Why Calendars are More Effective Than To Do Lists

Srinivas Rao
Dec 23, 2017 · 5 min read
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/149561324@N03/38037816292/">marcoverch</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>
  • Professors give students a syllabus with important dates
  • Google maps gives you an estimated time for how long it will take to get to your destination
  • When you get your car repaired, they tell you what time it will be ready.
  • When you ship something you are told how long it will take to get to the recipient

1. Changing Your Behavior with a Calendar

The idea that a calendar could result in changing your behavior seems a bit far fetched. But that’s precisely what Dan Ariely and his team at Timeful set out to do when they started the company. Soon after they were acquired by Google and now much of what could be done with Timeful is integrated into the Google Calendar app. In an interview on the Unmistakable Creative, Dan said the following:

  • There are interview series and personal development programs that I wanted to go through. Now that I’ve put them on my calendar I haven’t missed any of the days.

When an event is consistently scheduled on your calendar, it’s much more likely to transform into an unconscious habit.

I no longer have to consciously think about writing 1000 words a day or reading when I wake up in the morning. As I’ve jokingly said in a few interviews the only worthwhile disruptions to my morning routine are sex or surfing. We can also take a page from the playbook of mainstream media. For more than 10 seasons, NBC aired Friends every Thursday. AS a result, watching the show became a habit for millions of viewers.

Using a Calendar for Tasks and Reminders

When it comes to task completion the major difference between a calendar and a to-do-list is that the calendar accounts for time. You’re forced to work within the constraints of the 24 hours that you have. Not only that, given that there are only 24 hours it also reduces the paradox of choice. This tends to be great for scheduling time for high-level creative output.

Using a Calendar for Goals

One of my favorite features of the Google calendar app is goals. This feature allows you to make time and represent the very meaningful things that Dan mentioned in our conversation like exercise, meditation, reading daily or writing a book. The Google blog describes the goals feature as follows.

Scheduling Meetings More Efficiently

As somebody who interviews several people every week, I have to schedule quite a few meetings. That meant a lot of emails back and forth. It wasn’t until I discovered Calendly that I was able to drastically reduce the number of emails that were sent.


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Srinivas Rao

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A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org