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Time management: Pick one system, check it often

This week, reporter Teri Cadeau writes about time management tips that Amber Madoll shared at the December Professional Women's Network meeting. Madoll said, "The important thing is to pick one system and stick to it. Make time management a habit."

I was at Madoll's presentation and as I was listening I thought, "Yes, she is so right." I learned about time management the hard way.

Years ago I had a direct-care job with the chronically mentally ill. I never worked an eight-hour day at one location. My job was to move from client to client, assisting with chores and transporting them to appointments.

Since my clients' information was confidential, I thought that I should have two calendars: a work calendar and a personal calendar. That soon backfired as I double-booked a personal doctor's appointment with a client's doctor's appointment. I needed to put everything in one calendar.

I soon started using the Daytimers brand of calendars, which my mother had given me as a gift. Daytimers are the old-fashioned paper planners. Mine was purse-sized. But I needed to look at it all the time. Sometimes an appointment would completely slip my mind because I didn't keep double-checking my calendar. I needed to make it into a routine or habit to check it at certain times of the day, even if I thought I knew what was in it.

A few years ago, I was disgusted with myself as I was late yet again for an appointment, even though I had written it down. A friend mentioned that smartphones seem to help those with attention deficit disorder stay on task.

After I started my job at the Budgeteer, I got a smartphone and synced it to my desktop work calendar. I check the smartphone before I get ready for bed, first thing in the morning and several times a day. I also added "bells and whistles," having it send me reminders.

At work we use Google Drive and write on Google Docs. If I have both my email and my calendar applications open, a reminder appears at the top of the Google doc. Then I know it's time to quit writing and move on.

I have reminders set at 10 hours, one day and three days before an event. This gives me a chance to make sure I have appropriate apparel clean and ready on the morning of the event and time to talk about it to my staff and/or family. Be careful not to to add too many reminders, as you will start to ignore them.

The most important reminder is set 45 minutes before an appointment. When I had a 20-minute reminder, I was often late. I just couldn't wrap up what I was doing. The 45-minute warning is optimum. If I've gotten totally engrossed in something, there is still time to wrap it up and get to just about any Duluth location on time.

The smartphone is a double-edged sword. There's a chance I could get sucked into Facebook and fall into a black hole of watching cat videos.

As a community editor, I'm invited to lots of events. I've learned that I need to decide right away if I'm going or not; if I put off the decision, it causes me grief later. So I decide right away and put it on my one and only calendar. If I get an invitation in the mail. I put the information into my calendar right away and toss the card. Well, maybe I don't really toss the card, but ideally, that's what I should do to tame the mountain of paper on my desk.

I often write on my calendar where my reporter, Teri, is going to be at what time. Even if she tells me three times, I'm likely to forget.

I love the Google system. Our company transferred over to Google over a year ago. Before that we used Outlook. When I worked out of my home I used a Yahoo calendar, but as soon as I got my corporate job, I switched over to their system. Remember, for this to work you need to use one system.

Naomi Yaeger is the editor of the Budgeteer News.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at