar. My weekly look ahead and monthly big picture planning times give me regular opportunities to see the conflicts and make adjustments. Having the automated time blocks and tasks already in the calendar assures that the time needed is already accounted for. It is one tool I have learned to keep myself from getting overscheduled and saying yes to things I really don’t have time for.
Maybe you aren’t a Google Calendar user (try it though, you may find you like it!), but other digital calendar programs have similar features. And if you are strictly a paper calendar person, use pencil or erasable pen and do the same thing! At the end of the year, take a day and write in all the regularly occurring events and tasks for the next year. When you develop goals for yourself, write time in your calendar for working on those goals (daily, weekly, monthly). When developing a new habit, block out the time daily or write the task down for each day on your to do list.
As you automate your schedule, include everything! Include family meal time, date nights, time to watch your favorite tv shows, morning prayer/devotion, exercise, practicing that new skill, the regular work tasks, laundry day, church activities, midday time for meditation, even the weekly trip to the grocery store. Your calendar will look FULL! While a full calendar is not the point, allowing time for you to work on your goals, not overloading yourself or saying yes too much, and giving yourself margin to breath and rest IS important. Your calendar will reflect your real priorities (even when it doesn’t match what you say your priorities are).
For me, automating my calendar provides helpful boundaries for my time and energy. It keeps me from saying “yes” too often, or to things that don’t fit my priorities in this season of my life. Google Calendar is just the tool I use to do it. I’m curious, do you use a digital calendar? How do you automate your schedule and build routines? Comment and share your questions and ideas and thoughts!