How to Do Anything Better: Practice Calendars

I don’t know about you, but I live and die by my calendars. Between my smartphone and my Outlook calendar at work, my entire life hangs in the balance of these handy electronic schedulers. Rather than feel confined by this, I actually like it that way. I love being able to open my Outlook calendar at the beginning of the day or week and see what I’ve got going on. I enjoy well-organized days and even feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m able to schedule multiple back-to-back items that complement each other, in one fell swoop of amazing efficiency. And after a highly scheduled week, I admit to the guilty pleasure of discovering with glee a day that is…wait for it…completely unscheduled.

My last post was about practice as a means of getting better. Well-worn as it is, practice makes perfect. Enter the concept of the practice calendar. This is simply a calendar that is devoted entirely to you getting better at a skill you choose. You might choose to schedule a particular task to practice every day or several times a week. In any case, you’re more likely to follow through with practice tasks if they’re already on your calendar. In a way, planning out your tasks ahead of time makes things easier in that on any given day, you’ve already done the mental work of figuring out what you need to do. It’s just a matter of doing it. In essence, you’re front-loading your work effort to a time when you’re extra-motivated (the day you make the calendar). This allows you to just run on auto-pilot on those days when you’re not feeling so motivated- all you have to do is blindly follow your calendar, no thinking required. As you rack up the practice sessions, so too will you rack up mastery of whatever skill you’re trying to develop.

So I would posit this as my new strategy for doing anything better.

1. Choose a skill.

2. Establish a new calendar (Outlook, Google Calendar, iCal, etc.) for that skill.

3. Fill in a month’s worth of practice tasks. They can be all the same if you’re trying to establish a new habit, or the tasks can increase in difficulty/length as the month progresses to keep you engaged and growing.

4. Print out your calendar and post in a place you’ll see it.

5. Follow it one day at a time and watch the results roll in!

Have you ever made a practice calendar, and if so, has it worked for you?

Erica Bakota is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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David B. Grinberg

Nice post, Erica. You know what they say, practice makes perfect!

I would just reiterate your point about printing it out because one needs a hard copy back up for sensitive info stored on electronic tools (which may be lost, stolen and/or broken at times). Moreover, it helps to see it in a printed version as a reminder and motivator.