Routines and Calendars

Yesterday The Flylady’s Facebook page was all a-flutter because she announced a partnership with Cozi, an online calendar and organiser for families:

I was excited to see the news, because I’m a fan of both Flylady and Cozi, but it reminded me that it was a good time to write about how calendars and routines work best together!

When you’re trying to get organised, it is very tempting to start writing the things that you should do, or intend to do, on your calendar, with the idea that if it’s on the calendar, it will get done.

Life doesn’t often work like that, though, so you may simply end up with a very confusing calendar. and risk missing important events because they are lost amongst the details of your idealised plan for your week.

I just added a few recurring routines to my calendar in Cozi and just about gave myself a panic attack looking at it:

Busy calendar full of routines

I had to delete them really quickly and go have a nice cup of tea and a lie down.

That’s better – I can see more days on my calendar, and it now only shows my recurring events and the things I really need to make sure happen on time. I’m also safe from having my phone ping me with a calendar alarm too often. If you have less important tasks alerting you on your calendar, you risk ignoring an alarm thinking it’s to say “Put some washing on!,” when actually it’s telling you that you are due at the vet in 15 minutes and you need to lure the cat out from the back of the shed.

The HomeRoutines reminder chime can keep you on track, but you know it’s not a reminder for an event… it is its own thing.

David Allen wrote a book a few years ago called Getting Things Done, which has a cult status amongst many business productivity people. In his book, he wrote that there are two sorts of tasks:

Reminders of actions you need to take fall into two categories: those things that have to happen on a specific day or time, and those things that just need to get done as soon as possible. Your calendar handles the first kind of reminder.

Three things go on your calendar:

  • time specific actions;
  • day-specific actions;
  • and day-specific information

Time-specific actions are things that happen at a particular time of a particular day – appointments, in other words, or deadlines. For instance, a playdate for Tuesday afternoon, or a dentist appointment. This includes recurring events, like playgroup every Tuesday morning, because it only happens at that time.

Day-specific actions are tasks that have to be done on a certain day, but not at a certain time of that day. For instance, calling Mum on her birthday, or popping in to your friend’s workplace on Friday to pick up her house key so you can feed her cat while she’s away.

Day-specific information is the kind of details that are associated with an event. For instance, the address of the house you’re visiting for dinner, and a reminder to bring your world-famous apple pie.

If you have a task that you want to remember, and it’s a one-off task, then you can put it in your to-do list. If it’s something you need to do again and again, like washing the dishes, then it belongs in a routine!

Routines, events and one-off todo tasks are all important, so it’s great to have a way to keep them apart so they don’t get confused and muddled. Watch out for the temptation to put things that aren’t time- or date-specific on your calendar, and you’ll reduce the information overload in your life by a fraction – especially good at this time of year. My to-do list is long enough!