The art of using your calendar

The Art Of Using Your Calendar

Most you are using your calendar (“paper or plastic?” – I mean “paper or digital?”) to remind us of appointments with others. But how are we dealing with deadlines?

First off, you have got to marvel at the word “deadline.” It has the word “dead” in it. Very attractive.

“Milestone”? That sounds better. Yet, these are the makers we use to measure that we are on target time- and budget-wise when we embark on a larger project. “Due date”? Okay. You’ve got to pay your dues?! Never mind, stop playing with words, Stephie.

How are we dealing with deadlines then? Some people put them onto their calendars, too. The question is: How do we make sure we are executing the tasks that need to be done successfully and on time?

An Example Close to Home

Let’s look at an example close (very close) to home. Our son is 13, and he is in eight grade. As is typical for this grade, he has seven classes taught by seven teachers. The school uses an online system called Canvas which shows which assignments are due when.

In other words, it shows the deadlines, along with instructions on what to do. Another system, Skyward, shows the resulting grades. If you turn in your assignment late, you’re “dead.” Well, not quite – but you lose a lot of points and your grades won’t be pretty.

Let’s say the assignment is called “Continental Drift Research” Let’s say it is due on Thursday, Oct 21 at 4:15 pm.

Luckily, the assignment spells out the following steps:

  1. Complete all parts of pages x and y.
  2. Use a highlighter to write your name across your assignment.
  3. Take a picture that shows ALL PARTS of the assignment.
  4. Submit all pictures.

You now could estimate the time any of these steps take. My guess is step 1 takes the longest. Let’s say 30 minutes. #2 is very fast. #3 should be pretty quick, too. #4 should not take more than 10 minutes unless you encounter a technical snag.

In this situation, one could schedule a time slot for 30 minutes for step 1. One could measure whether one’s time estimate was accurate so that one can make an even more accurate guess next time something similar is due. One could schedule another 15-20 minutes for steps 2-4 at a different time. Or one could schedule 45-50 minutes all at once. As long as steps 1-4 get done successfully before the deadline, life is good.

Let’s Face It: Most People Don’t Do This

Let’s face it: Most people do not do this. Never mind teenagers; most adults do not do this. Why? There are many reasons:

  • “Too much work.”
  • “I can’t estimate the time the task will take”
  • “I don’t want to.”

All good “reasons.” Except. It works. This method works. It gives you success. It gives you freedom. It frees you from anxiety. Not all anxiety mind you but a lot of it. You can avoid an impossible pile of work bunching up right before a “dead”line.

A quick confession: There are areas where I do not follow my own advice. Why? The task is “revolting” to me. Well, maybe not “revolting” but not pleasant. This is the area where growth in self-discipline comes in. Often, I set up a pinch of accountability for myself to get there.

I Am Curious

How do you deal with deadlines? How happy are you with your method and its results? How do you create accountability for yourself?


  1. Robert Donnell on at

    For me, if it is not in my calendar, it is not “real”. Date and time make it happen.

    • Stephie Althouse on at


  2. Tyler on at

    Stephie – my (digital) calendar is my lifeline. I use the “all day” setting to prompt me about start dates for projects and deadlines. I include everything from reminders about “to dos” that are coming up to report submittal deadlines and everything in between. If it’s on my calendar it will either get done (literally checked off) off moved to another day. It’s the BEST way to break down large, complex projects and make sure the steps all get done along the way. Great post – as they all are!
    Best – Tyler

    • Stephie Althouse on at

      Thamk you so much, Tyler! You are a star! 🙂

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