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Time Well Spent: How a Calendar Review Enhances Goal Achievement

  • June 26, 2023

Have you ever had several months go by without feeling like you did any work that lit you up?

Or you look back and see that the last time you did the thing that really fills your cup was over six months ago?

Or maybe you find yourself asking saying, "I can't believe it's already [insert month or milestone here that felt like it was a long way away, but it snuck up on you]".

I find that these milestones used to leave me questioning how I was spending my time and whether it was put to the best use. If you can relate, I have an exercise for you that will help.  

Life moves quickly and it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities without assessing whether how we are spending our time aligns with our priorities.

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." - Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest)

Enter the calendar review. 

What's a Calendar Review? 

A calendar review is a process of looking back at all the items that made your calendar in the past three, six, or twelve months and auditing them. It's more than just the mere observation of what happened, but the evaluation of how you feel about how that time was spent. 

I recommend completing a calendar review at least twice a year - at the end of June and end of December.

The Importance of a Calendar Review

Strategically placed calendar reviews give us an opportunity to pause, reflect, and make adjustments on how we are spending our time to make sure they align with the life we are trying to design. This intentional reflection can then help provide a filter through which we can make future decisions on what we will say yes to and what we need to move off of our calendars.

It doesn't just provide an opportunity to ensure we are making progress toward our goals, it also helps us stay focused on priorities outside of work. A calendar review helps us: 

  • Evaluate Progress: You can reflect on the specified time frame and assess whether your actions are moving you toward your goals. It gives valuable insights into our habits, patterns, and time management skills.
  • Course Correct: It can help you see at a high level how any time misalignment might be impacting your goal achievement and allows you to make adjustments that do align with your aspirations.
  • Cultivate Gratitude: It provides a framework to appreciate your experiences, connections, and lessons. Gratitude enhances overall well-being and encourages a positive mindset.
  • Learn from Mistakes: You can reflect on missed opportunities and identify lessons to inform how you'll spend your time in the future to accelerate your personal growth.

The speed at which time passes is beyond our control, but how we choose to live within that time is entirely up to us. Be intentional, and make every moment count." - Tony Robbins.

How to Conduct a Calendar Review

Step 1: Set aside 30-60 minutes

This isn't just a mindless sorting exercise. You'll be reflecting on how you feel about the time you spent. Give yourself space to not just sort but evaluate your activities. If your calendar is traditionally jam-packed, you'll need closer to 60 minutes for this. 

Step 2: Create a Spreadsheet

Yes, like many audits, I recommend doing this one in a spreadsheet. It allows you to sort activities and see them clearly.

Create a spreadsheet and label the first 3 columns as follows: 

  1. More of this! 
  2.  Less of this! 
  3. Missing 

Step 3: Categorize

Then, I open up my Google calendar on one screen and leave this spreadsheet open on the other. If you don't have two screens, I'd use my phone for the calendar app and keep the spreadsheet up on my laptop.

With this, I go through every meeting, event and commitment from the beginning of the period to the end. Looking at each commitment, I ask: 

  1. Was this AWESOME? Did it impact me in a positive way? Do I wish I could do more of this? These items get listed in the More of this! column.
  2.  Was this a waste of time or energy? Did this cost a lot of money that wasn't worth it? Did this stress me out or make me anxious? If so, list it in the Less of this! column.

This part can be time-consuming but it's well worth it, so stick with it!

As an example, things that end up in my More of this! column include date nights with my husband, hikes with my kids, wine nights with my girlfriends, speaking engagements, coffee dates with networking contacts, and coaching appointments with clients.

Things that have been in my Less of this! column in the past were things like placing supply orders, reconciling credit card statements, doom scrolling social media, and attending events that I felt like I should go to, but didn't feel connected to.

Your list might look different and that's great! We're all unique and what we enjoy is different. Be true to yourself when categorizing so you don't end up stuck doing things that don't fill you up or move you forward. 

As my friend Kate Carter says, "Stop SHOULDING on yourself!"

Finally, is there anything else you did in this time period that didn't make the calendar? If you're good at capturing everything, this might not be an issue. But some of us aren't good at going back to the weekend to make a note that we went for a walk with a friend, or had an impromptu trip to your parents' house. These are still important to capture, so take a minute and try to think back on what's not on these lists that you know you did in this time.

Once you have classified where you spent your time, take a breath!

Step 4: Evaluate

Now comes the fun and eye-opening part of this calendar review exercise. Put away your calendar and focus on your spreadsheet. As you look at it, ask yourself:

  1. Is one list longer than the other? Why? How did I let it get that way? 
  2. What can I realistically drop from the Less of this! list that can help me create more time and space? If it can't be eliminated, can it be automated or delegated? 
  3.  What's missing from this list? What do you enjoy doing that didn't make time for in the past 6 months? What do you want more of in the future? List these things in the Missing list. These might be items like prospecting, business development, or strategic planning if you're a business owner. or they might be things like regular contact with your grandma or creating time for workouts or a massage. Whatever you want to see more of, list them here. 
  4.  Is how I'm spending my time aligning with my goals and vision for my life? Am I spending too much time in an area that isn't moving me in the direction I want? 
  5. As I review my goals, what adjustments do I need to make to dedicate the time necessary to achieve them? 
  6. Am I investing enough time in activities that fill me up, rejuvenate me and my well-being, and recharge me to show up as the best version of myself? 

Summary

A calendar review is a powerful reflection tool to enhance goal achievement, productivity, and fulfillment. By evaluating how you spend your time at least twice a year, and realigning it to your priorities, you can ensure your time is well spent and directed toward what matters most. Look forward and schedule 30-60 minutes in your calendar now for your next calendar review. I promise it will be an eye-opening experience to help you readjust and stay focused.

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