How I track everything with calendars

Ming
3 min readJan 24, 2022

Ever peeked at your manager’s/professor’s calendar? Isn’t its information density stunning! Have you ever inferred prestige and wisdom from someone’s mastery of calendars? Don’t — You don’t have to wait till you’ve climbed to the C-level to start respecting your time.

Real photo of my calendar.

I can’t live a day without my calendar. If anything has a (vague) time frame, I add it to my calendar. Today, my calendar has become complex and critical to my everyday life. In this article, I would like to share my best ideas to use calendars.

Explore subscribable calendars

Think newsletters, but for important events. If you use Apple calendars, Google calendars, and/or Microsoft Outlook, You might be familiar with the public holiday calendars they automatically sign you up for. You might be interested to know that there are a plethora of interesting calendars out there:

Track itineraries

Before email providers started automatically extracting itineraries from income emails to my calendar, I relied on Tripit. Each time I receive a confirmation email from a travel agency, Airbnb, or airline, I forward the email to plans@tripit.com. Tripit recognizes my email address, parses the itinerary information, and add the appointment to a calendar that only I subscribe to. It works like a charm.

When traveling by bus/train, I would look up the route on Google maps, where I can add the route to my calendar with a single click.

Nowadays, driving more and taking public transit less, I still make a point to book out time slots that I’ll be on the roads. Apple calendar makes it a breeze:

Track how you actually use your time

I’ve been tracking how I spent my time since August 2016. The workflow is like this:

  1. Every time I sit down and focus on something, I start a timer on Toggl Track.
  2. The app allows me to pre-summarize the task at hand, which helps me clarify the goal, instead of busying myself blindly.
  3. When I’m done or decide to take a break, I stop the timer.
  4. The time entry is automatically synced to my calendar, marked in bright red. I chose an alarming color here, because it is how you actually spent your time that ultimately matters.

The syncing is achieved with a Zapier workflow. (You may try automate.io as an alternative.) The free plan I’m on is limited to 100 actions per month, which translates to around 3 entries per day. This limitation requires me to prefer fewer and longer focus times, instead of more but shorter ones. In a way, it nudges me to keep the flow rolling once I get in it, essentially training myself to stay focused for longer.

Some other ideas

We all wear many hats, and it’s important to focus on one role at a time. Different calendars can help you segregate your roles from each other: When you are at work, toggle off the personal calendars; On a holiday, hide the corporate schedules. Less distractions, better mindfulness.

Look out for “add to calendar” buttons online. They make planning your day much easier and forgetting appointments less likely. Services like movie theatres, doctor appointments, and Eventbrite are known to offer such convenience.

Conclusion

I love my calendars. They have deeply integrated with my day-to-day lifestyle. I hope these ideas are helpful to you. Have more ideas regarding managing appointments? Let me know in the comments!

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