Google Calendar is one of the greatest tools I’ve used thus far in an effort to organize my rather chaotic schedule. I know, it sounds rather pedestrian in the wake of all the third-party productivity apps we’ve reviewed here on LockerGnome and the seemingly overwhelming amount of task management applications included with OS X and Windows.

It shouldn’t be difficult to keep up with what you need to do, but it can become quickly overwhelming when things come in from different directions. I found myself forgetting things I had promised to do only to remember after having agreed to take on additional tasks in the meantime.

So how do you manage your schedule when you’re taking on tasks from multiple sources? The answer for me was Google Calendar.

Why Google Calendar?

Google Calendar syncs with every single calendar applications I use on every web-capable computer I own. My Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS devices are all synced to Google Calendar and that means alerts, reminders, and alarms wherever I am and whenever I need them.

It also means that I can create a calendar event from wherever I am. If I’m on the phone with a client and I agree to get something done by Friday, I can schedule a time to get it done right there and then so I don’t forget to do it later on. Google Calendar has become my personal assistant in that way, and I couldn’t imagine getting things done without it.

How It Pushes Productivity

I’ve taken to booking my normal working hours solid so that I can have a morning and evening to relax and get things done in my personal life. Because of this, my ability to procrastinate is reduced significantly. I can’t sit around and watch YouTube videos or play games because I have a deadline that resets every hour on the hour. Ending the day with five articles to write isn’t going to do me any good, and the work piles up quickly when you aren’t on top of it.

In the past, I would work into the night to catch up for slacking I had done during the prior day. This meant less time with my family and more time sitting in my chair getting fatter and more unhappy. In a sense, by scheduling work for myself I was actually scheduling my own time off. It works out well that way.

How I Do It

I have a set of rules that keep me from over scheduling myself. Here they are:

One Task Per Hour
I will only (within my control) take on eight things per day. That means eight articles or five articles and three miscellaneous tasks. These tasks should take me at or just under an hour to complete, so scheduling without any gaps works out for me. If a task is going to take me more than an hour, I schedule a quick thing for the hour following knowing that the carryover will be productive.

Take Breaks When Things are Done Early
This one might take some getting used to, but it’s excellent. I used to take breaks because I was bored with whatever it was I was doing. That helped, to a degree, but it also set me back and made me less productive.

Now, that extra buffer time scheduled in for a task that usually takes less than an hour means I can sit back and enjoy that extra time as a personal reward for getting things done early.

Be Reasonable About Time Constraints
At one point, I had a terrible habit of over scheduling myself to the point where I had no time whatsoever. By giving myself a set amount of tasks each day, I can safely schedule something at a time when I know I won’t be weighed down by something else.

This means that someone requesting an article or remote assistance will be placed in the calendar the moment I agree to do the job, and at a time when I know I can get it done. Telling someone I can do something when I know the day is already booked solid means not having that much-needed relaxation time and turning out sub-par work.

Crunch time happens, though. In those times I make sure priority tasks get done first and secondary tasks are reassigned accordingly.

The most important rule of thumb here is just to be reasonable. Over promising is never a good idea no matter what industry you’re in. Under promise and over deliver. Trust me, clients will appreciate you more for it.

Take it Day by Day
Unless something has to be done at a specific time every day, I usually avoid scheduling it until the night before. Even repetitive tasks should be flexible if it can be. On occasion, I’ll get hit with an assignment that needs to be done before a certain time the next morning. By avoiding scheduling my repetitive (and flexible) task until my work for the next day is scheduled, I’m also avoiding that uncomfortable rush to get two things done at once.

Unless something is absolutely required to be done at a specific time and/or date, I schedule it as quickly I can and avoid going too far into the future. This gives me the flexibility I need to take on those spur of the moment jobs.

What about you? What are your productivity tools of choice? Do you have a method to scheduling your time that works well for you? Let us know about it in the comments section below.