How To Use Your Digital Calendar as a Planner (while Reducing Stress and Frustration in the Process)

You want to make progress in your business. Yet, most days end without getting the most important work done. You’ve tried pen-to-paper to-do lists, fancy planners, and techy apps to no avail. But have you considered using your digital calendar as a planner? No?

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Well, stick around. Today you’ll discover why you should go digital and how to easily get started. Because we like the KISS method…Keep It Super Simple…around here.

This is gonna be fun!

The Problem with Paper Planners

I can feel you cringing at the thought of using a digital calendar as a planner. And I completely understand. I’m a pen-to-paper kinda gal myself.

For years, I was what I called a “hybrid”. I’d use my digital calendar for appointments, blocking my recurring work time and noting due dates and deadlines. Then I’d use a paper planner to plan out my week and specific to-dos for each day.

As a matter of fact, I even created my own planner to help me and my clients stay hyper-focused on the work that mattered to our successes. If you’re not used to strategically planning your week, using a paper system like this is a great place to start.

But over time, I outgrew my own planner. While I found great satisfaction in writing things down and checking them off the list, I didn’t love these things:

  • Build up of paper and having to store it
  • Not being able to easily find old action items
  • Having to rewrite uncompleted tasks
  • Rewriting steps for repeatable tasks

Although I loved my planner, I began to get frustrated with its inefficiency. It seemed to me that I was wasting lots of time either searching for something I’d written somewhere or rewriting tasks.

For example, I create a new blog post every week. I go through the same process for every article. Yet, each week, I’d write out my process in my paper planner.

I thought that writing the steps down would keep me on track to get the work done, but I often would miss a step and I’d have to rearrange other work I needed to get done. And writing the same thing over and over equals time wasted.

Why Use a Digital Calendar as a Planner?

You may be wondering why you should use your digital calendar as a planner instead of other digital apps and platforms like MiminaList, Todoist, or Asana. Fair question.

There are lots of great reasons.

1. It’s FREE!

Just like steering a wheel comes standard with your car, your computer operating system comes with a calendar. If you’re Microsoft, you’ve got Outlook and if you’re Mac, you’ve got Calendar. Right there. Standard on your system.
Not a fan of those? Google Calendar is also free to use. Create your google account or Gmail account and you’ve got instant access.

2. Easy to Use

Not only are these calendars free but they’re simple to use. If you know how to create an event you’ll have no problem using your digital calendar as a planner.

And in the event you’re not quite sure how a feature works, it’s likely a quick YouTube search away.

3. Shorter Learning Curve

Now, let me be clear. I’m not putting down sophisticated digital tools. They are necessary and helpful, especially for teams.

For example, my team uses Monday.com for all of our workflows, processes, and tasks. We need a tool like this so that everyone knows what’s going on and who’s doing what.

However, there are steep learning curves for these tools. If you’re a solopreneur, you're likely already stretched thin.

The simplicity of using a calendar as a planner means less time learning and more time doing. It’s the doing part that helps you achieve your goals.

And let’s face it, you’re not in the digital tools set up business, you’re in the (fill in the blank) business!

You can always graduate into sophisticated tools later.

4. It’s Convenient

Finally, it’s convenient when your planner is a digital calendar. Consider these reasons:

  • No need to carry around a paper planner
  • Everything is in one place
  • You avoid overplanning
  • Prevent other people’s priorities from taking control of your day
  • Cloud-based calendars remove the need to write things in multiple places
  • Easily see your due dates and deadlines for better task planning
  • It can fit in your pocket

Are you convinced yet? Good!

How to Use Your Digital Calendar as a Planner

As we dive into the mechanics of setting up your planner in your digital calendar, I want to remind you of this one thing:

The best way to get started using your digital calendar as a planner is to just start!

And to start, it’s better to keep it super simple. So, I’m not going to make this complicated or talk about linking other apps (think Google Calendar and Google Tasks, for example).

Oh! One quick note. The example below is created in Google Calendar, but this strategy will work with any planner. Got it? Great!

Let’s do this.

Step 1: Create a new calendar called “Planner”

First, create a new calendar and label it “Planner”.

You want a separate calendar so that you have the options to either view only your planner or turn your planner off. In other words, it makes viewing easier.

Step 2: Plan Out Recurring Work Time Blocks

Next comes time blocking. It’s important to schedule your work time as recurring events on your calendar.

Your time blocks are appointments with yourself. If you don’t schedule the time to work on your business it’s easy to be led through your day purposeless.

That means distractions, procrastination, and other people’s priorities become the catalysts in your day.

So, block your time. It ensures that you’re prioritizing YOUR work.

You don’t have to go crazy with your blocks. For example, I just have a few general categories. Then I plan the work that goes with each one.

My time blocks are:

  • Work Day Start Routine
  • Content
  • Marketing
  • Admin
  • Power Hour
  • Work Day End Routine

Step 3: Add a Checklist to Any Repeatable Daily Tasks

A benefit of using your digital calendar as a planner is not having to reinvent the wheel every time you do a repeatable task.

For example, every day I do a set Work Day Start Routine and Work Day End Routine. There are things I check and tasks I do at the beginning and end of each day. It’s the same day in and day out.

The same is true for my weekly admin blocks.

Here I take advantage of the Description field inside of an event. I type my list of tasks once and it appears every time that event occurs on my calendar.

Step 4: Use the Description Field to Plan Work

The final step in using your digital calendar as a planner is to take advantage of the description field to plan out actual work for each of your blocks.

For example, in the image above, you can see how I added the tasks I wanted to focus on for one of my marketing blocks.

To use this effectively,

  • Plan the night before (or even the week before if you know what you want to get done when)
  • When planning work, pay attention to any upcoming due dates and deadlines you have
  • Don’t over plan
  • Be specific when adding your action items to the description field
  • As you add new descriptions to each work block, make sure you save it to only that specific event
  • Simple is best

That’s all there is to it!

Start Small for Success

You might be thinking that this all sounds too easy. Or that there must be more to using a digital calendar as a planner.

Well, in my experience, what keeps us from being consistent when trying new things is that you tend to overcomplicate them. Guilty here!

Starting simply will reduce any friction to just starting. You can get more sophisticated later, of course. In the meantime, if you’re intrigued, use the steps I’ve outlined for you to try it out for a month or two.

Over time, you may love having your planner as a simple digital calendar that fits right in your pocket.

UPDATED on August 1, 2022

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