Thursday, August 19, 2010

How To Set Up Your Calendar

Today I wanted to talk about my GTD calendar. I went for years without using a calendar. Now my life is so complicated I can't imagine not using a calendar. When it comes to your calendar and GTD, the main thing you are looking for is trust. You've got to trust that all of your time sensitive information is up to date and accurate. If you don't have trust in your calendar then you won't use it. Mission number one is to get your calendar in to tip top shape.

Even the best of us will let our calendar get out of shape and I'm just like you. I've been using Yahoo! calendar for about four years and I got a new blackberry a few months ago. I sync my calendar to my blackberry so that I have it with me all of the time. Recently I encountered a problem syncing my calendar and I could no longer access my calendar on the go. As you could probably guess, this caused me to lose trust in it and so for the last several months, I've been really struggling keeping my time related activities. So much so, that I missed an appointment yesterday that was pretty important.

This caused me to search for a solution to my dilemma. What I did was start checking out Google calendar which I had shied away from for a long time because it was in beta. Eventually I signed up for a Google apps account. While it's not necessary because I think the free calendar is probably just as good.

I want to step back a bit and talk about paper calendars versus electronic calendars. My assistant has been using a paper calendar for a long time and she loves it but for me the biggest thing about using an electronic calendar is how it handles recurring events and the fact that you can share your calendar with others. Whatever works for you and your GTD system is ideal but I strongly recommend that you use an electronic calendar because of those reasons. You can always print out your calendar to get a paper version. The other reason an electronic calendar is because it's also backed up. If you lose your paper calendar, you're in a tough spot.

So back to my GTD calendar. Since mine is out of shape, I have to start migrating all of my calendar events over to my new Google calendar. As part of this, I'm going to also take advantage of a unique feature that I didn't really like at first and that is how you can have multiple calendars for different things.

For black belt GTD, I think this kind of multiple calendar is ideal. The main reason is that from a best practices point of view, you want to operate from one single calendar. With Google, you can set up different calendars and either look at all of your calendars on one calendar or just view a specific calendar.

Let me give you an example of the calendars I've set up on mine:

  • My primary work calendar

  • My bills and payments calendar

  • Birthdays and anniversaries

  • A family calendar

In addition, I've also found some public calendars that allow me to have:

  • US Holidays

  • Day numbers

  • Week numbers

Because I can share my calendars, I've shared my family calendar with my wife and she keeps it up to date with family items like doctors appointments and school events. My work calendar I share with my assistant and she can manage my calendar as well.

You'll want to also use your calendar as your GTD tickler file. I find it a much more compact way to have a tickler file. Add the event to your calendar, set up reminders to send you emails or sms text message reminders. Then put the item in a Waiting For folder and you are all set.

One final thing before I wrap up tonight. The Google calendar also sync's wirelessly so I don't have my sync'ing problem anymore which is great. Good luck on setting up your GTD calendar.

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Michael Kuhn

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