On Electronic Calendars

Despite the assumptions typically made of productivity coaches, I am quite a fan of paper. I read paper novels, jot notes on a pad of paper as I go through my workday, and take lots of handwritten notes during meetings. I use paper when it works best for me and my clients.

But then there’s my calendar.

I have been using Outlook Calendar exclusively for 15 years. Before that, I was a paper calendar (Franklin or At-a-Glance) user. So, I have used both and understand the pros and cons of each. However, I can comfortably say that in 99% of cases, I recommend that clients use an electronic calendar system. Here’s why…


Electronic Calendars are more time efficient

In the days where the executive/assistant ratio was closer to 1:1, the main role of the assistant was coordinating schedules and appointments. That’s not the case today. Assistants support more than one person and their job descriptions have expanded. Scheduling a meeting when the participants’ calendars are in hard copy format necessitates email chains, phone calls, and time on the part of everyone involved. Scheduling a meeting with a group of people who share their electronic calendars takes 3 – 4 minutes. Everybody saves time.


Electronic Calendars are protected against accidental loss

Mistakes happen. Items get left at the wrong place. Sometimes you can get them back – sometimes not. A paper calendar, unless you photocopy or scan it, is vulnerable to loss. And who has the time to do that every time an appointment changes? Electronic calendars are often stored in the cloud or on servers that are backed up. Even if you lost the mobile device to which your calendar was synced, you would not lose any data because it exists on a server.


Electronic Calendars Can Be Printed

If you like having a paper calendar – no problem! In Outlook, you can print a daily, weekly, or monthly view. You can even create your own customized print style with areas for note-taking, defined hours, etc. I like the cool “Tri-fold Style” that incorporates a daily schedule, your Outlook Tasks for the week, and your weekly appointments at a glance. See below.



To get this printout in Outlook, click File – Print, and under Settings, click “Tri-Fold Style.” Change features by clicking the “Print Options” button, then click either “Page Setup” or “Define Styles.”


Electronic Calendars save money

A new Franklin planner and binder can cost $75 or more. Planner Pads cost $30 each. Levenger Circa planners cost over $100 each. If all members of a 150-person company ordered a planner, the annual cost could be around $10,000. Electronic calendars are a part of the email management program at most companies – no additional cost.

Here are some other concerns I hear about electronic calendars:

  • Protect personal appointments: You can mark appointments private and others will only see that you are in a “Private Appointment” but no details.
  • Control over your calendar: You can choose calendar delegates as appropriate. You can accept or decline email invitations as appropriate. You have control over your calendar.
  • Access away from the office: A desktop version of an electronic calendar will synchronize with most mobile devices. You can access it remotely just like your email. If all else fails, though, you can print it out.
  • Don’t know how to use it: Invest an hour to learn, gain many hours in return.


Okay. I’m stepping off the soapbox now. In fact, to round out the discussion, here is an article by Harold Taylor with counterpoints to the above.

I feel strongly about this issue because I have seen first-hand the advantages of moving from paper to electronic calendars. If you are an electronic calendar user – yay! If you are white knuckled on your paper calendar right now, well, I hope I gave you a couple of things to think about.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


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