Use Your Calendar as your To-Do List

Photo by Kerry Lannert

I hate to-do lists. They just don’t work for me.

I had a daily planner in which I listed the things I needed to do, while I kept the places I needed to be in my calendar. While these may seem like two different ideas (doing things vs. being places), they are really just explanations for how I’m going to spend my time.

I decided to start managing my to-do list in my calendar. After all, doing something is going to take time, right? So why not think about the amount of time it’s going to take to complete the task, and then schedule it in your digital calendar.

This approach creates the following advantages:

  • Your to-dos and to-bes are all in the same place (and available anywhere you have access to your calendar).
  • You have a record of when you performed which tasks, should you be questioned by a superior.

What you lose is that satisfaction of crossing an item off your list. Keep a list separately if you must. But perhaps try to find the satisfaction in actually doing the task, not in saying you’ve done the task.

Of course, things always take longer than you expect. And other times you run into unexpected emergencies (which aren’t always emergencies).

If this happens to you, just reschedule your task. Treat it like a meeting was postponed. Make a habit of looking back at your calendar as much as you look forward. As you plan out future events, make sure all the past events actually occurred. If they didn’t and they need to be rescheduled, reschedule them.


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This article was originally published for my (now retired) blog, The Polymath Lab, on Dec 17, 2012.