There are always so many things we want to do, but there never seem to be enough hours in the day. Since 2016, when I began to put more emphasis on my illustration, I really began to feel this. I wanted to improve my Japanese and keep studying, but at the same time, I wanted to build a presence for myself as an illustrator, and improve the quality of my work. I also wanted to write, and run, and have time to watch films or simply chill out.
For years I have been using paper diaries to make notes of all the things that I want to do. I use this calendar from MUJI which has week-to-view on the left and a whole blank page on the right. It’s great for making lists of things and jotting down thoughts or anything that interests me. But I found that I often struggled with actually making time to do all the things I would write in my lists. It’s all very well saying, “run three times per week,” but without making a set time to do it and no-one to keep me accountable, it’s very easy to let it slide. This kept happening over and over, and the result was that I felt like I was constantly planning things and trying to keep everything moving forward, while in reality I was achieving less than I wanted to, and feeling bad about myself much of the time.
The last two months, however, have been much, much better. I finally transitioned to Google Calendar, and have it synced across all my devices, so I can edit my events wherever I want. Of course, having a digital calendar is nothing new, but the revelation for me was my discovery of the Goals function.
Goals in Google Calendar
Goals work like this. Set the Goal from Google Calendar on your phone (currently the function to set the goal is not available on desktop, but you can edit them) using the red “+” at the bottom right, and choosing “Goal.” Imagine you would like to make time to draw three times a week. Google Calendar will then automatically schedule around all the other events in your calendar. This function is so brilliant because it simply “makes time” for everything you want to do. The Goals are fairly customizable, and have fun options like different colours too.
This has been life-changing for me because it schedules and re-schedules all the things I want to do on a regular basis, meaning that I effectively “make time” to do the things. By following what the calendar tells me, I can maintain all the habits I want, with the “empty” time where nothing is scheduled now truly relaxation time. I do the work when I am told to because, thanks to the calendar, I can see that there was not going to be anything else going on anyway.
When there is nothing scheduled, I can put work aside completely and simply be. This is bliss, as I feel myself moving forward and also being more mentally calm because I know that when the goals are completed, they are done until they pop up in my calendar again. You can also tell the calendar when a goal is completed, helping to keep you on track as you can see how many times you have completed the goal that week.
My current goals look like this:
Illustration – Four times a week for 45 minutes
Japanese study – Three times a week for 30 minutes
Running – Three times a week for one hour (this includes changing and shower time)
Admin – Once a week for 2 hours
In order for the calendar to not schedule during impossible times, I also added my daily work and commuting time as regular recurrent events 07:30 to 18:30, Monday to Friday. I’ve been using it for two months, and I love how little mental effort needs to go into thinking about when to do things now.
A useful tip that has helped me: Schedule less than you want to, and for shorter times. I feel like I should be drawing every day, for hours, but the fact is that isn’t realistic, and I’d be more likely to abandon this system if I got disheartened from inevitably skipping my goals when my willpower failed. For this reason, I scheduled illustration only four times a week, for 45 minutes. This is doable, and that confidence helps me carry on. I do believe that slow and steady wins the race, and that setting a goal you can continue with is the best way forward.
Good luck and I hope you give it a try!