I spent four years working as an executive assistant, and one of my responsibilities was to make sure my boss’s calendar was 100 per cent accurate. This meant ensuring that new meetings, deadlines and tasks were added to the calendar as they were scheduled. It also meant ensuring that any meetings or action items that didn’t happen were either rescheduled or removed from the calendar.
By not only adding calendar items but also editing and deleting them — that is, keeping a true record of everything that actually took place — I was able to craft a trustworthy document that could be used as a reference in the future.
If you use your calendar the way most of us use our calendars, you probably add a bunch of meetings and to-dos (or let your email client add them for you) and then just, like, leave them there.
This means that your calendar is junked up with events you didn’t attend, tasks you didn’t complete, meetings that appear on your calendar multiple times even though only one meeting actually took place, and so on.
It also means that the meetings, events and tasks you did attend/complete might not be on your calendar. If a friend invites you to lunch a week in advance, for example, you might add the event to your calendar; if they invite you to lunch 10 minutes in advance, you probably won’t.
Which means that the next time you ask yourself when you last had lunch with a particular friend (or when your last performance review was, or when you turned in that report) you won’t have accurate information.
Yes, most of us have multiple apps or tools to help us figure out the truth about when things actually took place. You can check your text messages to find out when you last met with your friend, or search your email to see when the report was sent.
But it’s a lot easier to open up your trustworthy calendar and confirm what actually took place last month, last year, or five years ago.
I quickly adopted my boss’s habit as my own, by the way, and it has proved immensely useful. Knowing everything from when I last pitched a client to when I last coloured my hair has helped me make smarter scheduling decisions and more effectively plan my workflow.
Keeping track of how long it takes me to complete each writing assignment, for example, lets me know how many assignments I can accept and still hit my deadlines.
And when things change (as they always do) I make sure my calendar changes as well. That way, I’ll always know what’s coming up — and what actually happened.