Mavs’ Tips and Tricks with Google Calendar

Hello everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day!

For today’s post, I want to share with you some of Google Calendar’s tips and tricks that I have found helpful in graduate school. I am now in my third year in my Ph.D. program and I have finished my required classes. I am also working as a research assistant.  That means LOTS OF UNSTRUCTURED TIME! Now, for some people having unstructured time means having a lot of free time… But for me having a lot of unstructured time is dangerous — because there are days when I would rather watch the latest Korean drama than work on my research. So how do I deal with it? Let me show you the ways…

1. Use Google calendar.

I love my Google calendar. I am super dependent on it – I have it on my phone and it is the first thing I access when I get in the office. I have also configured it to send me an e-mail every day at 5 am to inform me about everything I need to do. Here’s a screenshot on how to configure the settings to get it to send you email notifications. (The settings shows up when you click the gear icon near the upper right corner)

2. Have multiple calendars and color code them. 

I have multiple calendars but I make sure that I see all of it in its entirety. Now you may wonder, why multiple calendars? I have calendars I share with research group members for projects and  I would only want to share relevant information ((You wouldn’t want your project members to know that you have a dentist appointment when it doesn’t concern them!)).

Keeping multiple calendars – and a separate one for my personal needs (sleeping, exercise) also ensures that I actually get some shut eye. One of my resolutions this year is to sleep better because it makes me a more functional person, a better grad student and a happier person in general.

Now, what’s with the color coding? Color coding also helps you track your time. I found tracking how much time I spend on projects keeps me accountable and helps me make better-informed decisions on how I spend my time. Supposing, I have 10 hours to spend on Project X, and 5 hours on Project Y and found myself needing more hours on Project Y because Task 1 took much longer, I can readjust my time based on what I may have done in the past.

Here’s a screenshot of what my work week looks like this week.

3. Mark milestones on the calendar. 

This year I wanted to be more strategic on how I spend my time on projects. I am attending multiple conferences and if I am not mindful the deadline just creeps in without me knowing. So I decided to plan my semester. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out NCFDD’s Every Semester Needs a Plan and Aligning Your Priorities webinar. The site requires you to register but the webinars are extremely helpful in helping you break down big goals into smaller tasks and making time for them! I highly recommend them.

Anyway, I mark milestones in my calendar to let me know that by some time period I should have finished Project X’s section three.  You can set it up by adding all-day events. Here’s what it looks like:

I also use the milestone function to inform me of bills, conferences, big events I need to be mindful of.

4. Use the hyperlink to keep track of written documents.

One trick I have found very useful – especially if you use Google Drive to share documents with team members is to use the hyperlinks to inform members of any changes you have made on a written document. I also make a short note to inform them what I have done for that particular time period. It is a great accountability tool and you can see the status of the project.

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

5. Use the task function.

I use the task function for things that do not require more than 15 minutes of my time or things I just need to remember (e.g. Return Yan’s bowl from the dinner party). I also use it to remind me of where I parked my car (I developed a coding scheme to inform me of which floor and which row I parked my car in Grant Street Parking Garage).

6. Have a Friday meeting.

I usually reflect and populate my calendar for the upcoming week before I leave work on Friday.  I spend about 30 minutes going through the process of listing down everything I need to do the following week (readings, writing I need to work on, etc) and then populating my calendar. Having a plan before my new week starts helps me prime myself for the next work week ahead. And oh, I consciously take a day off each week – to run errands, to recuperate, and to rest. Taking a break is good for one’s soul. Because I have a plan made on Friday, by Monday, when I pick up my work I know exactly what I need to do.

7. Be flexible.

One thing I had to wrap my head around is the idea that YOU WILL NEVER finish all the things you want to do and you have to be flexible in how to manage your time. There would be days when I swap one scheduled task for another – that’s okay, if it makes more sense, then why not? You also have to realize that for some tasks you will encounter technical difficulties (e.g., the task you scheduled was dependent on something else, you don’t have the appropriate tools for the scheduled task), psychological blocks (e.g. you find yourself dealing with debilitating anxiety) and external realities (e.g. you need to rush to the emergency room, etc). It’s okay, you don’t need to beat yourself up for it. You acknowledge the challenges and find ways to deal with them. Also, some times you need to be creative with how you use your time… I would walk on the treadmill as I finish my readings – I get my exercise and my reading done.

I hope the things I shared with you helps you somehow… The key is to find what works for you. 🙂


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