A calendar or a to-do list? What’s the best time management tool for you?

When you work remotely, time management becomes a crucial part of your day. What needs to be done today? When can I squeeze in my groceries shopping? Can I pick my son earlier from school? etc. All these are questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis and having a central tool to help us make these decisions, like a calendar or a to-do list, is more than welcome!

I’ve been both an individual contributor and a manager/lead, and the way I used productivity tools drastically changed when I switched.

When I was an individual contributor, I was in control of my time. So, I only needed a place to keep track of the work I need to do, and that was my to-do list.

When I switched to a lead role, I found myself organizing sync calls, doing 1:1s, communicating my availability to others… This is where my to-do list was falling short. I was obliged to use my calendar more often and found that all the work I needed to do was on my calendar, not my to-do list.

All this to say that the tools you use really depend on the nature of your work. And given that can change quite often, your tools need to change too. In the end, they are here to make you more productive, not stop in your way.

To recap, if you are a manager, a team lead, a sales representative, or someone whose work involves a lot of collaboration with others, your best bet is to go with a calendar. On a daily basis, you’ll be asked to communicate your availability to others, schedule meetings, and collaborate with different entities. For that, it’s crucial to have an up-to-date calendar and it just makes sense to use it as your principal time management tool.

On the other hand, if you work as an individual contributor and have control over your schedule, then a to-do list is probably better. Your requirement is a tool to keep a list of things you want to work on and not necessarily have everything lined up perfectly on a time scale.

Of course, you can use both a to-do list and a calendar and sync them together. For example, your calendar items can be synced with your to-do list, or your scheduled to-do tasks can be synced with your calendar. This way, you can have both. But I highly recommend focusing on one tool.

Note: A lot of modern tools sync natively. In the cases where you can’t sync your favorite calendar with your favorite to-do app, consider using automation tools like Make.com.

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