Low Level Planning – Use a Calendar tool

Example of a paper-based low level plan
Example of a paper-based low level plan

In my last post one of the best practices I listed was to plan with some sort of calendar tool (this can be paper).

This is helpful because at this detailed level of planning it really helps to be able to see your activities and tasks plotted out against not only the day, but ideally the hour. Use whatever tool you prefer that allows you to do this.

Here is an example of how I set up my low level plan using Entourage (the mac version of Outlook). I convert all my activities into calendar events and color code them according to different projects or work areas (ex. product development, marketing, business administration, personal, health.)

Using this system I can drag and drop activities around. Some mornings I don’t feel like tackling product development tasks, so I move and swap tasks around according to my mood, with peace of mind that the item is still on my plan and won’t get forgotten.

Lastly, when I block out an activity against time, I don’t have to worry that it’s going to get lost. Each week when I review and create a new plan, I either move ahead what I didn’t get done the previous week or decide it’s not worth doing. Switching the color of the item to white let’s me immediately see what was accomplished and what still needs to be tackled.

The example above is from my friend, the artist Stephanie Levy, who used a clever combination of a calendar and post-its based on an approach from Jennifer Lee. True, this version doesn’t track time against the hour, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do what works for you. Paper and post-its add just about all the same advantages as a digital calendar tool; you can break your activities down into discrete actions on each post-it, move each one around if your schedule or mood changes, as well as as have a visual reminder of what you need to do every day.

Another idea is to add a ‘done’ column on your paper plan where you can move post-its of items you have completed. Of course, you can throw these away too, but I like the idea of having a record somewhere. You can also make a paper-based calendar for the week with the hours of the day running down the side, and align your post-its to the hours. Whatever works.

In fact, today I think paper is a superior way to go, as my Entourage has ironically decided to die! Just when I was about to extol the benefits of using a digital calendar! God does have a sense of humor. But just as technology can throw cold water on our plans, paper can just as easily get lost. So either way, the lesson applies: make sure you have a means of preventing your plan from getting lost!

10 thoughts on “Low Level Planning – Use a Calendar tool

  1. I am definitely a writer. I use Google calendars because it reminds me where I need to be when, but for tasks, I couldn’t handle it “binging” at me all the time lol. I like to have it organized in a planner so I can write it down and have the satisfaction of crossing it off too!

  2. I am an older newly single learning to manage on little and making it last–I use the tiny post-its to identify how many servings of particular food/food dishes I have–and I save them to plan the next round. I am not “naturally” such a tight planner, but yes, doing this sort of thing takes a lot of anxiety out, makes resources work better–even time!

  3. Perfect timing as I am finally re-vamping my studio with organization in mind (new desk, lots of storage etc). Now I need a good system to track all my projects and “to do”‘s. I’m going to implement the digital calendar today and hopefully by next week this time many of my tasks will already be changed to white. I think looking at the accomplished tasks is a huge motivator to keep moving on the unfinished projects! Thanks so much.

  4. Thank you Eleanor for all the good tips – you are most likely more organized than I ever will be – on paper or digital 😉 Hope you were able to rescue your schedule from the digital version!

  5. I’ve recently started a similar system using the Google calendar which I can also sinc to my Droid phone, so that’s been helpful. I’m still tweeking mine, so your tips were helpful ~ Thanks!

  6. I write out daily to do lists and then erase the items that get finished (I use an HTC tablet that I can write on). If there are items left the date gets changed at the top and I keep them on until they are done.

    I’m thinking about adding Google calendar in to my organization though, since I could sync between my computer and the tablet…

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