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Blog: Technology As An Organizing Tool
Using Excel to Manage Your Weekly Schedule

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you! Are you having a hard time believing that after extolling the virtues of Outlook, ACT! and other powerful personal information managers, I'm now suggesting that you use Excel? Well, it's like this...

The trouble I have with electronic scheduling is that something is either an Appointment to take place at a specific time, or it's a Task which, even when it has a deadline assigned to it, is completely separate from my calendar.

Yes, I know that with Outlook 2007 I can go into daily or weekly Calendar view and see assigned tasks at the bottom of each day, and maybe I haven't given it a fair chance, but it doesn't seem to match the way I think, especially since I'm moving away from my Outlook calendar back to a paper system. (Sorry to keep dropping these bombs, but it really opened my eyes when Marcia Francois said "If you're a paper person, embrace it!" in our teleclass on Everything You EVER Wanted to Know about Organizing Your Computer.)

I've found that what works best for me is to break my day into eight one-hour blocks, as recommended by Alex Fayle, and to assign each block to a specific type of activity, as described by Denise Fisher. Actually I only plan activities for six of the eight hours, leaving a 25% cushion for tasks that take longer than expected, unscheduled telephone calls, and other interruptions, as recommended by Stephanie Calahan.

My latest time management system is a simple Excel spreadsheet with the days of the week across the top and six rows representing the six daily blocks of time. I figured out how many of those blocks need to be assigned to billable client work, to administrative tasks, and to business development activities, assigned a colour to each of these three categories, and colour-coded the blocks accordingly. As I plan my week, I type in the specific client name or business activity to go in each block.

At the beginning of each day, I look at what's on tap and can easily prioritize my activities by simply dragging and dropping the blocks as needed. I can also drag and drop boxes from one day to another if my priorities shift during the week.

I like this system because it's as simple as paper, yet it allows me to move things around as needed without having to erase or cross out and rewrite things. If you're having trouble with your current system, maybe you should try this too!

posted on: 7/2/2009 8:30:00 AM by Janet Barclay
category: Business

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Discuss This Post

by Sara Carbaugh on 7/25/2009 9:01:34 PM:

This is an awesome way of organizing your day! I have been working out a new schedule for myself and I will have to try and add this into my own scheduling! : )

by Janet Barclay on 7/25/2009 9:50:39 PM:

Good luck Sara!

by Denise Fisher on 7/26/2009 9:17:41 PM:

Thanks for the plug, Janet. Will you be posting a sample of your Excel schedule? I love to see the techniques that organized people use to manage their time; and a visual example would be a great addition to your narrative description.

by Janet Barclay on 9/1/2009 9:19:32 AM:

Denise, you can see a sample of my Excel spreadsheet on Your Organizing Business, post title, "Recommend a Planner and Win a Free E-Book!"

by Mark on 9/15/2009 11:43:09 PM:

I have been trying to manage all my tasks in Outlook using the techniques in Total Workday Control, by Michael Linenberger. I love it, except that I have been frustrated by the lack of a weekly or monthly view. I just figured out how to create that view in Outlook. Go to the Tasks folder, then click on View, Arrange By, Current View, Define Views. Click on New, then choose the option for Day/Week/Month. I added a filter to filter out completed tasks. I think I'm going to like it!

by Janet Barclay on 9/16/2009 6:18:05 AM:

That's great, Mark. Outlook has far more functions and features than most people realize. I highly recommend that you read "Take Back Your Life" by Sally McGhee. It is the first book that really taught me how to maximize the use of Outlook. I've recently acquired the new version based on Outlook 2007 and can't wait to read it!

by Mark on 9/17/2009 11:33:48 AM:

Okay, I will definitely try that! Thanks!

by Mark on 9/17/2009 11:41:14 AM:

Did you (or will you) make your planning spreadsheet available for download? I'm sure there are others available, but I'd be interested in seeing yours. And if it saves me the 15 minutes it would take to create my own, that's good, right?

by Mark on 9/17/2009 12:30:51 PM:

You can see a sample by clicking on "Your Organizing Business"(on the left, under Janet's Other Blogs) and going to the post called "Recommend a Planner and Win a Free E-Book!" You'll see it's pretty simple and you can probably recreate it in just a few minutes. Or leave me a message through that site (this one won't allow you to leave your email address) and I will be happy to send it to you.

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Technology As An Organizing Tool

by Janet Barclay

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Janet Barclay is a Master Virtual Assistant and the founder of Organized Assistant. Specializing in supporting entrepreneurs in the Organizing and Career Services industries, Organized Assistant provides top-notch Internet marketing services to business owners of all shapes and sizes.

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