Get Your Diary Under Control!

This guest blogger is Sarah Owen, a busy mum to two children.  As a former Events Manager, Sarah has a passion for being organised and getting things done.  This enthusiasm spills over into her decluttering business, A Place for Everything, where she helps her clients clear their clutter and bring a sense of order, calm and ultimately happiness to their lives. In this blog post, Sarah explores how the diary can be a secret weapon to achieve organisation.

lady writing in a diary

Regardless of life stage, it seems people are busier than ever before; work and family commitments, household chores, voluntary work, hobbies and exercise (if there’s time left) all demanding our precious time.

We’ve all heard the adage “If you want something done, then ask a busy person to do it.” The implication being that a busy person can stay on top of the demands of their family, their job, their home and their friends and yet still manage to find time to watch Bake Off.

However, not all busy people find diary control easy, and can often be overwhelmed just thinking about how to get organised!

So, given I have learned from experience that you can’t squeeze two days into one, what are the secrets to getting the diary under control? Below, I share how to establish good habits in in your diary, whether you use:

  • a traditional wall calendar,
  • a paper diary,
  • an electronic diary,
  • your phone.
  1. Set up recurring events

    When you buy a new diary / calendar put in all fixed recurring events immediately so they don’t get forgotten. For example, birthdays and anniversaries, car MOT due dates, insurance policy renewals etc. Writing them in a different colour will ensure you see them easily and will help when you copy them again next year. If you use an electronic diary, set up such dates as a recurring event so it transfers each year.

  2. Record the commitment straight away

    This may seem common sense but have you ever had a friend cancel on you because they “double booked” themselves? This won’t happen if you write down the time and date of an appointment at the time of making it! As my mother-in-law says, “If it’s not in the diary, it’s not happening.” Apart from appearing dis-organised and unreliable, forgetting to record things in the diary could prove costly.  For example, some hospitals are starting to charge for non-attendance at appointments.

  3. Check your diary regularly

    Recording things is great, but it’s only useful if you check back frequently to see what’s in your diary. It’s a good Sunday habit to look at what is happening over the week ahead and create a to-do list. For example, plan meal for Friday evening dinner party, get quotes for house insurance, sort costume for school play, make dentist appointment, etc. You had forgotten one of your children had a friend’s birthday party on Tuesday, but by looking in the diary at the beginning of the week there is thankfully still time to buy a last-minute present. The great thing about an electronic calendar is that you can set it to remind you of an engagement, the day before, an hour before or whatever amount of time suits.

  4. Be realistic about how long things will take

    Don’t try to cram too many commitments into one day and build in sensible travelling time between appointments. Having an unrealistic schedule can lead to frustration and possibly a sense of failure that you can’t get it all done.

  5. Plan ahead and group similar tasks together

    For example save up everyday tasks (where possible) and do them in one trip – e.g. if you are going to the shops, buy all of the birthday cards for the month, return your library books and drop off your dry cleaning all on the same day, rather than have to make multiple trips to town.

  6. Block out time to actually “do”

    If you have a task to complete that will take time such as a report to write or cake to bake, it makes sense to “block” a window of time to actually complete that task

  7. It’s OK to say NO sometimes!

    We can’t do it all, and it’s OK to politely say you don’t have time to help on this occasion. It’s better to be realistic about your time than over commit yourself and let someone down later.

    It really is worth investing a little time to develop good routines for managing your diary. You will not only appear more professional and reliable, you will also feel happier and calmer. If there’s one appointment you cannot afford to miss, it’s a little “you” time to relax and recharge. After all, don’t you deserve that at the end of a busy week?


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