Look To Your Calendar First

With our lives getting busier and busier every year it becomes increasingly overwhelming for the busy professional to keep up. Add to that a home life with a spouse and children and you will have no other choice then to take up time management skills. One of those skills is keeping track of your lists and especially your “front-end” tracking tool: your calender.

Your most frequent review will probably be of your daily calendar, and your daily tickler folder if you’re maintaining one, to see the “big picture” and assess what has to get done. You need to know the time-and-space parameters first. Knowing that you have wall-to-wall meetings from 8:00 a.m. through 6:00 p.m., for example, with barely a half-hour break for lunch, will help you make necessary decisions about any other activities.

Next comes your action lists. After you review all your day and time-specific commitments and handle whatever you need to about them, your next most frequent area for review will be the lists of all the actions you could possibly do in your current context. If you’re in your office, for instance, you’ll look at your lists of calls, computer actions, and in-office things to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will actually be doing anything on those lists; you’ll just evaluate them against the flow of other work coming at you to ensure that you make the best choices about what to deal with. You need to feel confident that you’re not missing anything critical.

Frankly, if your calendar is trustworthy and your action lists are current, they may be the only things in the system you’ll need to refer to more than every couple of days. There have been many days when I didn’t need to look at any of my lists, in fact, because it was clear from the front end (my calendar) what I wouldn’t be able to do.

You may need to access any one of your lists at any time. When you and your spouse are decompressing at the end of the day, and you want to be sure you’ll take care of the “business” the two of you manage together about home and family, you’ll want to look at your accumulated agendas for him or her. On the other hand, if your boss pops in for a face-to-face conversation about current realities and priorities, it will be highly functional for you to have your “Projects” list up to date and your “Agenda” list for him or her right at hand.

3 Steps In Managing Commitments

In order to deal effectively with all of the to-do activities and surprises that is on your mind (and not yet on paper), you must first identify and collect all those things that are “ringing your bell” in some way, and then plan how to handle them. That may seem like a simple thing to do, but in practice most people don’t know how to do it in a consistent way. We then bring you “The Basic Requirements for Managing Commitments”

Managing commitments well requires the implementation of some basic activities and behaviors:

  1. First of all, if it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear. Anything you consider unfinished in anyway must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you’ll come back to regularly and sort through.
  2. Second, you must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to make progress toward fulfilling it.
  3. Third, once you’ve decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organized in a system you review regularly.


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