From Career Treadmill to Fast Track

The Total Career Success Blog with Ken & Sheryl Dawson

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Personal Organization & Productivity: Make Your Search—and Life—More Productive

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Even without major life transitions such as a job or career change, staying organized and on top of life—even the things we most want to do—can prove an everyday challenge. This series will examine ways to do this more effectively using tools that are free, or very inexpensive, and practices that can make the best integrated use of these tools. Since life is all about change and learning from each other, questions and comments are always encouraged.

Because keeping life organized almost always revolves around time in the form of appointments, schedules and deadlines, we’ll start with the most fundamental of organizational tools: the calendar.

We’ve come a long way since the Roman calendar—dating to about 753 BC—first carved up a year into 10 months. Any one of numerous online calendars can help; I’ve chosen Google Calendar because it’s free, contains powerful features and add-ons, is available when you’re offline, and is supported by an enormous blogging community.

Getting started is as easy as going to http://calendar.google.com and creating a Google account if you don’t have one already. Be sure to take the tour. Here are features I rely on every day:

Multiple, color-coded calendars. You have one life, right? To organize it, maintain a single, master calendar incorporating work, family and extracurricular interests. In one example, I use a calendar with gold-colored events to ensure I never miss critical duties as caregiver for my wife, such as a doctor’s appointment. If you have a separate calendar at work, using Microsoft Outlook, for example, you can synchronize with that, too.

Mobile access and SMS event reminders. The pop-up reminders that come standard with most electronic calendars are great when you’re near your PC. But what happens when you’re in a meeting or at the grocery—and you don’t pack a PDA? Google Calendar lets you send reminders by text message to your cell phone, and to set multiple reminders for the same event.

Search! Of course, this calendar is as searchable—fast—as anything on Google. When did I last see my eye doctor? For me, that’s as easy as searching “Dr. Key.”

Share calendars with colleagues and family.

Invite others to meetings & events and track who has said they will attend.

Integrate task lists and the weather. The many easy-to-install plug-ins available include ones that will put the day’s weather forecast for any Zip Code at the top of your calendar, and let you manage a list of the day’s tasks—without leaving the calendar. More on task list tools will follow in another post.

My own life hasn’t become any less full since I began using Google Calendar. But it certainly has become easier to keep up with ever-shifting plans for the day, the week and beyond. No printed calendars for me, even though I could do that, too.

–Jay Kraker

Categories: Career Development · Job Search · Motivation

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