What's a calendar for?

My planning system has been working pretty good, but with the new year I'd like to tweak it (I'm sure you've never heard that before). I've been pondering the use of the calendar to manage one's life.

Within the GTD framework (bottom-up) the calendar is where you put your hard appointments/meetings/tasks. The calendar is sort of sacred in the sense that once something is written down, it is almost written in stone. Task management is more fluid based on what's going on in the moment.

In contrast, the Covey approach (top-down) is to lay-out the calendar, determine appointments and meetings, then schedule the most important weekly tasks. Basically a form of time-blocking. I like this approach, but when your schedule gets interrupted or goes astray it can be difficult to get your carefully laid plans back on track.

I'd like to hear everyone's opinion, ideas, and anecdotes on using your calendar. What works and doesn't work?

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For mine the choice of system tends to come down to how much control you have over your schedule. If you have to manage lots of interruptions on a daily basis than GTD would proably work better than Covey. However you can set aside blocks of uninterrupted time to work on tasks/projects than Covey may be better than GTD. With either system though, you must stay disciplined, keep your eye on the bigger picture and not get bogged down in your action list or schedule.

My personal preference is for GTD as I find it easier to relate to context and actions than to roles and tasks. Having said that, I also have a bit each way in that my schedule includes some regular time out periods where I can have those uninterrupted work periods or even personal time.


Very good insights- thank

Very good insights- thank you. I suppose one problem I have is that interruptions and unexpected events sometimes crop up. Or the action that was scheduled for 1 hour took 2 hours.

I like the idea of some structure to the day as it gives focus, but maybe I need to be a little looser with my daily/weekly planning.


You might want to consider David Seah's Emergent Task Planner: ETP. It is good for people who work projects rather than schedules. It might help you.


Thanks for the link. I'll

Thanks for the link. I'll have to look at it further.

I found when I was using

I found when I was using Covey that I could only schedule about 50% of my time with any confidence of achieving results. The other 50% was generally taken up with recurring tasks such as email/mail, someone else's Quadrant 1 and so on. I was in a Support Manager role at the time so this was the norm. More conventional Project Manager's could perhaps schedule say 80% of their time with confidence.


Calendar and how I use it

Calendar for me, is where I note those appointments that are not everyday occurrences, things like swimming lessons once a week, or a hairdresser's appt in 2 weeks' time. Then I have my daily routines (a la FLYlady), broken down into morning, afternoon and evening, they aren't on the calendar because they repeat every day and I *SHOULD* know them by habit, but ... They are printed on 6x4 and in a flip over photo frame. They get used on days where my brain has gone MIA due to constant interruptions. My planner and its GTD lists are for keeping track of the "bigger picture". For stuff that has to be done in between routines and appointments. Like writing down that I need to make more appointments, lol.
the moving cursor having written, blinks on ...

As a Real Estate agent...

...I also had trouble making the Covey system work. I sell foreclosure properties for Freddie Mac and have from 40-50 properties in the hopper at any given time, plus several buyers I may be working with. I have a small staff that work with me. Daily planning frequently gets blown out of the water, making Covey turn into a mess.

What works better for me is GTD and 43 folders, along with my Blackberry and Outlook. My calendar is on Outlook synced with the Blackberry, so I always have it and get an audible alert for appointments. I use a Staples Arc for the GTD system and also have it with me all the time. GTD makes it easier for me to be productive in between all of the appointments and interruptions. I go to my Inbox, be it paper, email or voice mail and even if I only have 10 minutes I can get something done.

Each property and buyer is treated as a project, as the process follows a similar flow. I used to be an IT Project Manager and many of the same principles apply to Real Estate.

If there are any other agents out there that want more detail, just ask.


Debby's Use of Arc

"I use a Staples Arc for the GTD system and also have it with me all the time." Pardon Debby: Would you please expand on your use of the arc system. How do you make use of the forms, paper, tab dividers?

How I use the Arc System


Keep in mind I use my Blackberry and Outlook for appointments.

I have 2 of the 5x8 size.

One of them just has information about my properties. There is a tab for properties. There is an index in the front of this section, and a page for each property, and each one is treated like a project. I print pages that list each of the steps with a blank next to it to enter date done, who did it, other data (lockbox code, utility company, etc.), etc. The back of each page is where I record issues, showings, appraisers, vendors, etc. This page stays with in the book until I have been paid after settlement, then goes to archive.
I also have an Inbox tab, a tab for a list of the Vendors I use that includes what they do and contact information, and a Reference section.
The other one is my general planner, and this plans not only my Real Estate activities but the rest of my life, too. This planner has the following tabs - Call Log, To Do, Waiting, Deferred, Someday, Inbox, Notes, Customers, and Reference.

I have abandoned the plastic Arc tabs and I punched some old Franklin Covey tabs with a Levenger punch. I have a lot of tabs and the plastic ones are really thick and take up too much space.

How I use this system:
Each property has a next action that is either something I need to do, and it goes on my ToDo list, something that I've delegated to either one of my team or a vendor, and that goes on the Waiting list. Since these properties have to go through a redemption period and I am alerted through a software application when my next action is due after redemption, I don't log this in Waiting. It could be months. Deferred contains stuff that I want to do at a later date, but probably within the next month. Someday has future planning actions, like a new marketing method I would like to implement.
I use the Inbox per the GTD system. I generally use the notes section whenever I am in a meeting and that is stocked with Cornell paper. The Customers section contains a separate page for each buyer I am working with. Actions associated with each buyer get entered onto the ToDo list. Last is the reference section used for numerous things, and I also have a page with 3 lenders, one with 3 Inspectors, one with 3 Title companies, etc. so I can just pull the page out a photocopy it if I am asked for a reference.
In reference I also keep track of my CE credits, and a list of HOA management companies and the communities they manage.

This is just a part of my organizational system. I keep track of paper in 43 Folders, and I am an intensive email user. I have all of my properties and buyers in folders in Outlook where I store all email communications.

This system isn't prefect, but it is working better than anything else I have tried and very little slips through the cracks.

I hope I explained this. I am currently teaching it to several of my team members and it seems to be a little complicated.