Calendarize It

I love words, and came across a new one recently. To CALENDERIZE something is to put it into your schedule for a future date. It makes sense, I’d just never heard it before. With this being a back-to-routines kind of time for people, it seems appropriate to talk about calenderizing, planning ahead, and flipping back and forth between the big and small pictures.

One of my great successes in university was my final project. The project itself was neither here nor there, but the fact that it was finished in the timeframe I set out (with only minor stresses) was a huge personal victory. I have a tendency to put things off, or slot in too many things, and so often end up rushing to finish them. I knew this project would take the better part of nine months, and figured I need to plan so as not to be scrambling at the end of May.

I bought a big, dorky desk calendar – the kind where each day is a box the size of a graham cracker – and I marked the due date. There was a group exhibition I really wanted to be a part of, and I remembered that the call for submissions was some time in May. As it turned out, it was the week before my project was due. So I changed my personal due date to a few days before the call, to give myself time to put together a submission. Then I worked backwards.

In the big picture, I knew I would need to have shot, printed and framed a project in time for my deadline. For the small picture, I counted backwards: I would need time to frame, I would have to go buy the frames, I would need prints, I would need the time it takes to have prints made, I would need to have my film developed (yes, I shot film), I would need to get to the lab, I would need time to shoot, I would need time to set up my shoot, I would need to get supplies for my shoot, I would need to have my project approved by my adviser, I would need to come up with the project idea……..

So my calendar was marked with notes like ‘take film to lab’ for a Wednesday in February, when in mid-September I didn’t even know what I would be shooting. By figuring out what target I had to hit, I was able to split my time into manageable chunks. I knew that I needed to have a solid idea by the end of November at the latest so I could be shooting by January. Maybe come February, I don’t end up taking the film in until Thursday, but having a general idea is very helpful. You don’t have to have dates set in stone, but trying to stick to what you’ve set out will keep you on track.


Some tips for making this work:

Be realistic – it’s nice to say you’ll start something tomorrow, but if you’re not properly prepared you’ll just be wasting your time.

Leave a buffer – maybe the weather will be wrong on the day you need to shoot outside. Maybe the lab will misplace your order. Maybe the camera you were counting on renting isn’t available until the following week. There will be things outside of your control, so it’s best to leave more time than you think for each step.

Something will always come up – when you hit a kink in the plan, figure out how to continue being productive. Stuck inside when you thought you’d be out shooting? Start working on your artist statement, or researching where to buy frames.

Include everything – You may think you’re on schedule by writing a paragraph every two weeks, but what happens when Christmas break comes, or that cruise your family is taking over reading week? Your calendar should show your life’s schedule, because it all needs to fit together. (That’s part of being realistic.)

Make a budget – because you’ve thought through your process, you should have a good idea of what you’ll need to reach your goal. Most projects cost the most at either the beginning (start-up and supplies) or the end (finishing costs), so plan your funds accordingly.


Another note: I’m no longer a slave to the dorky desk calendar. I’ve been using Google Calendar lately, and have been thrilled with how easy it is. It’s linked to my gmail account so I can access my schedule from any computer, which is a lot better than waiting until I get home to write something down. If you’re interested, you can learn more about it here.


image source: bfhoyt