How to get on top of Things Using a Routine Calendar

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If you’re struggling to keep on top of the things you want to do, whether it be work out, see your friends, do you side hustle , or absolutely anything; create a calendar for your daily routine. Fill in an event for every minute of your average day. It sounds absolutely insane because it sort of is. It’s extreme, but it helps.

You’re made up by the routines you keep every day. If you don’t brush your teeth one day, it probably doesn’t too much. But if you don’t brush your teeth every day for a year, it’s going to matter a whole lot. Every little habit whether you’re aware of it or not makes up who you are now and in the future. It’s a bit scary! But it’s also a powerful force for change. If you can harness even the smallest of habits to your advantage, you can create fundamental changes in your life.

A really simple way to see what your habits are is to keep a routine calendar. It’s a calendar that sounds pretty extreme - you create an event for every minute of your average day. You end up with an extremely full calendar and a very clear picture of where you spend your time. It can be used in a number of different ways: as a planning tool to help you figure out how to fit things into your life, as a warning system so you know when something is about to break, and as a way to make sure you’re getting the most important things you want to get done.


I do this digitally. However, you could do it on paper if you wanted - you’d just need to re-write the calendar when it goes out of date.

To do it digitally, create a new calendar in your calendar app of choice. I use Fantastical (Mac, iPhone, iPad). The routine calendar needs to be seperate so that you can easily turn it on and off when you’re using your calendar app day to day. At the moment I’m using three calendars to help with this since I have a few priorities that I like to have in other colours. It’s also useful to be able to see those calendars while not seeing the rest of my routine.


The next step is to fill out every hour of the day for a period that makes sense for you. For me, a week tends to be a good time period since there are a lot of things that happen every week.

I admit it, this is pretty over the top. Every person I speak to about this thinks I’m slightly mad. Maybe they’re right. But there’s a chance they’re missing the point - this calendar isn’t meant to limit me to doing only these things, or make me so regimented that I don’t have any room for anything. It’s meant to help me create space and be realistic about the things I'm committed to.

A few notes about my calendar to help explain the method behind my madness:

  • The red is my training schedule - I’m committed to this each day and the timing in the calendar is the ideal time for a workout for me with the way I eat, but I don’t necessarily do the workouts at this time every day. Having this in the calendar helps me in two ways:
    • I know that I need to have about an hour available for the workout each day at whatever time I can make it fit.
    • I know if I can do it at the optimal time, things are going well.
  • The orange is my creative schedule. Yes, I know, how can you calendar creativity? The issue for me is that without making space for this I tend to simply fill up my time with work or things like Facebook. My problem is that I have spent so many years getting into the habit of filling my spare time with non-creative things, it’s hard to break. This is my way of trying to break that habit.
  • The brown is the real guts of my 'routine'. It's the basic stuff I've got to do to keep functioning at a high level - that's why I include sleep, time with my partner, time with friends, and rest time in there.

Planning vs. just living

The ‘routine’ calendar is a good low level planning tool. It helps with implementation of your goals because you can get a realistic map of your commitments and plan how to get everything done. It helps you see in one place what your commitments are and what might suffer if you want to start doing something new without giving anything else up.

But the thing most people get concerned about when I talk to them about this ‘calendar every minute of your day’ thing is the loss of spontaneity. If every minute is accounted for, how can you have time to be human? Look, this may not work for everyone, but I encourage you to give it a go. If you simply put times in your routine for spontaneous activities, you won’t lose it. Sometimes when you're trying to make a change, you need to do something that seems a little extreme! Trust me, give it a go at least, it might surprise you.

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