Long-Term Planning and Productivity with the Compact Calendar

In 2010, my good friend Jason Mettler introduced to me to my favorite high-level planning and productivity tool — the Compact Calendar from David Seah.

The Compact Calendar is a great tool for planning activities across a year. It’s laid out as a vertical bar of days and months on the left and open space on the right for notes.

My Compact Calendar

Benefits of Long-term Planning

I’ve found that zooming out to a year’s worth of time is very helpful for long-term planning efforts where identifying intermediate milestones is valuable. I’ve used the Compact Calendar for the following planning activities.

Project Plans

When discussing multi-month projects with clients, the Compact Calendar allows for quick, collaborative, high-level project planning. I usually create back-of-the-napkin estimates for project phases and map the phases out on the Compact Calendar to visualize the project plan. Phase goals and team skills can be noted in the open space on the right. I usually print multiple Compact Calendars so multiple plans can be explored and easily compared.

I also use the Compact Calendar to plan and manage internal projects and initiatives. Last year, I used the Excel version of the Compact Calendar to plan activities related to Atomic’s acquisition of SRT Solutions. The Compact Calendar format provided an excellent visualization of how our management team could execute on the acquisition plan based on the time constraints and resources we had available. The layout — showing time and clear steps, at a glance — helped break through doubts and provided a logical and emotional sense of confidence in the plan.

Professional Development

I have used the Compact Calendar to plan out a year’s worth of professional development goals. Planning across the year, I’ll map out books I want to read, conferences I want to attend, and speaking events I want to pursue.

Mapping all of my professional development goals across the year helps me bring more cohesion to my plan. Viewing the year as a connected whole allows me to see how my activities can reinforce each other or possibly compete for my time.

Fitness Goals

Health and fitness is an important part of staying balanced, energized, and optimistic. I’m an active, year-round cyclist and train for mountain bike races with the Founders Racing Team.

I use the Compact Calendar to design blocks of 12- to 14-week training plans that keep me in shape for the Barry Roubaix, Lumberjack 100, and Iceman races. The Compact Calendar lets me easily see the entire year’s training plan and highlight when training becomes more intense.

Bringing it All Together

I’ve found a lot of benefit with bringing all of my high-level plans together into a single calendar. I’ve used color highlights to block out goals or weeks of intense effort for all activities I’m involved in. I don’t recognize a difference between work and personal time, and bringing everything together helps me see my whole life in one elegant snapshot. Seeing all activities together helps me prioritize and design compromises when necessary.

Download the Compact Calendar and try it out. Please leave a comment to share other planning tools you find useful.

  • Carl Erickson Carl Erickson says:

    One thing I really like about the Compact Calendar is that it helps you realize how short a year really is. That’s great perspective to gain when you’re in the thick of everyday life.

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