How I Keep a Calendar

I talked previously about the value of keeping a calendar, and I want to give you a look at the detail with which I keep my Google Calendar.

As I mentioned, my calendar is not only a planner, but also a log I keep of what I did with my day. I’ll go back and add events that came up, delete events I did not do, or revise the times during which I did certain things if they ran long/short or changed their schedule. This has actually been quite helpful in situations where I had to go back and verify events that happened.

For the following example of future planning, I chose this upcoming week as it illustrates examples of every color I use to code upcoming plans and events on my calendar.


I shade all my work shifts in gray, and I adjust the time on these afterward if my day starts or ends early, or late. Here you see all five workdays for my day job. If and when I help manage the studio at Theatre Momentum, I code those shifts in gray as well.

If I call in sick, take a day off, or get to leave early, I delete that particular day’s block. When I fill out my work timecard at month’s end, this helps me verify if and when I took a sick day.

Lavender indicates organized conscious practice for a performance art discipline, like a class, workshop, rehearsal or audition. When I see lavender, I know there’s a good reason I put that on there. If I have to miss it or I want to schedule something else there, I need to make a judgment call.

With classes and rehearsals, the judgment call is simple: I cannot remove it without extenuating circumstances. Being sick or having some other emergency counts. Wanting to go do something else does not.

Workshops and auditions are more flexible. If I put my name in writing or make a similar commitment, it’s set in stone. But otherwise I give myself permission to remove it as needed.

Green indicates personal tasks or projects. I need to get these things done to keep my life from imploding, anything from bill payment and finance related things, to writing tasks, to errands I need to get done.

On the left is a meeting for a potential project. The bottle middle item is a bank run to get money to pay for venue space. And on the far right is a time block to do my laundry.

Yes, given my busy schedule, I schedule time to wash laundry. I note the day I last washed my clothes and towels and make sure to do laundry within two weeks of that. If I don’t wash my laundry in suitable time, I could end up wearing dirty clothes for several days before the next available time to wash clothes.

I won’t go as far as to block off time for grocery shopping, but for an item like doing laundry I need to make sure I have the time to do it, and that I do it before my clean laundry runs out.

There are a couple of small items at the top. These are certain bill payments (usually class payments, membership fees or anything important I need to manually pay) that are either posting this day or need to be paid this day.

Turquoise is for shows I’d like to see. Despite being busy as hell, I do try and see shows I’m interested in, shows friends are playing in, etc. Any show title ending with a question mark means my attendance is a judgment call. I’m not yet sure if I can or will go, but I put it on the calendar so I don’t forget it. If the event shows no question mark, it’s an event I intend to go to if nothing comes up. If I’m not comped or the ticket isn’t already paid for, I will list a dollar amount for the ticket price.

I may delete this if I need that time for other opportunities, needed appointments and commitments, or even if I’m exhausted or otherwise not up to making the trip. And yes, I frequently delete these turquoise items.

However, at the same time, I’ll frequently see shows on the spur of the moment, and add them after the fact. As an iO student I dropped in on their shows all the time.

Aqua is for shows that I firmly committed to seeing. For the item you see under Thursday, I need to meet with Brett Mannes at pH before that night’s pHarm House show. Brett and I agreed to meet at this time, so I damn well better be there. I see aqua and I know I can’t bump that commitment.

If I buy an advance ticket to a show, it’s coded in aqua. Since I paid for the show, I better go or my money was wasted.

I’ll also go aqua on shows if I personally promised someone I’d attend that particular show, or if there’s a special meetup I committed to attend (like someone’s seeing a show for their birthday). If I have to go back on it for any reason, I’ll contact whoever to let them know and back out if possible. But these aqua items are usually set in stone. I set these commitments very judiciously.

Salmon red indicates shows I’m performing in or otherwise working. This includes tech, such as with the Monday Laser Comedy Show on the calendar. Backing out of these events is of course a huge no-no in general.

Jams and other open-mic style opportunities to practice are in orange. These are course are quite fungible. I practice and perform so much now that I rarely book these, and I admittedly just put the one (for the CIC Blender) in the bottom left for show. Chances are iffy that I’ll attend, and if anything comes up for that night I’ll probably delete it.

The most frequent dark red items on my calendar are Cubs games. Because I live near Boystown in Lakeview, the games heavily impact my commute. I make sure not to drive unless absolutely necessary on game days. I also try and run errands before homestands, so I have as little need as possible to wade through hordes of fans to do stuff. Obviously, with all these commitments I’ll inevitably need to do so, but the fewer the better. It’s also good to know when night games happen, because the Purple Line stops at Addison before these games, giving me a quicker commute home from work.

But neighborhood street closures (which is the little entry at the top of my calendar) also impact my life. If I don’t move my car for these, I get ticketed or towed. Street sweeping is another item that comes up. If I need to make sure my car’s not parked in the area, I label that day dark red so I know to either move my car to safety and/or drive to work that day.

Blue is how I code my exercise, or any classes that require great physical effort, like a dance class, a physical theatre class, a Pilates or yoga class, etc.

I’m once again running, so I have runs scheduled for certain days. In fact, because I notice how it gets the blood flowing and wakes me up, I have them scheduled on a couple show days. I also like to run home for part of my commute home from iO, so I have one scheduled for after the Saturday class.

Obviously, functional exercise like walking to and from places or carrying groceries doesn’t count. I also do a basic 5-10 minute 5BX workout that I don’t include on here, since it can be done quickly anytime I’m at home.

This in particular is a busy week, and there’s no yellow items on here. Yellow indicates social meetups and events where the main goal is to hang out and have a good time. Parties, concerts, anything where the bulk of the time is spent commiserating and/or drinking get coded in yellow, even if there’s a show built into the event. If I meet up with friends before or after the show and we hang out for more than half an hour, I’ll log this in yellow to show where my time’s going.


All of this makes it seem like I put maniacal effort into coordinating the schedule. In reality, the various color coding and rules I note above came about gradually over the 5+ years I’ve kept this calendar. It’s mostly second nature to me and they exist because it helps me stay organized and quickly aware at a glance of what’s coming up.

This is not to say you ought to be this detailed. But in light of how many people double book themselves and forget about events in good faith, I think keeping a calendar with some level of detail can dramatically cut down on these scheduling issues.

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