If looking at your calendar ignites your fight and flight instincts, you are not alone. With more things than ever to keep track of and more devices on which to keep everything straight, organizing your world into a palatable and functional system can seem like a daunting task.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. It’s simply a matter of matching the right scheduling system to your personal style. There are endless options and combinations that can be tweaked and tailored until they’re a perfect fit for the way you work best. You might choose daily categories to keep you organized or activity modes that align to certain times of the day. Perhaps the best fit is blocks of time interspersed with breaks that map out your workflow. Or maybe, a smattering of different types of scheduling systems is what makes you tick.  

The point is, a time management system is a personal thing and there simply is no one size fits all scenario. Finding the best fit usually requires a little trial and tweaking, resulting in a simplified schedule that gives you order combined with some much needed breathing room.

For me, the magic combination came in the form of my trusty handwritten to do list and my digital calendar. Sounds super sexy, glamorous, and fascinating, I know, but stay with me. My world comes into alignment when I can see how each thread in my life weaves together with all the others. It provides nearly instant clarity for times when I can take on new things, need to expand a timeline, or heaven forbid, must say no.

Over the years, I’ve learned that this process is just about failproof for me if I follow three non-negotiable rules:

  • Everything goes on the calendar. Absolutely everything from travel time to meetings to exercise to fun. I even include the block of time I need for my 15 ½ year old dog to wander about enjoying the sunshine before she’ll do her business and I can comfortably leave the house or, alternatively, the block of time I’ll need to clean the carpet. :o) Handwritten notes help further organize blocks of time assigned to broader categories by listing each item that needs to be completed.
  • Only three moves. This sounds like something from a board game, but it’s a trick I learned from Calming the Chaos that serves me well. Calendar entries can be flexible, but shouldn’t be moved more than three times. More than that and it doesn’t belong on your calendar. Color codes can come in handy here for prioritizing, making key decisions easier and faster.
  • Leave blank space. This one is critical for me. I need a bit of unstructured space a few times throughout the week. Having this bit of extra flexibility if needed, and bonus time if it’s not needed, adds a layer of softness to my schedule that keeps it from feeling overwhelming or overly rigid.

This may sound like perfection to you, in which case I think we just became best friends. More than likely, it got you thinking about what works for you and the scheduling tools and habits that could kickstart your process.

The right scheduling system helps empower you to have a realistic and pragmatic relationship with time. You’ll feel an almost immediate sense of relief by not having to rely on your memory alone to carry all of your responsibilities and commitments. More tangibly, you’ll notice it in fewer missed appointments and less “sorry I’m late” conversation starters.

And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll feel it in being fully present to appreciate where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re working on. Simple and efficient. Download our guide to time management styles and systems here.