Four years ago I developed a special kind of calendar for my own Getting Things Done practice. It was so helpful and useful in terms of learning how to implement a ‘Hard Landscape‘ and get real control over my time and my appointments/meetings.
Updated for 2011!
A revolution in calendar design, that you can print for yourself!
What exactly should a calendar do? And how should you use it to get the most out of your day?
Rule number 1: Your calendar should not work against you.
Your calendar should be your guide, a map or a directory to get you through your day. The layout of the information should be designed to work with your natural viewing habits. It needs to help you, not hurt you.
Rule number 2: Your calendar is not a â€˜to-doâ€™ list.
A calendar is a tool that is supposed to tell you where you need to be and when you need to be there, or when something is scheduled to happen.
For those of you familiar with David Allenâ€™s Getting Things Done productivity system, you know that only three things are to be entered into your calendar. Three things. Thatâ€™s it.
1. Time-specific actions
â€œTime-specific actionsâ€ are, simply put, appointments or meetings. These are the things that have to happen at, you guessed it, a specific time.
2. Day-specific actions
â€œDay-specific actionsâ€ are things that need to get done on a certain day, but not at a pre-arranged time. For example, you may need to print out the latest sales figures sometime on Thursday, because you have a meeting to review those figures at 9:00 am Friday. â€œPrint sales figuresâ€ goes into the calendar for Thursday as an Action, while â€œSales Meetingâ€ goes into the calendar for Friday as an Event.
3. Day-specific information
â€œDay-specific informationâ€ consists of things that you need to know on a certain day, such as directions to a meeting, what your spouse is doing that day, or where to find contact information for a call you need to make. It can also serve as a pointer to a Reference File or something on your Waiting For list.
Putting Raw Data Into the Calendar Pages
It doesnâ€™t take a genius to print your own calendar pages and then punch some information into the right slots. Thatâ€™s not the hard part. The hard part is putting the information into your calendar in a way that makes it easy to get that information out again.
Getting Information Out of Your Calendar
How do you read your calendar pages? You think you know, but do you? Marketing and advertising experts have been studying how the human eye and brain looks at text and images for years now — itâ€™s in their best interests to know what youâ€™re looking at and when.
Research has shown that consistently, people look in the same places and in the same patterns. Now that the internet is in such wide usage, researchers have been able to scientifically track where your eyes are going when you look at a web page and by association, at your calendar pages.
The â€œF-Patternâ€ and What It Means When You Print Your Own DIY Calendar
Readers donâ€™t read.
Users wonâ€™t read text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, and people are busy.
The beginning is the most important.
The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. Thereâ€™s some hope that users will actually read all of this material, though theyâ€™ll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second.
Subheads and bullets are vital.
Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior. Theyâ€™ll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.
If you can use this information to create a web page that delivers more information more quickly, it follows that you can use the same principles to design a calendar page that does the same thing.
The F-Pattern Put to Practical Use
The result of this work is a set of calendar pages that incorporates the â€œF-patternâ€ in its design. Set up as a two-page system, the vertical left-hand column of each page in your DIY Planner is set aside for the most important items that you need to look at.
* The â€œBig Rocksâ€ are listed first, on the left-hand edge of the page. This is where your eyes spend the most time, and this is where you look first while planning and executing.
* Your â€˜Most Important Tasksâ€™ get listed at the top of the column for each day.
* Appointments for the day go across the top of both pages. This is the second place your eyes will scan, giving you an â€œautomaticâ€ quick-review of what is coming up, and what has been accomplished.
* The middle of the left-hand page leads the eye to an area for focusing on open @Project contexts. This acts as a guide for our eyes, again to be able to review which Next Actions are outstanding. There is room in each box for the Context.
* The small calendar in the very bottom left is dated with the days of the week, in a Monday through Sunday format.
* The middle of the right-hand page contains a prompt for you to enter your Weekly Review notes.
If you found this article useful, consider supporting my efforts here by purchasing the calendar I developed. It is not a free calendar download, but what good are some of the free calendars you can print when they donâ€™t save you any time or improve your productivity?
Click on the image to the left in order to visit the store and see the GTD Printable Calendar, a DIY Planner set of 2-page-per-week calendar pages which you can download. The most current edition is available now. If you are interested in having me design a customized calendar for you, please let me know.
If you would like to get involved join our Affiliate Program, or send an e-mail with your thoughts or suggestions to stephen [at] stephenpsmith [dot] com.
You can purchase this calendar in a PDF download here: (USD $9.00)
Thank you so much for supporting Productivity in Context!