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12 Happiness Hacks to Add to Your Calendar

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12 Happiness Hacks Add Calendar

What is happiness? Is it a feeling? Or, is it a state of being?

The exact definition of happiness has been debated and evolved throughout history. But, regardless of what it is, there’s no denying that happiness plays a pivotal role in our daily lives.

For starters, happiness is important to our physical health. Why? Because it reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, and is linked to better heart health. Additionally, happiness improves relationships and sparks creativity. And, at work, happiness increases productivity.

In short, happiness can change your life for the better. But, how can you raise your happiness levels on a consistent basis? Well, here are 12 happiness hacks that you can practice daily after being placed in your calendar.

1. Start your morning on your own terms.

Michelle Was traveled to all 50 states in 2019 to understand how Americans achieve inner happiness whatever their circumstances. The American Happiness documentary chronicled her journey and learnings while interviewing more than 500 self-described happy people.

She discovered that the happiest people start their days on their own terms.

Starting your morning on a positive note is one of the most impactful things you can do to develop day-to-day happiness,” she wrote for Fast Company. “This doesn’t require hours of your time, but it has the power to transform your day.”

“Instead of immediately rushing into the day or grabbing your phone to scroll through social media, take a minute to yourself without any distractions to set intentions for the hours ahead,” she adds. “What do you want to achieve, how do you want to achieve it, and with what attitude?”

Choose your reactions to situations deliberately rather than constantly being reactive. By doing this exercise, you become more present and intentional with your actions, Wax explains.

2. Reflect on the good and bad.

“Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” states psychologist Jonathan Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. In other words, a range of positive and negative emotions can contribute to happiness, he believes.

Adler and his colleague Hal Hershfield examined this experience of mixed emotions and how it relates to positive psychological wellbeing. The participants filled out questionnaires before each of the 12 weekly therapy sessions that they went through. They found that feeling dejected and cheerful at the same time preceded improved mental health.

As an example, someone could say, “I feel sad because of the recent losses in my life, yet I am also happy and encouraged to be working through them for a positive outcome.” Adler explained, “Taking the good and the bad together may detoxify the bad experiences, allowing you to make meaning out of them in a way that supports psychological well-being.”

In a follow-up study, Hershfield examined the link between mixed emotions and health. During a 10-year study, he and his team discovered that accepting mixed emotions (like “taking the good with the bad”) is directly linked to good physical health.

What does this all mean? Well, don’t ignore your negative feelings. Block out time to acknowledge and embrace them, like writing in a journal in the morning or evening. When you do, you’ll be able to find ways to overcome whatever obstacles you must overcome.

3. Tackle your hardest task first.

As the founder of Inner Mammal Institute and author of “Habits of a Happy Brain,” Loretta Graziano Breuning asserts that humans can rewire their brains.

How? By recognizing that we possess certain “happy chemicals” inherited from earlier species, and using that knowledge to develop habits that activate them, explains Catherine Pearson for the Huffington Post.

Dopamine is one of these chemicals which Breuning describes as “a sense of accomplishment.” To stimulate it, you should tackle your most difficult task first thing in the morning.

An example would be returning an email you’ve been putting off or completing a task with a deadline. To make sure that tackle these items before anything, add them to your calendar. And, ideally, you should block out times for these when you’re most alert and energetic. For most of us, that would be in the morning.

4. Be a social butterfly.

Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, the author of the widely read humorous book “Stumbling on Happiness,” says;

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

Among these happiness hacks, this is probably the simplest. Additionally, it’s the one that arguably gives the most. After all, who else could make you as happy as your family or friends?

With that in mind, you can use your calendar to stay close to your nearest and dearest. For instance, you could schedule get-togethers, set reminders for check-ins, or establish traditions. And, you could also make sure to block off your calendar when you have quality time scheduled, like when eating dinner with your family.

5. Move 11-minutes per day.

Put aside the excuse that you do not have time for exercise. An 11-minute bout of moderate exercise can boost your lifespan, according to a recent study. Furthermore, physical activity is proven to boost your mood and increase your energy levels.

Exercise can be as simple as taking a walk or using the treadmill. Yoga, dance, or a combination of squats, push-ups, and running in place would also be great options as well.

So, even if you have a packed schedule, you should be able to squeeze in a little bit of physical activity. Personally, I always go for a walk after lunch. Besides burning off some calories, it clears my mind. and recharges me for the rest of the day.

6. Spend more time outdoors.

As Shawn Achor, who has lectured at Harvard University and Wharton School of Business, says in his book, “The Happiness Advantage.” spending 20 minutes outside in nice weather can improve your mood. It can also broaden thinking and help improve working memory.

Multiple studies have confirmed this claim from Achor. Cornell University researchers found that spending at least 10 minutes a day in natural spaces, such as parks or walking trails, improved students’ mood, focus, and physiological markers such as blood pressure and heart rate. The authors of this study believe that “nature therapy” could help patients who are anxious, stressed, or depressed.

7. Take microbreaks.

It’s been found that watching funny videos online during a quick break during work has high emotional payoffs and makes people feel more energetic, happy, and less stressed, says Allison Mango.

In addition to improving your mental health, this is also extremely easy to do if you are in a bad mood. And, you’ll also boost your metabolism while you’re at it.

8. Focus on your favorite song.

Researchers have found that happy music can improve your mood and increase your awareness when you practice mindfulness meditation.

Listen to one of your favorite songs over and over again, focusing on a different layer each time, such as the solo, harmonies, guitar, bass, and so on,” said Dr. Chandan Khandai, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Not only will your favorite song bring a lot of joy, it will also cultivate mindfulness as you listen to a particular part and filter out the others.”

9. No matter how stressful it is, learn something new.

Can learning a new skill be stressful? Absolutely. But, in the long run, this can increase your happiness. In fact, you will be happier every hour, every day, and over the long haul.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study in 2009 detailing the benefits of this investment in time and effort. According to the study, participants who engaged in activities that enhanced their competency met their autonomy need or helped them cultivate relationships with others reported less happiness at the moment. However, they eventually experienced increased happiness each hour and every day.

The key? Choosing the right new skill to master. Or, one that pushes you outside of your comfort zone. Happiness is increased most when you learn a skill you choose rather than one you believe you should or are required to learn.

10. Limit your screen time.

12 hours and 9 minutes.

That’s how much time Americans spent with media in 2019. Per day. It was forecasted that this amount would increase by another four minutes even before COVID-19.

Is this a problem? Yep.

You can feel anxious or depressed when you spend too much time on your phone. This can also disrupt your sleep. It can also negatively impact your performance at work.

But, research has found that cutting back on screen time results in;

  • 75% of people believe that they get more done and are more productive.
  • 57% stated that they’re motivated to do their best.
  • 51% feel more confident.
  • 49% reported that they’re happier.
  • 44% claim that they deliver higher quality work.

Nevertheless, distancing yourself from your phone and computer is not easy. Listed below are a couple of easy ways to start;

  • Organize your tasks in batches. Stay connected and avoid FOMO by blocking out a time in the morning, afternoon, or early evening for email and social media. During the times when you are not doing this, turn off your notifications or set up apps to block them.
  • Establish tech-free zones. Your bedroom, bathroom, and eating areas should be free from electronics.
  • Find ways to distract yourself. Take a walk, clean your house, or read when you’re bored.
  • Delate social media apps. Social media can be harmful and addictive. Logging in on your PC/laptop and batching these tasks can be useful for branding or networking.
  • Meet in person or pick up the phone. When feasible, arrange more in-person meetings or catch-ups. Or, make a phone call instead of using chat or email threads if necessary.
  • Leave your phone behind. When you go for a walk or grocery shopping, don’t take your phone with you. Don’t worry. The world will keep spinning if you disconnect for a couple of minutes.

11. Help others.

Buying things for ourselves boosts happiness less than spending money on other people. This is what’s known as “prosocial spending.”

In 2012, Harvard researchers gave away money to study participants. In one-half of the cases, they were asked to spend the money on themselves, and in the other half, on others.

Here are the results;

“Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future. Thus, by providing initial evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and well-being, these data offer one potential path to sustainable happiness: prosocial spending increases happiness which in turn encourages prosocial spending.”

Giving to others does not always mean spending money. You can also donate your time through volunteering or mentoring othersThere is a study out of Zurich, Switzerland which supports the idea that volunteering can lead to greater life satisfaction.

How much time should you dedicate to helping others? Well, according to Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success,” 100 hours per year — or 2 hours per week.

12. Be flexible.

Todd Kashdan, a professor of psychology at George Mason University and an expert on wellbeing, says;

“Human beings have the potential to tolerate better and effectively use emotions, thoughts, and behavior to extract the best possible outcomes in varying situations. This wide range of dynamic abilities forms the essence of health.”

After all, a healthy person is someone who can manage themselves in the uncertain, unpredictable world around them, where novelty and change are the norm rather than the exception.”

Believe it or not, your calendar can assist with this. How? By leaving free blocks of time in your schedule. This way you can shuffle your day around in case you have to address an emergency or overcome procrastination.

12 Happiness Hacks to Add to Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

How To Track Your New Goals on Your Calendar

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How To Track Goals Calendar

We all know the importance of setting goals. But, when was the last time you actually set a new goal? Even if you did this recently, have you been tracking your progress?

I’m not trying to send out a guilt trip. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of individuals actually follow through. To be more specific, an often-cited figure is that only 8% of people achieve their goals.

Why do a majority of us stumble? Of course, that’s a broad question that will vary from person to person. There is, however, a theory that Mark Murphy, the founder and CEO of LeadershipIQ.com and author of the book “Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” has.

Throughout his research, Murphy looked at how the brain works and how humans are wired to set goals. Then, he honed the process using that and the law of attraction. And the result was something called challenging goals.

According to Murphy, a HARD goal is achieved. Using Murphy’s principle, we should put our current costs in the future and our future gains in the present. In other words, don’t put things off until tomorrow.

A goal-setting process evolves over time. For example, you will probably have very different goals in your thirties than you will in your fifties.

Whatever your age may be, what matters is that you regularly update your life goals and revisit them. Or, in short, track the new goals that you set. And one of the most effective ways to do that is by using your Calendar.

1. Take stock of your accomplishments.

To set new goals, you must take note of your past achievements. For example, you can update your resume or LinkedIn profile. Other suggestions would be gathering recommendations or taking aptitude or career assessment tests.

If you don’t want to overwhelm yourself, though, you could focus on what you’ve accomplished in the past year by;

  • Looking for emails from particular clients, colleagues, or management. You should try to find one successful email per month.
  • Revisiting your LinkedIn updates, Instagram feed, or other social accounts.
  • Discussing the significant accomplishments in the workplace with coworkers and friends. When you speak with others, you may be able to shed light on some of your own achievements.
  • Take a look at your journal, notebooks, or past calendars.

2. Plan ahead.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

To achieve your goals, you need to plan adequately on how you’ll reach them within a specific timeframe. My schedule is mapped out months in advance — I even know people who plan out their entire year in advance. From there, I decide how and when I will finish each step. This makes it easier for me to track my progress day by day, so I know exactly where I am and what I need to do to reach my goals.

3. Identify the best time for you to evaluate your performance.

You can become better at scheduling and calendaring with a variety of tools. Calendly has been a major player, but now there are a lot of growing Calendly alternatives. If you don’t use the right tools then you won’t be able to manage your time the best so you can improve your performance.

Even if you’re exhausted, never skip rating and evaluating your results of the day. If you do, the opportunity to find gaps that prevent you from achieving your goals might be lost.

4. Visualize the “chain.”

Former software developer Brad Isaac once asked comedian Jerry Seinfeld for advice for a young comedian. Seinfeld told him that he needed to write better jokes to become a better comic. To write better jokes, he had to write every day.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, the comic revealed his unique calendar system to keep him motivated.

Jerry Seinfeld told Isaac to get a giant wall calendar with the entire year on it — and hang it somewhere easily visible. Then, he told him to get a red magic marker.

Isaac was told that he had to put a big red X on the Calendar for each day he wrote. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it, and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is not to break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” Seinfeld reiterated.

Isaac says this strategy “works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go — it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary results.” And these habits are built by daily action.

5. Make weekly goal tracking a priority.

Why track your goals on a weekly basis?

You can get a lot done in a week and make significant progress towards your goals. However, it’s short enough that you can adjust your actions if you veer off course. Besides flexibility, this also helps you break larger goals into more manageable chunks.

You may want to settle on a weekly focus to make this successful. Whether it’s a phrase, a quote, or a poem, you can focus on whatever motivates you for the week. Your weekly focus should be something that inspires you to work toward better goals.

Every week, set aside time to decide what you will focus on. Of course, it would be ideal if you did this before the week began. I’m a big fan of updating and filling in anything that needs to be on the Calendar for the week on Sunday afternoon or evening.

6. Auto-schedule time for your goals.

By planning ahead and dedicating time to your long-term goals, you can take a huge step in accomplishing them. But, here’s the thing. Just because you have these in your Calendar doesn’t mean you get to them if you’re running on fumes.

One of the biggest drains on our energy is making decisions. One way to combat this is to have tasks automatically scheduled for you, so that you don’t waste energy deciding what to do. For example, you could review your to-do list on Sundays while checking in on your goals. Then, if you have open slots, add an item from your to-do list to that time block.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should clutter your Calendar. But, you should leave blank spaces in your Calendar to shuffle things around if there’s an emergency. And, if everything has gone to plan, then you know exactly how to spend this time.

7. Meet with your accountability partner.

There will be times when self-motivation isn’t enough. You may need to call in the calvary if you want to stick to your goals during such times.

When you share your goals with someone else, you essentially sign a contract. If you know someone will check on your progress, making excuses won’t be as likely to derail you. Since there is nothing to share, it feels like you are disappointing them, and disappointing someone is never pleasant. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your goals when someone checks in with you regularly.

In short, you need to find yourself an accountability partner.

Ideally, you want to choose someone you trust and share your goals or have a similar perspective on growth and success. Next, invite them to check in with you. How often? That depends.

You might like a daily check-in by text or email to report on how things went the day before and set goals for the day ahead. Other people prefer longer meetings every week, biweekly or monthly. You might do a mix of long meetings and quick check-ins with some partnerships.

Whatever you and your goal buddy agree on, put that in your Calendar ASAP. This will prevent any calendar conflicts from arising.

8. Set a reward system.

Why do reward systems work? Well, it’s all about dopamine.

As you accomplish something important, your brain begins to spike with dopamine, making you feel a surge of satisfaction. As a result, you become more motivated and productive.

You can benefit from this by rewarding yourself as you chip away at your goals. As your brain connects your hard work with a surge of dopamine, it will eventually become automatic.

How does your Calendar fit into this? Well, you can schedule your rewards. For instance, if you have completed your weekly goals, treat yourself to dinner with friends. Then, during the week, you could set aside 15-minutes time blocks to read, write, go for a walk, or do whatever else you enjoy doing.

9. Schedule time for distractions.

Make no mistake about it — we live in a distracting world where multitasking has become the norm. The era of instant updates and notifications has even made many of us reliant on distraction. And as a result, we often ask ourselves why we aren’t as productive as we should be.

Cal Newport explains it this way in Deep Work, “Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, [Clifford Nass] discovered; it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate.”

How does Newport aim to solve this problem? Schedule these distractions.

“Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”

I know. Scheduling time for distractions might sound counterproductive. However, taking part in something distracting, like answering emails or posting on social media, will not reduce your ability to concentrate. The constant switch between “low-stimulus, high-value” activities to “high-stimulus, low-value.” According to Newport’s research, boredom is causing atrophy in the muscles needed for concentration.

According to him, we need to adopt an attitude of focus and set aside a portion of our day for distracting activities to reverse the decline. Even though he admits to the potential use of the Internet for constructive purposes, he uses it synonymously with distracting activities.

Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside these times,” he explains. “Record the next time you’re allowed to use the Internet. Until you arrive at that time, absolutely no network connectivity is allowed—no matter how tempting.”

10. Calendar it all.

When it comes to setting, achieving, and maintaining repeated goals, consistency is key. So add or schedule five- and ten-minute blocks of time to your Calendar to help yourself out.

How will you fill these blocks? You can use them to journal your accomplishments, make progress toward a specific goal, or meet with your goal buddy. All of these will help you keep track of your goals and help you follow through.

How To Track Your New Goals on Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Image Credit: Cottonbro; Pexels; Thank you!

Pivot to Your Successful Calendar in 2022

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Pivot Successful Calendar 2022

Only a month of the way into 2022 and this year already seems to be looking up compared to the craziness of the last two years. The COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out to reasonable success, and businesses are beginning to thrive once more. The holidays were great, and we’re moving forward, hoping summer vacations won’t be limited with Omicron, or something else. With this positive outlook in mind, it’s a prime time for personal development and achievement.

Time management is the key ingredient behind personal progression. Using a tool such as your Calendar allows you to harness your time and daily efforts to make things happen in your favor. A lot can be achieved through proper time management, but avoid the tricky mistakes that may slow you down.

During this first quarter, take the time to assess your time management skills and pivot to your best Calendar success, making this year the best ever.

Here are some things you can look for to pick up your personal success pace.

Identify Working Patterns

Kick things off by celebrating your successes. Were you able to meet your daily exercise goals through successful Calendar additions? Is your side hustle growing thanks to some successful Calendar finessing that helps you be more productive in the evenings? Whatever your successes are — pat yourself on the back.

If you’ve been a big miss, don’t let that bother you — take courage and plan out the next few months of this quarter to continue to see progress on your goals. If your new morning routine helps you make time for exercise, be sure to include that schedule in your future Calendar plans. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t.

Ditch Bad Habits

Next up, it’s time to admit defeat in certain aspects of your time management. It’s okay to recognize that you spent a lot more time watching Netflix than you should have. Now’s your chance to turn things around using your Calendar.

Identify your lousy time management habits so that you can stop them in their tracks. What can you do to break the habit if you have a late-night binge-watching problem? Plan an evening activity in your Calendar, such as reading a chapter of a book, doing a chore that you have been putting off.

Think about studying a subject or investigating a skill you have wanted to work on or think about. Creative pursuits often pull me out of a bad time management issue. Thinking in this new way will help you increase your productivity.

A bonus tip: for recognizing both successful habits and destructive tendencies, take a look at your Calendar analytics. You can’t hide from the fact, and this will give you an inside view of how you’re spending your time.

Feel free to create a few events that weren’t originally planned on your Calendar or make adjustments to make your analytics more realistic. These numbers will show you what’s going the way you want, and which areas of your schedule could use some work.

Realign Your Goals

Hopefully, you haven’t forgotten those New Year’s Resolutions already? But, even if you have, this is as good a time as any to bring them back up. Scheduling a planning session to reevaluate your goals will put you back on the right track.

If you haven’t set any goals for this year or haven’t done anything to pursue them, make plans to start afresh. Organize your Calendar in a way that focuses your efforts on the goals you want to achieve. For example, you might be putting off finding a new job. Scheduling time to review your resume and write up applications helps you be accountable to your goal and take action.

For your existing goals, it’s time to evaluate your progress. Is your goal still attainable? Did you set your sights too low or too high? Realigning your goals helps you maintain productivity instead of becoming discouraged because you set the bar too high.

Try Something New

Time management perfection is different for everyone. You can’t expect to follow the daily routine of your favorite influencer and expect the same results for yourself. Instead, you need to find what works best for you and stick with it. That’s why trying something new with your Calendar can pivot your Calendar success for the rest of the year.

As an example, take a minute to fiddle with different Calendar settings. Color-coding your events or projects using a different view makes for minor adjustments — but might just be the difference-maker you need to manage your time even a little more effectively.

Take a swing at different time management techniques such as timeboxing or the Pomodoro method in an attempt to find the best methods for your personal use.

Find Your Balance

Think about your Calendar’s strengths and weaknesses — circle back and look at how you’re balancing your time. Have you only thought about how time management will help you with your professional life? While this is very important, it’s also vital that you implement a successful Calendar skill to improve your personal life. You won’t find true success until you find your life balance.

A Groupon survey shows that 60% of Americans have difficulties finding a healthy work-life balance. This is mainly because work often seeps into your extra time, making it feel like work is a 24/7 affair.

For this first quarter of the year, attempt to schedule out more personal activities in pursuit of a better balance. But, of course, you can always check your Calendar analytics page to gauge your progress.

Conclusion

Continue using your online Calendar to hone your time management. Consider taking the time this business quarter to continue evaluating your progress and note how things are going. The more diligent you are in keeping track of your time — the more you’ll be able to accomplish, and the fuller your life will be.

Image Credit: Towfiqu Barbhuiya; Pexels; Thank you!

The Assault on Productivity, Neglect of Your Calendar

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Assault Productivity Neglect Calendar

Almost all of us want to be able to improve our productivity. But how exactly can we do this?

There’s certainly no shortage of tried and true techniques. Examples would be working when you’re most effective, setting timers, blocking out distractions, or setting daily goals.

While all of these are helpful, they also rely on a calendar. Case in point, to reach your goals, you need to block out undistracted times for you to focus on tasks that get you closer to your desired outcome. If not, you’ll get bombarded by phone calls or commit to less difficult chores.

But, just because you have a calendar doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out of it. It’s like buying an elliptical to improve your health but letting it sit there collecting dust. If you ignore your new exercise equipment, you’re still failing to maintain your health.

In short, if you want to bolster your productivity, then you can’t neglect your Calendar. Here are the best ways to prevent that from happening.

Time estimates aren’t adjusted.

This past Sunday, I decided to cook dinner for my family. It wasn’t an overly complicated entree — it was stuffed peppers if you’re curious. Unfortunately, I underestimated how long it would take me to prep and cook the meal — leaving a very hangry family.

To be fair, we’re all terrible at estimating time. And, you can thank the planning fallacy for that.

What is the planning fallacy?

The planning fallacy is a psychological term that describes our tendency to underestimate how much time a task will take. It was first introduced in 1977 by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. They found that people tend to ignore historical data when making predictions.

In other words? We don’t use historical evidence to estimate time. Instead, we concentrate exclusively on the upcoming task at hand.

Kahneman later elaborated on the original concept in his 2011 book “Thinking Fast and Slow.” According to him, estimation mistakes are usually caused by two factors;

  • Failure to consider the past times when we have completed similar tasks
  • We assume no complications will arise that will delay us

A second mistake relates to optimism bias, which describes our tendency to believe that the future will be a better place than the past. How does this connect to the planning fallacy? People think that things they do in the future will be more efficient than the things they do now.

As a result of our optimism, we believe that delays will be unlikely. But, unfortunately, that means when it comes to estimating time, you go with the best-case scenario. Consequently, we tend to disregard historical data that proves that the best-case scenario is, in fact, highly improbable.

How to overcome the planning fallacy?

In some cases, the planning fallacy is nothing more than an inconvenience. For example, you might have a hungry family when dinner is running late. But, you can put out some snacks in the meantime. However, time estimation errors account for 25 percent of failed projects at work.

The easiest fix? To estimate time spent on different types of tasks, use a time tracking app to track your progress over time or uncover when you’re most productive. The app’s built-in reports make it easy to reference the data later on.

Another easy solution? Give yourself some time than you need. For instance, you could set aside 2 hours for a specific task, even though you believe that it will only take you an hour. If it ends up taking you an hour-and-a-hour, then you have 30-minutes to spare instead of going over the allotted time you planned.

Sorry to continually beat the drum on this same idea — but you should periodically track your time on your recurring tasks to improve your productivity. As you become more proficient at these tasks, you should complete them faster. For example, if you blocked out two hours for a task and it now takes you an hour and a half, that extra time could be used elsewhere.

Not blocking out your priorities first.

Throughout my entrepreneurial career, I have sported a variety of hats. Obviously, this is more important when just getting started. There is no way to hire a talented team when you don’t have the resources. Once the cash starts flowing in, hiring a stellar team to support means fewer hats you have to wear.

That doesn’t mean you should completely ignore these responsibilities. Instead, it means that you can delegate specific tasks to others. On the downside, that could mean that you start filling your Calendar with entries that aren’t priorities.

Instead, follow the advice of Stephen Covey. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. After all, when it comes down to it, your priorities are anything that moves you closer to your goals.

With that in mind, you should book your priorities before anything else. If you don’t, other less critical items will take their place, thus hindering your productivity. Also, keep in mind that you won’t accomplish them all on a single day, so focus only on your three most important tasks. All other activities should be put off until later, delegated, or deleted.

Ignoring calendar conflicts.

Occasionally, calendar conflicts will arise. That’s life. But that doesn’t mean you should just shrug your shoulders and tell yourself, “Oh, well.”

Ignoring calendar conflicts doesn’t mean that they’ll magic resolve themselves. Instead, you’re going to have to be proactive and tackle them head-on.

For example, if you double-booked a time slot, own up to your mistake and try to make it right. So, let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment when you were supposed to have a call with a client. Let your client know about the scheduling error and offer an alternative date to speak. They may be disappointed, but it’s better than leaving them high and dry.

Forgetting to add calendar entries.

It’s possible to lose productivity when you forget to add calendar entries. Don’t wait to add events to your Calendar until the last minute as well. You might miss important meetings if you don’t do it immediately. As a result, you may be unable to meet deadlines, or you’ll need extra time to catch up on missed tasks.

Always schedule items as soon as possible — even if it’s a year in advance. But, of course, with the popularity of calendar apps, you can do this whenever and wherever you can. So, in my opinion, there’s really no excuse for forgetting to add entries to your Calendar.

Not clearing your Calendar regularly.

There are very things in life that you’ll possess forever if you don’t clean things out — including your Calendar. Everything from torn clothing, broken appliances, and outdated pantry items must be replaced. If not, you’ll end up in an episode of Hoarders.

The same is valid with your Calendar. If you don’t declutter your Calendar from time to time, it’s going to be packed with unnecessary entries. How often you go about this is up to you — I personally do this twice a year. Regardless, here are some items that you may want to remove when cleaning your Calendar;

  • Meetings with no purpose or agenda
  • Back-to-back or standing meetings
  • Habitual or minute activities, like brushing your teeth.
  • Unnecessary notifications and reminders, such as “Walk your dog.”
  • Recurring events that no longer fit into your schedule or you have no interest in attending
  • Tasks that can be delegated or outsourced
  • Other people’s priorities

Sticking with calendar default settings.

Make sure your calendar settings are tailored to your specific productivity needs, instead of just accepting the defaults.

For instance, multiple calendars and color-coding options are typically available in calendar apps. By using a different font or all caps, you can also draw attention to necessary entries. Alternatively, you can change the calendar view and decide what day to start.

In addition, you have the option to enable other time zones, hide specific calendars, and change the default time. This last option is particularly important. You can set the time to exactly what you need for an event or task instead of blocking out the default time — usually, this is an hour.

As an example, you might only need to meet with your team for 30-minutes. But, since you stuck with the entire hour, you’re wasting everyone’s valuable time that could have been spent on something more important.

If you really want to supercharge your Calendar and productivity, consider teaming your Calendar with other tools. By harnessing machine learning, Calendar, for example, suggests when, where, and how to schedule your time.

One final piece of advice here. The calendar app and tools that you use should seamlessly sync across multiple devices. Google Calendar, for instance, is equally accessible on Android and iOS devices. That means you can switch between your iPhone and Chromebook, preventing any missed calendar entries.

Failing to review your Calendar constantly.

To start the day on the right foot, you need to plan ahead. I mean, that’s like saying you’re going to cook your family meatloaf for dinner on a whim. Unfortunately, you don’t have all of the ingredients, leaving you scrambling to think of a replacement — on top of a disappointed and hungry family.

As for productivity specifically, let’s say it’s Sunday night, and you didn’t look ahead on your Calendar schedule for tomorrow. Because you’re busy with your family, it slips your mind that you have an early meeting in the morning. Suffice to say, you don’t prep for the meeting and are caught off guard when you receive a calendar reminder 15-minutes before the meeting starts.

In situations like above, that could not throw your schedule off. Or, even if you can keep your schedule intact, you may feel “off” for the remainder of the day. In turn, this could slow your productivity to a screeching halt.

Image Credit: Olya Kobruseva; Pexels; Thank you!

The Assault on Productivity, Neglect of Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

A Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Calendar Management

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Calendar Management

Entrepreneurs and business professionals have a lot on their plates. There are forms to sign, meetings to attend, and a work-life balance that’s always teetering on edge. But, while the focus of business is almost always money at the end of the day, the real currency for businesspersons is time. The adage “time is money” is more true today than ever before.

If you can genuinely harness your time, there’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish. However, mastering time management is easier said than done. A lot of effort is required to manage time effectively, as well as a solid desire to structure your life and business with extra precision.

To satisfy the time management needs of every person possible, the calendar in its physical and digital forms was made. By learning better calendar management, you can make huge strides forward in your personal time management. Here is a beginner’s guide to help you get started:

Aim for Purpose and Results

When it comes to time management, everything you do should be intentional. Don’t just fill your calendar for the sake of looking busy. You will find a lot more success by aiming for a specific purpose and focusing on results.

One way to ensure that your scheduling remains intentional is to follow a tried-and-true planning method from a time management expert. For example, the Rapid Planning Method from renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins is crafted with intentional time management in mind.

Use an Organizational System

Once you have a good idea of how you want to use your calendar to improve time management, you need to keep it nice. If you purchase a three-ring binder but fail to follow an organizational pattern, you’re not going to get much value out of it. However, if you’re utilizing a system by using things such as tabs and dividers, you’ll find the binder to be quite useful.

Your online calendar of choice will have various options and features you can use to stay organized. One of the most common and effective options available is color-coding. This will change how your events appear based on how you want to organize them. For example, you can match work events with your company’s logo to easily differentiate them from the rest of your schedule.

The great thing about online calendars is that they are highly flexible. You can use your own combination of color-coding and organize in a way that works specifically for you. Key points to remember are not doing too much and using a practical and memorable system. Too many colors can be challenging to keep track of.

Take Advantage of Recurring Events

As you’re setting up your calendar, note any repeat events you see. For example, you might have a team huddle every Monday morning or attend a spin class on Friday nights. Instead of manually inputting every single one of these events into your calendar, you can take advantage of recurring events.

When you set a recurring event, it pops up in your calendar at an automatic interval. This can be done for monthly, weekly, or even daily activities. This will save you a lot of time when planning out your schedule, as you don’t have to input the same event over and over again manually. This also will ensure that you never accidentally miss an event because you didn’t happen to add it to your calendar once.

Recurring events are also helpful for scheduling routines. You don’t always need to put a morning routine into your calendar, but doing so for a few weeks can help you adapt to a new schedule. For instance, if you’re moving from day shifts to night shifts, you might want to plan out the specifics in your calendar with recurring events until you’re used to the new schedule.

Learn How to Batch

At this point, you should have most of your calendar squared away. You can now start working on fine-tuning your calendar to make it work even better for you. One such thing you can learn to tune up your calendar is how to batch tasks. This will condense your calendar, making it appear less cluttered while still getting just as much done.

Most people batch tasks by starting with a to-do list. This is separate from the schedule that ends up in their calendar. Once you create a to-do list, you can organize each task by function and priority. This will give you batches of tasks that can be added to larger time blocks in your calendar instead of individual pieces that have you bouncing all over the place.

Don’t Forget Buffer Time

If you’re still concerned about how to fit everything into your busy schedule without overlapping, be sure not to forget about buffer time. Adding buffer time to all of your events can be a daily life saver. More often than not, you’ll be glad you included buffer time even if you didn’t need it.

Always leave some amount of time in between your meetings and events. For example, if you have back-to-back meetings, you might try and schedule them on the hour to fit them nicely into your calendar. Including 15 minutes of buffer time in between meetings will protect you if one meeting happens to run long and threatens to make you late for the next.

If you don’t need to use the buffer time, you can always have a backup plan for how you can use that time. For example, you can do some bonus prep as you move on to your next meeting, take care of some emails, or outline your next blog post. Of course, none of these tasks are urgent, but you might as well take advantage of any opportunities you find.

Who knew that something as simple as a Calendar could be used for so much. Simply using a calendar regularly is already a step in the right direction. Add these details along the way, and time management will begin to come naturally to you, and there won’t be anything you can’t achieve.

Image Credit: cottonbro; Pexels; Thank you! 

How Entrepreneurs Can Clean Up Their Calendars

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How Entrepreneurs Can Clean Up Their Calendars

Entrepreneurship is one of the most admired aspects of the American dream. Without hardworking men and women with dreams and passions — coupled with astounding drive and work ethics — we wouldn’t have many of the things we enjoy today. Think of your favorite brand and remember that before it became mainstream, it was a lowly startup backed by a bold entrepreneur.

While entrepreneurs are rightly praised for their accomplishments, it can be difficult to be in their shoes. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into entrepreneurship. All that effort can get exhausting. It can also get confusing when calendars are packed end-to-end with meetings and events to keep track of.

Time management is key to entrepreneurial success. Here are six ways active and aspiring entrepreneurs can clean up their online calendars to help them achieve more while stressing less.

1. Implement Color-Coding

Color-coding is a simple organizational system that will bring your calendar to life and keep it better organized. All you need to do is group your tasks together in a way that they can be identified with a single color. Once you get used to this new system, one glance at your day will give you all the information you need. 

For example, you can separate most of your tasks into three main groups, such as team huddles, client meetings, and administrative tasks. Each group will have its own color, like red, yellow, or blue. A stream of yellow for next Wednesday lets you know right away that you have a bunch of client meetings coming up that you need to prepare for.

Once you’ve implemented your color-coding strategy, you’ll begin to think about the tasks you put into your calendar more carefully. More methodical thinking will keep your calendar clean and organized even as you splash it with colors.

2. Batch Tasks Together

Speaking of grouping tasks together, not every single to-do item needs to have a designated space in your schedule. There are many instances where you can batch tasks together to condense your calendar and prevent clutter. 

It would be silly to create a calendar event for every email you plan to send throughout the day. Not only can you schedule a time to do all your emailing, but you can also batch that with other administrative tasks to get them done at the same time. If you don’t want to forget important details, use the notes section of your digital calendar to make to-do lists that accompany your task batches. 

3. Create a Separate Calendar

Many online calendar apps allow you to create multiple calendars to organize your time. With multiple calendars, you can clean up one messy calendar by dividing it up. To ensure double-booking doesn’t occur, keep these calendars synced even if you don’t view them together at the same time. 

One of your calendars can be designated for all your personal affairs. Track birthdays, anniversaries, sporting events, important school dates, and more here, while keeping all of your entrepreneurial activities on a separate calendar. If you really want to go all out, you can create separate calendars for each department of your budding organization. 

4. Learn How to Delegate

One reason entrepreneurs’ lives are so grueling is that their plates get overloaded, especially in the early stages of a startup. Entrepreneurs are product developers, marketers, HR representatives, and salespeople all at the same time. The sooner you can delegate some of these tasks to others, the sooner you can clean up your calendar and clear your head. 

Learning how to delegate is a process. Many entrepreneurs don’t want to let go of their responsibilities because they only trust themselves to get the job done. Just remember that you’ll become more effective as you pass on assignments and focus your attention, and your calendar, on fewer projects. 

5. Make Time for Yourself

Entrepreneurship is often a 24/7 job. Building a business from the ground up isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of time and effort to become one of the few who enjoy long-term success. Prioritizing your mental health and physical wellness will help ensure long-term success by staving off burnout and keeping your mind in top shape.

This is different from just creating a separate calendar for your personal events. You need to intentionally make time for yourself in your calendar. Schedule a date night with your significant other, allot time for exercise, and even schedule some evening hours to read a book. These blocks of time will help with your work-life balance and clear your calendar of unnecessary busywork you continue to pile onto yourself.

6. Lean on Automation

Any task that you can automate can be taken out of your schedule, which leads to a more open calendar. Not only that, but automation will keep your business running even without your constant supervision. You will be able to accomplish more with less effort.

No matter your business model, there is some business task that you can automate. You can add a chatbot to your website to answer frequent customer questions without the need for a human representative 24/7. You can automate email marketing campaigns and sales outreach. Find ways to automate your growing business, and these tasks and others won’t be taking up calendar space any longer. 

While it’s good to fill your time with productive activities, an overstuffed calendar can be counterproductive. Use these tips to clean up your calendar and keep it that way, so you can focus on your performance as an entrepreneur and not your ever-changing schedule. 

Your Calendar Will Help Make Your Camping Trip a Success

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Your Calendar Will Help Make Your Camping Trip a Success

Remember going camping as a kid? Even if it was only a few times growing up, camping trips make for enjoyable summer memories for the whole family. So invite friends and family — and have a blast!

Your Calendar Will Help Make Your Camping Trip a Success

Unfortunately, many people don’t have great memories of camping — but everyone needs to say they’ve camped at least once in their lives. I call it “life lessons and learning.” And, yes, I laugh when I say that. But, whether the former camping trip was boring, got rained on, or someone was eaten alive by mosquitos — some things can get in the way of a good time. Prevent catastrophe from striking your camping trip by organizing your efforts with your Calendar. Here’s how:

Choosing Dates

Hey, you only have about six weeks before the kids are back in school — so get cracking! First things first, you must select the dates of your camping trip in advance. Very rarely will an impromptu trip work out well, especially for larger families and all of their different schedules. However, some of our impromptu trips ended up the best ever —  so don’t discount that possibility.

Using your Calendar allows you to view all of these conflicting schedules and find free days for everyone. Then, once the date is chosen — create a Calendar event and share it with everyone who plans to attend so that they don’t end up booking something for the dates selected.

Remembering to Pack

Nothing is worse than arriving at your location and realizing you forgot to pack something important. Don’t let that happen to you by setting one or several reminders in your online Calendar. I, for one, always have camping specifics in a packed bag so I can just look through the items and make sure they aren’t out of date.

You can set a reminder for virtually anything you think you might forget. For example, a Calendar notification will help you get out the door at the right time. Another event will remind you to make a trip to the store to get all the snacks and supplies you need.

You will also find it useful to set a reminder to make sure you double-check your home, set the lock, turn the camera on, check the auto sprinklers, let the neighbor know to pick up mail. I keep this same list for trips on my Calendar, so I don’t have to write a new list each time we go somewhere. That puts everything in order before leaving town for a few days. I also have a “before you go cleaning list” to not be overwhelmed when I return home.

Planning the Road Trip

The best camping spots are usually a long-distance away. Those drives can get pretty grueling, especially for young kids and big families. Your Calendar will come in handy for planning the upcoming road trip and making it as painless as possible.

Most National Parks have a number you can call and select your date and reserve your spot. You have to be there by a certain time (usually 6:00 PM) or give them a late check-in time. If you aren’t there on time — the park will give away your spot.

Looking for a spot to camp at midnight, especially if you’ve brought a baby along, is not a pretty sight. And sleeping in the car because you lost your camping spot tends to be the memory that sticks with your fam and friends forever.

Thanks to GPS technology, you don’t have to plan your route as extensively as in generations past. However, it may be worth your time to plan some stops along the way. For example, optimize your bathroom and lunch breaks or scope out some roadside attractions that are worth checking out.

Plan these out in advance, and you can make the drive more enjoyable while still making it to your campsite at a reasonable hour.

Creating an Itinerary

Camping is so much more than sleeping in a tent on the hard ground. What makes camping worth it is all the activities you plan throughout the day. Your Calendar will help you create the perfect itinerary to fill your days with plenty of activities.

Do you want to go on a family hike? You want to plan water activities when it’s the warmest and plan everything else around it. We like to take our bikes and have a big long bike trip around the lake early while it’s still cool and then have lake time to cool off around noon or 1:00 PM. You could also check to see if the park rents bikes, paddle boats, or canoes. That way you don’t have to bring your own. But all these types of activities and questions can be answered by making an itinerary for your trip.

There’s also some merit in making time to do nothing but relax and get lost in your surroundings. Feel free to include your personal “away” time on your Calendar as well. Especially if it’s a high priority to you. If you’re an adventurous type, you can also freestyle the trip and see where it takes you.

As a footnote, your Calendar doesn’t always have to be online in order to be helpful. While traveling, you can still access the itinerary in offline mode. Thankfully there are fewer places where you won’t have cell service. But be aware no cell service does occur. Sometimes I take a screenshot of my Calendar so I have it in my photos if cell service is not to be had.

Getting Work Done

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean the work has stopped. If you’re taking a weekday trip, you’ll need to ask for time off and might need to get some extra work done before you embark. Even a weekend outing can be a little stressful if you get home late Sunday night and need to get things ready to go to the office the following morning.

This is the perfect opportunity to use your Calendar for what it does best; time management. Leading up to your trip, try using time blocking or experiment with the Pomodoro Technique to get as much work done as possible so that you can take a camping trip without stressing about missing work.

Your Calendar will help you make a seamless return as well. You can organize all of your meetings and deadlines ahead of time to arrange your entire schedule before you even leave for your trip. Then, once you make it back home, all you have to do is check your Calendar for everything that needs to be done next.

Recording Memories

Just as was mentioned from the start, the goal of a camping trip is to have fun and make memories. Therefore, every event and note you add to your Calendar will serve as a reminder of the fun you had even long after the trip has finished.

You can also use your online Calendar to plan out a scrapbook or photo album of all the camping trips you ever take. This is a more visual and organized way to preserve memories for a very long time.

You can have a lot of fun roughing it if you come prepared. Before you leave to come home from a trip (camping or otherwise), get everyone to share photos from your phones. I put a reminder in my Calendar because sharing photos has become such a staple of our adventures and the highlight of our trips now.

How to Use Appointments to Improve Your Decision-Making

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How to Use Appointments to Improve Your Decision-Making

Snap decisions often cause regrettable damage to our finances, relationships, and overall well-being. When confronted with a difficult decision, especially one that evokes an emotional response, it’s important to take your time and think through it from several angles. Try to let the emotional side take a back seat and consider your decision objectively.

This can be admittedly difficult to do. These decisions and the stress they cause can weigh on your mind and consume your time. How can you think about work or other important matters when such big decisions loom?

Sometimes, putting a placeholder on your calendar can relieve immediate stress and help you assess a wide range of situations more dispassionately. Doing so can also allow you to put the decision out of your mind so you can focus on tasks at hand. Your calendar placeholder ensures you won’t forget to revisit the decision, meaning you don’t have to fret it about in the meantime. That alone will give you some peace of mind.

Block Out Time for Projects and Decisions

Sometimes we have so much to do it’s hard to sit down and concentrate. Scheduling our time through our online calendars and apps can help us get important things accomplished. 

Look at everything you need to get done for the day. Then schedule out blocks of time for each task. This will enable you to really focus on one thing at a time and boost your productivity. 

Doing this also helps declutter your mind. Keeping all your tasks for your professional and personal life in your head can add to your stress and anxiety. Getting it all down in your calendar enables you to clear your mind so you can actually complete your to-dos.

You schedule appointments to get things done at work all the time. Why not do the same for your personal life? Add in your haircut or your kid’s soccer game. The less you have to keep in your head, the freer you are to be fully present. 

Adding appointments for time to reflect or do research will facilitate your decision-making as well. You might schedule time to pore over your budget to see if you can buy the SUV you’ve been eyeing. You might also set aside time to compare various models and the dealer incentives different brands are offering. Taking this prep time lets you keep your purchase a priority but prevents you from recklessly signing on the dotted line at the urging of a smooth-talking sales rep.

Assess How You Use Your Time

As you begin to schedule time for decision-making purposes, you might feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. How can you decide on the best uses of your time? Start by learning exactly what takes up your time at work and at home.

Calendar analytics can show you what you’ve been up to and inform your decisions about how you spend your time. Are you in meetings all day? Do you devote lots of travel time getting to a shared work space? Do all your kids’ sports have you on the road several days a week? With calendar analytics, you can learn the distribution of your calendar appointment types and see the locations of your meetings. 

With this information, you can re-evaluate and make necessary changes so you can make the most of your limited hours. If you need to schedule a time for decision-making purposes, it can open your eyes to the best days and times available.

Use Dead Time for Productive Purposes

After reviewing your calendar analytics, you might discover blocks of wasted or dead time. You might find yourself waiting at the doctor’s office or when picking your kids up. Maybe you have a 30-minute gap between meetings or a long commute. You can make better decisions about how you spend this time, too. These little blocks of time can really add up!

You can leverage this time to learn a new skill or catch up on an enriching podcast. These solo moments could also be a good time to come to a decision on an issue at the office or at home. When you see that gap, go ahead and add an appointment to your calendar. For example, “Reflect on ways to save money this month.”

Improve Your Time Management

When deciding on the best use of your limited hours, it all comes down to time management. Effective time management will increase your productivity and help you stay on top of your obligations both at work and at home. If you find yourself routinely completing work tasks at the last minute or paying your rent late, you’ll need to find ways to be more organized.

After all, disorganization can spill over into those big life decisions as well. Poor time management can cause you to have to make a quick, last-minute choice that you’ll regret later. 

When it comes to big decisions, giving yourself plenty of time to make informed, cool-headed  choices is key. Setting calendar reminders for these moments can give you the space and mental clarity you need to to set yourself up for a great life.

How Your Calendar Can Save the World

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How Your Calendar Can Save the World

Is it ambitious to want to save the world? Sure. But, as Eddie Vedder sings on one of my all-time favorite Pearl Jam tunes, “Sometimes.”

Seek my part, devote myself

My small self

Like a book amongst the many on a shelf

Whatever you truly care about, spending any amount of time championing it can make the world a better place — even if it’s just in your small pocket of the world. After all, if we all made a little effort, we could have the power to impact our little third rock from the Sun positively.

Of course, time restraints are always holding us back from making a difference. But, thanks to your trusted calendar, that’s no longer an excuse. In fact, thanks to the calendar, we can all participate in saving the world in our own unique ways.

1. Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

“In the event of a sudden drop in pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Secure your own mask first before assisting others.”

If you’ve ever flown, then you’re familiar with that announcement. But, why? It’s straightforward.

If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, then how can you assist those who can not? After all, the lack of oxygen will cause you to pass out. As such, this will leave others in a precarious situation.

The same is true in your daily life. If you don’t carve out time to attend to your own health and wellbeing, then you aren’t in the best spot to make a positive impact. For example, if you’re too burned out from work, then you aren’t going to have the energy to help struggling employees or volunteer in the community.

What’s the best way to help yourself first? By adding self-care to your calendar.

Self-care, as explained  in a previous Calendar article, “is when you regularly engage in activities and practices that make you feel calm and re-energized.”

“Some might consider this being on the selfish side,” adds Deanna. “But, self-care is a proven way to reduce stress. It’s also key in maintaining our own mental, emotional, and even physical health.” Because of this, self-care is “vital in protecting and enhancing our short- and long-term health and wellbeing.”

While you may think that you don’t have the time for self-care, you can use your calendar to make this possible by:

  • Following a routine that at least “encourages a consistent sleep-wake cycle, meal schedule, and workflow. If possible, try to base these around your circadian rhythms,” Deanna states.
  • “Regularly scheduling 2-3 nutrient-rich meals per day.” To make this easier, schedule deliveries from companies like Misfits Market or SnackNation.
  • Blocking out periods of time for physical activity and setting reminders to stand up and stretch.
  • Setting office hours so that you can actually unplug and detach from work. You should also share your calendar with others so that they know when you’re available and when you’re not.
  • Scheduling social activities.
  • Reducing screen. Instead of being glued to your phone, replace that with other activities like walking or reading a book.
  • Penciling in alone-time so that you can reflect and engage in self-talk.
  • Leave blank spaces in your calendar so that you can spend that time however you please.

2. Cultivate Gratitude

Looking for an uncomplicated activity that can lower stress, improve sleep, and strengthen your relationship ships. Look no further than practicing gratitude. In particular, try the GIFT Technique, as suggested by Anna Hennings, MA, a mental performance coach in sport psychology:

  • Growth: personal growth, such as learning a new skill
  • Inspiration: whatever has inspired you
  • Friends/family: those who are supportive and enrich your life
  • Tranquility: those small and meaningful moments, like sipping on your morning tea
  • Surprise: acknowledging unexpected surprises

Keep that acronym when identifying what you’re grateful for. After that, jot these items down in your journal during your morning or evening routine.

In addition to writing in a gratitude journal, actually show others how much you appreciate them. Examples include greeting your employees when they come into work or sending handwritten “thank you” cards. Other recommendations would be to publicly acknowledge others, offering thoughtful gifts/rewards, and being respectful of their time.

3. Volunteer Your Time

“When you volunteer your time, you are helping others in need while also spending your time in an excellent way,” note the folks over at Wheels For Wishes. “Not only are you making others happy, but you will also feel great about yourself.” However, since there are so many organizations where you could volunteer, where can you start?

Thankfully, the Wheels For Wishes put together the following list to help you get on your way:

  • Walk dogs at an animal shelter
  • Adopt or foster a pet
  • Volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation
  • Give blood
  • Serve food at a soup kitchen
  • Organize a fundraising event
  • Volunteer at a children’s summer camp
  • Donate your hair
  • Adopt a highway and keep it clean
  • Pick up trash in your neighborhood
  • Spend time at a nursing home
  • Organize a food or coat drive
  • Tutor or mentor
  • Run errands for the elderly
  • Knit hats for those going through chemotherapy

Go through your calendar to check your availability. For example, since my calendar is wide open next weekend, and the weather is supposed to be pleasant, I’m going to collect the trash along the side of my road. By adding this to my calendar, I’m committing to it and not letting anything else take its place.

4. Offer Your Services

What skills or knowledge do you possess? Put them to good use by offering them up for free.

For instance, if you’re a doctor, you could spend your downtime at a free clinic. Are you a lawyer or accountant? Offer free advice at community or senior centers when needed, like right before tax season. Do you know how to code? Build or update the website for a nonprofit.

5. Make a Donation

Don’t have the availability to volunteer or offer your services? No problem. You can still give back to others through donations. For instance, you could go through your kitchen and donate perishable food items. Go through your closet and donate blankets, coats, or hats you no longer wear.

But, what’s there’s more! Animal shelters could use old towels, cleaning supplies, or unopened pet food and treats. Nurseries could take baby blankets off your hands, while daycares might be interested in books or art supplies.

You could also donate your vehicle. And, you can never go wrong with a cash donation.

6. Commit to a Regular Contribution

Is there a cause that you’re passionate about? Then why not become a regular contributor? It’s pretty setting-and-forgetting your contributions. For instance, you could make an automated monthly donation to NPR or The Adventure Project — just put a reminder in your calendar so that you keep your bank account in good order.

$10 a month may not be much to you. But, it can truly make all the difference in the world for those in need.

7. Be Informed

What are you passionate about? Whatever it is, learn as much about the topic as possible during your downtime.

Let’s say that this is climate change. You should keep informed via sources like Nature Climate Change; the “Ask NASA” website, CleanTechnica. You could also listen to podcasts, watch TED Talks, or attend online events.

The more you know, the more you can educate others or find ways to make a difference.

8. Get Involved Politically

No matter your political affiliation, always go out and vote both locally and naturally. I would search for election dates in your neck of the woods so that you can mark your calendar to prevent forgetting. Remember, there are way more elections out there than the Presidential Election that takes place every four years.

But, there’s more you can do besides casting your ballot. You could volunteer for a campaign, like phone banking, knocking on doors, or registering new voters. And, keep politicians accountable by contacting them or attending town hall events.

9. Use Your Voice

Do you disagree with how a brand treats its employees? Send them an email voicing your concerns. Is a company polluting the environment or abusing animals? Let others know through social media and in-person conversations.

You might think that this is time-consuming. These are all actions you could take when batching tasks like cleaning out your inbox or updating your social channels.

10. Conduct an Energy Audit

An energy audit is pretty self-explanatory. It’s when you go through your home or workplace to find out where it’s losing energy so that you can correct this problem. While there are professionals who can do this, you can schedule to do this on your own by:

  • Finding and sealing air leaks coming through doors, windows, or gaps along the baseboard.
  • Checking insulation levels in the ceiling and walls.
  • Annually inspecting heating and cooling equipment.
  • Estimating the energy use of your appliances.
  • Switching to more energy-efficient appliances.
  • Replacing your old bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

11. Create Reminders to Power Down

“All things plugged in will bleed some energy,” writes Vanessa Vadim for Treehugger. “Called ‘standby’ electricity loss because it’s so often associated with electronics in standby or idle mode, it’s also known as ‘phantom’ or ‘vampire” electricity.’”

But, what if you turn off all of your appliances. Doesn’t matter. They’re still drawing power.

“The Natural Resources Defense Council says the cost of plugged-in but not used devices is about $165 per household or $19 billion across the U.S.,” adds Vadim. “That amounts to about 44 million tons of carbon dioxide, or 4.6% of the country’s total residential electricity generation, points out The New York Times.”

One way to resolve this would be powering down and unplugging the electronics you use at work before leaving. If you usually “clock-out” by 5 p.m., then spend the last 30-minutes organizing your workspace and flipping off your power strip. And, you can do the same thing before bed in your home.

Suppose you know that you won’t be home or in the office for an extended period, add a calendar reminder. For instance, if you’re leaving at 9 a.m., then receive a reminder 15-minutes before so that you can turn off the lights and unplug unnecessary appliances.

12. Set the Ideal Temperature

Thermostat wars are fairly commonplace at both home and the workplace. However, constantly fiddling with the temperature doesn’t just cause rifts between family members and colleagues. It can also impact everything from your sleep to productivity. And, it’s also detrimental to the environment.

The answer? Install an automatic thermostat and set it at the right temperature at the right time. For example, the Helsinki University of Technology’s Laboratory for Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning state that the ideal temperature for the “typical” office is around 71.6 F. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), however, recommends keeping the thermostat between 68 and 76 F.

Regardless of your exact preference, keep the workplace comfortable so that you aren’t shivering or sweating. At the end of the day, though, crank down the heat or turn up the air so that you aren’t wasting energy when no one is around.

Better yet? Invest in a smart thermostat. It will learn your patterns and adjust accordingly. You can also sync these devices with your calendar. For instance, you can connect your Google Calendar with Google Home/Nest to control the temperature of your residence or workplace from anywhere.

Moreover, Project Drawdown anticipates that “smart thermostats could grow from 3 percent to 58-63 percent of households with Internet access by 2050.” If so, this means “1,453-1,589 million homes would have them,” and it could avoid 7.0-7.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions.

13. Reduce Unnecessary Mail

41 pounds. That’s how much junk mail the average American receives each year. In order to produce that much requires the cutting down of between 80 and 100 million trees annually!

Besides the environmental impact, junk mail is annoying and sometimes time-consuming if you happen to the type of person who reads every correspondence they receive. To stop this, you can:

  • Opt-out of credit card and insurance offers via OptOutPrescreen.com.
  • To stop receiving unwanted direct mail, register on the National Do Not Mail List.
  • Opt-out of catalogs and magazine subscriptions by contacting Catalog Choice, CoxTarget, or Publishers Clearing House (800.645.9242 or [email protected]) and Readers Digest (800.310.6261).
  • Directly ask for your name to be removed from the mailing lists of companies or nonprofits.
  • Download the PaperKarma app. Just snap a pic of the piece of mail, select the name or address you want removed, and press unsubscribe. Easy peasy.

And, even though it’s not junk mail, make sure that you go paperless. As opposed to receiving monthly statements and mailing payments, you can do all of this online.

14. Prepare Your Meals

“Today, an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste,” notes the World Wildlife Fund. “That’s equal to about 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, and grains that either never leave the farm, get lost or spoiled during distribution, or are thrown away in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens.” That’s “enough calories to feed every undernourished person on the planet.”

“But wasted food isn’t just a social or humanitarian concern—it’s an environmental one,” adds the WWF. “When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.”

It’s actually estimated that roughly “11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food. In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.”

To prevent food waste, plan your meal ahead. For example, you could spend Sundaymorning coming up with a menu for the week. When you go to the store, this ensures that you’ll only buy what you need. And, then you can actually prepare your meals.

I’ve gotten into the habit of this. And, I’m a fan. It’s a type of batching where I don’t have to do much cooking throughout the week. Even though I enjoy cooking, this saves me time, money and even has reduced the packing waste.

As for leftovers? I either freeze them or get creative. For instance, if I’m on day three of veggie chili, I make chili quesadillas out of them to have something different. The rest is in my freezer, ready to be thawed on one of those cold and dreary days we tend to have in the Northeast during the winter.

Bonus points if you make a weekly trip to a local farmer’s market. If that’s not an option, most markets are seasonal around me, look into produce subscription boxes like Misfits Market, Imperfect Foods, Farm Fresh to You, Farmbox Direct, and Farm to People.

15. Regularly Eat Together as a Family (or Team)

Growing up, my family ate together—6 o’clock sharp. No exceptions. As we got older, this became less frequent. But, we still had Sunday dinner.

As a kid, this might have been frustrating. Why would I want to sit down to eat when I could be playing outside or hanging out with my friends. Little did I know, eating together as a family was key in keeping us connected.

It turns out that throughout the years, research backs this assertion up.

While it doesn’t have to be dinner, having meals together is beneficial as it:

  • Teaches children better eating habits. In fact, teens ate more fruits and veggies, and less fast food and sugary beverages, if they ate with their family.
  • It can prevent psychosocial issues. These include eating disorders, substance abuse, and depression.
  • Curtails weight problems later in life. Even just gathering once or twice a week can help protect children from weight problems as adults.
  • Improves children’s self-esteem. During meals, children can talk about themselves, which in turn, makes them feel more self-confident.
  • Bolsters communication skills. Between socialization and conversations, children can become better communicators.
  • It helps kids bounce back from cyberbullying. With more guidance from their parents, kids experience setbacks from cyberbullying like anxiety.
  • It can be used to supplement family therapy. If a family is seeing a therapist, meals provide an opportunity to share the lessons learned.

Before it gets filled up, schedule regular mealtimes with your family in your calendar. It’s a surefire way to avoid conflicts. Plus, it makes planning easier since you can build your schedule around family time.

Moreover, if you’re leading a team, try to have regular lunches together — even if they’re virtual. Studies have found that groups who have lunches together have higher morale and productivity.

16. Shop Locally

What happens when you shop locally? Well, here are 10 positive outcomes courtesy of Independent We Stand:

  • “For every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community.” That’s only $43 at a national chain.
  • You’re embracing what makes your community unique.
  • You’re creating “jobs for teachers, firemen, police officers, and many other essential professions.”
  • “Buying from a locally owned business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging.”
  • It nurtures the community since it’s been found that “local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.”
  • You’re reinvesting your tax-dollars back into the community.
  • There are more products and services geared for your specific area.
  • You can actually get friendly, expert advice.
  • You’re supporting local entrepreneurship.
  • It helps make your community become a destination.

Where’ your calendar come into play? Well, you could mark it for dates like Small Business Saturday or when there will be sales events throughout the year. Or, you could build this into your schedule. If your farmer’s market is only open on the weekend, then do all of your local shopping on Saturday or Sunday.

17. Run Errands At Once

Piggybacking off that last point, reduce your carbon footprint by doing all of your errands in one shot. Let’s say that you have Tuesday afternoon wide open. Since you have the availability, block that timeframe out so that you can buy groceries, pick-up your dry cleaning, or fill your car up with gas — as opposed to running back-and-forth throughout the week.

As an additional perk, you’ll also save valuable time. And, this could be a chance to spend quality time with a family member or friend — which can help you achieve work-life integration.

18. Walk or Bike

Getting outside and getting the blood pumping is a win-win for your overall health and wellbeing. But, if you have spare time and the weather is cooperating, leave your car at home when running errands. While not always possible if you have a car full of groceries, if you need to pick-up items at a farm stand, this is beneficial for you, the local economy, and the environment.

19. Extend the Life of Your Lithium Battery

“One of the biggest environmental problems caused by our endless hunger for the latest and smartest devices is a growing mineral crisis, particularly those needed to make our batteries,” Christina Valimaki, an analyst at Elsevier, told Wired. Consequently, mining operations are impacting local communities, such as those who grow quinoa and herd llamas in Chile.

What’s more, this process can “scar the landscape” and cause toxic chemicals to bleed into water supplies. As if that weren’t bad enough, some mining operations rely on child labor.

Since it’s futile to give-up our lithium battery addiction, we can at least extend the life of our current batteries so that we aren’t constantly replacing them. The easiest way? Not letting your battery completely drain.

“Try to keep batteries charged at an average 50% or above most of the time — at the very least somewhere between 40% and 80% — to preserve an optimal life span,” suggests Jackie Dove and Paula Beaton for Digital Trends. “Even though your charger can control electronic input to prevent damage, you should unplug the phone when power hits 100% and, if possible, avoid overnight charging.”

You can achieve this by putting your phone on airplane mode when you’re working, eating, or sleeping. Other recommendations are keeping your apps up-to-date, removing apps/widgets you don’t use, dimming your screen, using dark wallpaper, and disabling location services.

20. Frequently Check-In With Others

During your morning or evening routine, check-in with a family member, friend, or colleague. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be a simple text message or a quick phone call letting them know that they’re on your mind.

Just checking in on others strengthens relationships, improves your health, and can help you become more comfortable opening up. Most importantly, this can help them overcome any issues that they’re struggling with. Or, at the very least, it can provide a healthy distraction.

The good people over at I Don’t Mind have ten questions you should ask during your check-in. And, after you’ve opened up the lines of communication, schedule a video call and put it in your calendar for a more in-depth convo.

21. Take a Vacation

Vacations are a proven way to improve your life satisfaction, productivity, and both your mental and physical health. It can spark creativity, give you new perspectives, and allows you to bond with others.

While that’s great for you and your relationships, traveling could also support local economies — especially those that have suffered from events like natural disasters. You could also volunteer while abroad. And, there are even options from companies like Responsible Travel that support communities and preserve nature.

If you can’t get away because of COVID or your schedule won’t allow it, plan a staycation. It may not be the same. But, this still gives you a chance to unwind, spend time with those closest to you, and back to your local community.

22. Add Holidays and Observances

Finally, open up your calendar and add lesser-known holidays and observations. Why? Because this allows you to observe and spread awareness on worthwhile causes thoughtfully. Some suggestions are:

Always Resolve Your Calendar Conflicts

By | Scheduling, Time Management | No Comments

If you were able to have a superpower, what would it be? For me? I would want the ability to be in two places at once.

That might not sound like the most thrilling of powers. But think about it? You could tackle your work responsibilities while playing with your kids, reading, or whatever else you enjoy during your downtime.

A Properly Managed Calendar Can Feel Almost Magical

Of course, this isn’t realistic. That’s why it’s imperative that you properly manage your calendar. If you don’t, it will feel like you’re trying to be in multiple places simultaneously.

That might not sound like a biggie. But calendar conflicts are frustrating and stressful. They can also cause you to fall behind in your work. And, they could also fracture relationships if this becomes a recurring issue.

The good news? There are ways to resolve your calendar conflicts? And here are 8 such ways to achieve this feat.

1. Avoid conflicts by going digital.

Want to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place? Then you probably should make a move from a paper calendar or planner to a digital option.

I’m not completely hating on old-school paper calendars. In fact, they can still come in handy. After all, they excel at providing a quick visual reminder. And, we tend to remember events better when it’s written down.

At the same time, they can be problematic. Let’s say that you were at a networking event and agreed to follow-up with a new contact. You agree to a phone call next Wednesday at 1 pm. However, when you go to add this entry when you get back to your office, you see that you had a prior commitment.

It’s not the end of the word for you to reschedule. But, if you had a calendar app, you would have been able to see your availability right there on the spot. What’s more, most calendar software won’t even let you double-book your time and will suggest a different time.

As if that weren’t enough, you could share your calendar with others. When you do, they can either see when you’re available. Or, they can book a meeting with you directly through the calendar.

And, one more thing. Online calendars also come with time-zone recognition. That means it will automatically convert time zones to avoid any confusion.

2. Don’t wait until tomorrow.

The longer you wait to put entries into your calendar, the higher the probability for conflicts to arise. Going back to following-up with the contact you met. Until you had the call to your calendar, it doesn’t exist.

Even worse? Something else might creep in and try to claim that block of time. If that happens, you’re going to have to do some last-minute reshuffling.

In short, schedule your priorities and important dates ASAP. For instance, if you know, there’s a meeting scheduled on the 30th of the month book the conference room this very second. If you have a dentist’s appointment in 6 months, get that in your calendar before scheduling something else.

3. Keep your calendar lean and mean.

As I just mentioned, if something isn’t in your calendar, then it’s not worthy of your time and energy. But, does that mean that you need to literally plan every minute of your day? Not exactly.

By all means, get those key entries onto your calendar. But, also leave some blocks open. One example of this would be having a gap between meetings. It’s a simple way to prevent overlapping — plus, it allows you to catch your breath.

Furthermore, there’s another reason not to pack your calendar too tight. It will let you address any emergencies that might pop-up. In turn, you won’t completely ruin your schedule.

And, it’s also been found that healthy scheduling habits make you happy. Specifically, this applies to your social life. For instance, if you don’t have anything planned after running errands and you bumped into a friend, you could catch-up without feeling crunched for time.

4. Stay cool like a cucumber.

So, you’ve got a conflict? You might instinctively have a panic attack. Take a deep breath and relax. Everything’s going to be OK.

The worst possible outcome is that you might disappoint someone or have to adjust your schedule. It’s an annoyance. But, if you’re honest and aren’t making last-minute changes, everything will get back to order.

Additionally, if the other party made a mistake, show a little empathy. As humans, that’s going to happen. Besides, chastising them won’t help correct their time management problems.

5. Don’t have a communication breakdown.

While your handy online calendar can help avert possible conflicts, you can’t solely rely on it. Case in point, you have a family emergency a couple of hours before a meeting. Your calendar obviously doesn’t know this information. As a result, it’s still going to assume that the event will take place as scheduled.

In this case, you need to let the other attendees know. You also need to cancel or reschedule that event. If you don’t have a new date in mind, just let them know that you will pick a new date as soon as possible.

Long story short, keep the lines of communication open. It may take you a couple of minutes. But, it shows others that you respect their valuable time. And, it may also help you de-escalate any possible workplace conflicts.

6. Have a backup plan.

You can’t possibly prepare for every scenario. Personally, I just don’t think that’s possible. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a Plan D, C, and D.

For instance, if you have to reschedule a virtual call, come up with a couple of other possible alternative dates. The reason? Since you have a proposal ready, you won’t play the time-consuming game of cat and mouse.

What if you don’t fill these blocks of time up? No worries. You can use that block to tackle backburner tasks, get the head start on a new project, or kick back and relax for a minute.

Another suggestion could be when it comes to employee scheduling. You might want to have some back-ups in cause someone can’t make it into work. To make this process a little easier on you, you could even permit your team members to pick their own subs.

7. It’s OK to say no.

What if you said yes to a time request only to find out that there’s a calendar dispute? The answer is easy. Just say, “no.”

I know that you don’t want to upset anyone. However, you aren’t doing anyone any favors by spreading yourself too thin. So, if you are already going to a party on Saturday, then you’ll have to pass on another invite.

When it comes to working, you also need to know your limitations. If you’re at full capacity, then don’t accept or volunteer for new assignments.

What exactly should you decline? That’s really up to you. But, some of the most common examples would be:

  • Anything that could be easily delegated or outsourced.
  • Actions that don’t align with your vision.
  • Things that distract you.
  • Unhealthy habits.
  • Things that aren’t in your control.

I’d also add that just because you reject a time request doesn’t mean you should feel guilty. In fact, you could offer an alternative date when you have the availability. After all, if you don’t protect your time, then who will?

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