Hello fellow humans; it’s your favorite Earth sign coming at you with some great organization tactics.
For the vast majority of my life, I believed I was an unorganized person because sometimes my room gets a little messy and I don’t make my bed every morning. For 18 years, my very organized mother and the public school system really kept me on track, as every event or task had a start and end time, for the most part. When I entered my first year of college, I was thrown for a huge whirlwind, having lost a consistent school schedule and the main person who kept track of my life. After floundering for a year, and adjusting poorly to life on my own, I decided something needed to change. I entered sophomore year of college with an 18 credit schedule, as a new resident advisor, in a new relationship, and after one day of training for the school year I thought- “I’ve gotta get my shit together”.
I’ve been using Google Calendar since August of 2017 to generally keep track of my daily going-ons. In college this mainly consisted of classes and meetings, working in tandem with the most ridiculous amount of to-do lists crowding my notes app or sketchbooks.
(Look at all that open time to just… vaguely “Get work done??)
After graduating college and formally entering the workforce, I started feeling ridiculously lost on a day to day basis with the way I was still attempting to handle my scheduling. I would also often forget things I had scheduled but not entered into my calendar, and no one likes to miss or have to reschedule something they promised they’d do.
(Seriously what is that? I was unemployed but still-)
That was until I found a concept called Calendar Blocking. By happenstance, a video popped up on my feed by a YouTuber named Amy Landino, about how she uses Google Calendar in a very different way than I had been doing for years.
What is Calendar Blocking? Let’s start there. Calendar Blocking is a method of scheduling where you plot out your calendar with all of your major, necessary events, thus making time for smaller things you never knew you had the time to do. It’s an amazing tactic for time optimization, because personally, something I’ve often said is “I just really don’t have time to relax”. With all your larger tasks already laid out in front of you, it is so much easier to see the extra time you didn’t know you had in a day.
[I will disclaim that I am a decently busy person, and I put this upon myself. I work a full time 40 hour a week job, (which pre-COVID I was making a daily 4 hour commute into the city for my job), while also working 4 other part-time/freelance jobs, hosting a weekly podcast, being part of a monthly book club, going to an average 1-2 concerts a week, working out, sleeping 4-6 hours every night and going on random dates/keeping up a pretty decent social life. I am very well aware of what a psycho I must look like, but if this can work for me, it can definitely work for you.]
To start my Calendar Blocking journey, I utilized the “My calendars” tool on the left most side of your Google Calendar. (I would highly suggest starting your GCal journey on a laptop for clarity’s sake.) Didn’t know you could create different calendars for yourself within GCal? Me neither! I wrote down a list of the most major things I consistently do and would need separated/categorized. For me, that was Work, Travel, Routines, Workouts, Friends, Family, Concerts, Dates, Personal, and “General Get Stuff Done”. That sounds like a lot, but stay with me. When you separate out these calendars, you can label them, and make them different colors. For more visual people such as myself, once my week is plotted out, I can look at a calendar and know just how much work, personal etc. tasks I plan on doing that week. (The colors are also personal to what I think deserves each color and it makes it look pretty). You can also turn off certain calendars if you only want to see, say, what your work schedule looks like for the week.
Once I had my calendars set up, it was time to get to work in putting in my daily/weekly schedule. Knowing I had my full time job from 9:30am-5:30pm every weekday was a fantastic start. I scheduled in my “Work” calendar a weekday repeating event labeled “Work at [My company]. From there, I wonder, how long does it take me to get to work? After looking up train times, I schedule a “Travel” event for my trains to work and home every day, plus the drives to and from the train station. With 12 hours of my day already plotted, looking at the next 12 hours was easy. 8 to sleep, 2 to eat, 1.5 for getting ready and daily hygiene, all in “Routines”. You heard me, I schedule my showers. Sometimes you don’t remember you need to make time for things like that!
Okay, so I know looking at this makes some folks want to vomit, and trust me, I understand. This is not for the faint of heart. For me, this brings the Earth sign in me extreme peace. Why? Because now I know where I’m supposed to be for all those hours and at what time. And what you don’t see in this screenshot is the open hours from 7pm-midnight everyday. I personally would maximize my time by doing all of the freelance work or book club reading I could on my daily 4 hour commute. This leaves time for all the other things I want to do.
Now that we have the concrete, immovable tasks/events in place, we can move on to the things we want to do! When someone asks “when are you free?”, it is clear as day that according to this schedule right now, that I am free, say Wednesday night for dinner with an old college friend, and Friday night to watch The Mandalorian with my dad? Of course!
Now that I’ve scheduled both the “have to’s”, and the “for funs”, all things to do with other people, I consider myself. Things I need to do or would like to do, that only concern me, or can be moved. Something that scares people a lot about calendar blocking is the seemingly inflexibility of this form of scheduling. Bear in mind that this is just a “block”. It’s just an estimated amount of time in which you promise yourself you’re going to do something. It’s important to keep your goals realistic, and also make a promise to yourself not to beat yourself up when you have to extend a task by an hour or so. That is perfectly okay, it’s Google Calendar, it’s not set in stone.
And voila! We’ve got a week planned! Personally I like to normally fill each day, even if I just put up a personal block for “dicking around on my phone” or “talking to my mom on the porch”, because it’s so important to schedule some downtime in your busy schedule. Calendar Blocking for me is part organization, part time maximization- and in the least captialistic way possible. I have a really hard time conceptualizing in my head how long something will take to do, or what my week looks like if I don’t have it right in front of me. Having those big open white spaces after I’ve scheduled all of my necessary tasks for the week brings me peace and freedom to plan for time to relax and do things specifically for myself, which I’ve never prioritized in my life before now.
I personally am a person who needs structure but malleability in that structure. Seeing the things I “must” do allows me to be able to do the things I “want” freely and without worry. I think this way of scheduling your life is super beneficial for people who love the in-betweens, like yours truly. The number one reason I love Google Calendar as the vehicle for this kind of scheduling is that it is available across any device you have internet, your phone, your iPad, your laptop, so you can access it anywhere to look at or alter. The last helpful thing I do is have a reminder set on all events to notify me 10 minutes before an event is happening. This is very helpful for those of us who have an “out of sight out of mind” tendencies, because the calendar will literally tell you you have things to do or places to be.
Now, during COVID, ironically enough I have the most time I’ve had in a while to get things done, especially working out, because I don’t have to give up 4 hours a day on a train. That’s why when everyone was freaking out about staying busy inside and adjusting, I just looked at my GCal was like, oh we’ve got this babe.
If you’d like more information on Calendar Blocking, I would highly recommend watching the video by Amy, linked above. While this article is basically a pitch as to why you should Calendar Block, she does an incredible job walking you through actually using Google Calendar. I’m eternally grateful I found this way of scheduling, and I hope this provided you some insight on how to potentially better organize your days. I think at this point in my life I can formally say, I am an organized person. Happy scheduling folks!