Over the years, I’ve used all sorts of products for planning my days. A good, old-fashioned wall calendar, a binder I put together for myself that I then lovingly referred to as “Mom’s Brain in a Binder”, and for several years I used those beautiful, two-pages per day Day Timer planners.
The problem, of course, came in having to write and rewrite all of those recurring tasks, or flipping in my binder from my household chores lists to my menu planning page to my personal calendar page and then back to the chores again. I also found it frustrating to always need to return to the planner to see what was coming up later in the day or further on in the list. Several years ago, I discovered the beauty of using the calendar that came installed on my computer, but the first time it crashed, losing all of my data, I was right back to using a paper calendar system. I thought to myself, “Someone needs to find a way to make this system work on the computer.”. Someone did.
I now use Google Calendar exclusively. It’s easy to use. It’s cloud based, so all of my information is available anywhere. I need only log into my account on any Internet connected computer. My information is safe and secure. I can share with the entire world, if I like, or with just my family, or with no one at all. It’s totally up to me. I can set up reminders for events or appointments and have those reminders pop up on my computer screen, arrive via email, or, my favorite option, remind me via text message to my phone. There’s even a very sleek smartphone app that enables me to have access to all of my calendars wherever I am. Best of all, it’s absolutely FREE!
I know there are other web-based, cloud-based calendar products out there, but Google Calendar is powerful and secure, and in the years I’ve been using it, I’ve never experienced a time when it was unavailable for more than a few seconds. Did I mention that it’s absolutely free? There are no premium packages or upgrades to buy. All the features, all the time, for free. That’s my plug for Google Calendar.
Google Calendar makes it very easy for me to set up, amend, and work with my time “budget”. I’m sure you can use the same principles with any computer-based calendar program. The time management – time budgeting principles are the important thing. We want to give every hour a job and to be sure that we are not “overspending” our time. To get started with Google Calendar, go to Google.com, click the “Calendar” tab at the top of the page and follow the steps to sign in to, or create, your Google account.
I start by creating a brand new calendar in Google Calendar. Since I’m using this calendar to “budget” my time, making sure that all of my hours have a job and making sure that I’m not trying to cram too much into my days, I like to title the calendar “Time Budget Calculator”. Name yours whatever makes you happy.
There it is! A completely clean, blank slate for you to work with.
Remember, we want to add our fixed, non-negotiable activities first. If you have a job outside your home, those hours should be entered here. Sleep should definitely be considered a non-negotiable and you should have a relatively fixed time for that to happen, too. The nice thing about Google Calendar is that I only have to type the activity in one time, use the edit screen to set the frequency (daily, in this instance) and Google does the rest.
You’ll continue adding those activities that must take place at a particular time and that are non-negotiables in your life to your calendar before anything else. Again, if you’re struggling and don’t seem to have enough time in your day for everything that you think you should be doing, or if you’d like to find a way to make time for a few more things that you want to be doing, I highly recommend that you read Tell Your Time.
My family likes to eat at regular times during the week, so I plan to make that happen. Church happens at a regular time every Sunday, and we consider that a non-negotiable. Right now, the importance of being part of a ladies’ Bible study at church is a non-negotiable for me, too, so I included that as a fixed, non-negotiable as well.
You’ll continue adding activities to your calendar, working from the items of highest importance to the activities that are more flexible and/or are a lower priority. Your priorities will not be the same as anyone else’s. Only you can decide what things are non-negotiable in your life and which things carry a lower priority. You’ll need to pray about this, and you may need to consult your husband or a trusted friend to help you, especially if everything seems like a non-negotiable.
As you work, you will find that you’ll need to make changes. The ability to easily move an activity, change its frequency or the day(s) it occurs, or amend the amount of time devoted to the activity, is one of my favorite things about Google Calendar. You make the change once on an edit screen, and Google Calendar makes all the necessary changes on your calendar. It really is just that easy. No messy erasing on a piece of paper or using that messy liquid white out. No need to edit every occurrence of a particular event. If my Bible study group moved from Friday at 10:00 a.m. to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m., I’d only need to type in that change one time and the change would be made from that point forward.
Before you know it, all of the activities that make up your days and weeks will have been given a slot on your Time Budget Calendar. Live with it for awhile. Do some fine tuning. Once you’re happy with your calendar, you might want to rename it. Mine is simply called “Cher’s Main Calendar”. I’ll start a brand new “time budget calculator” calendar the next time I need to do a major revision.
One big reminder here – we’re not, necessarily, making a schedule that is to be followed minute by minute, hour by hour. If you enjoy that type of meticulous scheduling, then by all means, go for it. You’ll notice that my day is arranged, for the most part, in large chunks of time. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m really more of a flow-chart kind of gal, and you probably are aware by now that I like to stress the importance of holding your plans loosely. That said, my own “Cher’s Main Calendar” is simply the goal of what I hope to accomplish every day. On a very few, rare days, the day matches the calendar maybe 95%. Most days are close, but not quite there, and many days fall woefully short of the ideal. However, because I have all of my tasks and activities on my calendar, I can see at a glance what the non-negotiables for the day are, which things are of a lesser but still high priority, and which things really are not all that important. I know that I won’t forget to take care of the important stuff!
Google Calendar is one of the most important tools is my arsenal as a wife, mom, homeschooling parent, homemaker and grandma. It’s easy to use, and it allows for a lot of flexibility as I do my best to budget my time wisely.