A recurring theme in time management is that it is better to keep track of things using a system rather than your memory.
Some examples are systems for capturing project and task information, commitments, ideas and thoughts, and various documents, memos, and other paperwork.
This best practice deals with all the other things that you may need to remember such as appointments, meetings, time sensitive paperwork, deadlines, etc.
Like all the other best practices, the key is to establish and consistently use a reminder system instead of having to rely on your memory alone.
A calendar is a very useful tool to remind you about time specific events such as appointments, meetings, and deadlines.
It is also very good for scheduling or blocking out certain times for working on specific projects/tasks or other activities.
Having said that, the calendar is not the appropriate place to manage your projects and tasks. Many people that don’t use a master project and task list use their calendar to record and manage what they need to do.
For example, Sam needs to write a memo and call a colleague to find out information about a proposal; since he is only using his calendar, he makes an entry “Write Memo” on Monday from 10:00am to 11:00am, and “Call Fred from Marketing” on Tuesday at 2:00pm.
The problem with using your calendar to manage your projects and tasks is that when you don’t finish the task in the time you’ve allotted, or when something else comes up during that time, you need to remember to move the unfinished task to some other future date or allocate more time for it.
If you forget to do this, you will not have any reminder that the project is not yet complete. In Sam’s case, his 9:00am meeting ran 20 minutes late and when he finally got to his office he got a call from an important customer that took another 20 minutes.
He then started working on his memo, but quickly ran out of time. At 11:00am he rushed to his next meeting and forgot to make a new appointment to complete writing his memo.
That is why I recommend using the master project list to keep track of everything that you need to get done, and use your calendar only to schedule time blocks for projects.
If you don’t finish your project on the day you scheduled it, your master project list will reflect that there is still work required and you can easily schedule more time for the project at a future date.
The system works as a failsafe to prevent projects from falling through the cracks. The Weekly and Daily Planning best practices will help you setup and make the best use of your calendaring system and show you how to integrate it with the master project list.
I recommend using an electronic calendar like Achieve Planner whenever possible because it provides the greatest flexibility for adjusting and updating your schedule as the day and week progresses.
Paper based calendars also work, but they are more difficult to update when things change.