Saving Time and Money with a Simple Google Calendar Hack

There are all kinds of methods out there for creating and using to-do lists — everything from good old pen and paper to entire systems like Getting Things Done. But none of them work unless you use them consistently.

When I decided to go from a paper system to an electronic system, I had some difficulty. I tried several things, including Google’s tasks feature, but they just wasn’t doing it for me.

Then it hit me: why not combine what I like about a paper list (being able to cross things off) with the convenience of an electronic list on my calendar? (The ability to schedule recurring events, move things around easily, etc.)

Here’s how it works:

    1. Create at least two calendars in Google calendar. (One for work and one for home.) This will make it easy to see which tasks and activities belong to which part of your life, and will let you hide one set with a single click if you don’t want to see them all at once.

 

    1. Enter your tasks and appointments into the calendar using the Create Event button. Even if you just need to do a task “sometime” during the day or week, pick a specific date and time and enter it as an event. Estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete the task while you’re at it. (I schedule things in 15 minute increments.) Don’t forget to schedule your actual appointments and events on the calendar too. If an activity or task recurs regularly, you can go ahead and set it to recur for as long as it’s going to be happening. You can also choose to email reminders to yourself. If you need to add a note to yourself about a particular item, that can be entered in the Description field. (Just add a little “See description” note at the end of the event title.)

 

  1. Cross things off as you complete them. To “cross things off” of the calendar when they’re complete, click the event to edit it, and the place an X and a dash at the beginning of the event like this:

    A whole day’s worth of “crossed off” items looks very satisfying in Agenda format, with that line of X’s. Plus, if you haven’t quite finished everything you intended to do, it’s easy to switch to the standard calendar format and drag the task to another day.

Start using your calendar religiously. If you have a smart phone, set Google calendar up to sync with it. Check your calendar first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Choose a regular time each day to schedule future tasks. (Of course, you can always add them as they come up as well, since the calendar is super easy to edit.)

Viewing the calendar in Agenda format is particularly handy, because it puts the tasks and events in chronological order so you can see what you plan to do when. If there are too many items on it, you can click off your “home” calendar while at work (or vice versa) to make things easier to read.

Using Google calendar as a combined to-do list/calendar has the added bonus of allowing you to track how long things actually take you to complete, because you can modify the start and end times of events to reflect what really happened. You might find out that you spend a lot more time doing certain things than you’d ever imagined, or that certain tasks just fly by.

If you have a business, you can use the calendar to keep track of the hours you spend working on various projects or for various clients, along with scheduling when to send out the bills so that you get paid in a timely manner.

And speaking of bills, you can schedule reminders to yourself to pay any bills that you don’t have set to be paid automatically. This is particularly useful for bills that recur only once or twice a year, like property taxes or car insurance. Avoiding late fees and unpleasant surprises can add up to big savings. On a more positive note, if there are coupons you know you want to use but don’t have time to do so right away or don’t have an immediate need for the item, you can add a reminder to use the coupons by a certain date to the calendar too.

In general, Google calendar just a great way to stay on track and truly get things done.

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