Cognitive Daily

Casual Fridays: Calendar Quirks

Last week we asked readers how they used their calendars: we were curious if the way people used their calendars said anything about how busy their lives were. We found out an awful lot about how readers use calendars, but we also found that there may not be much of a pattern to how calendars are used.

First, the basics: what type of calendars do CogDaily readers use?


It was a little surprising for me to see that over a third of our tech-savvy readers still rely on printed calendars — 208 out of 612 respondents. Even if readers said they used one or the other type of calendar, we allowed them to indicate what type of printed and electronic calendar they used — and over two-thirds of readers do use some form of printed calendar, even if their primary calendar is electronic. Most electronic calendars are on computers — less than 10 percent of readers use a PDA, and most of the “other” responses were versions of online calendars, so the actual portion of computerized calendar users is even higher than what you see here.

We also asked readers how they used their calendars — whether or not those calendars are electronic. Below are some of those results:


As you can see, most readers have four or less items per day on their calendars. The most frequent calendar view is one week per page, and most people use their calendars either every few hours or once a day.

But how much to people rely on their calendars. We asked readers what the impact on their life would be if they lost their calendars for a day… or permanently. We also asked if they would be able to say if they were free for a meeting without referring to their calendars. Here are those results:


While most readers could handle losing their calendars, even permanently, most also agreed that losing a calendar would have a major impact on their lives. Only about 25 percent of our readers would be able to say if they would be free for a meeting next week if they didn’t have their calendar.

But despite these divergent uses and levels of reliance on calendars, we didn’t find much correlation between how people use their calendars and the impact on their lives. As you might expect, for example, there was a significant correlation between the number of items on a calendar and how frequently the calendar was referred to (r=.432). People who refer to their calendars frequently or have lots of items on their calendars are more likely to be adversely affected by losing their calendars — either for a day or permanently (rs > .28).

But there wasn’t much difference in how printed and electronic calendar users use their calendars. As you’d expect, printed calendar users rely less on alarms, but other than that the only significant correlation was between print calendar use and the difficulty in recovering from losing their calendar. Print calendar users were somewhat more likely to say that losing their calendar would be a big problem (r=.131), and less likely to keep separate calendars for personal and business use.

So it seems that there are lots of ways to keep calendars, but how you keep your calendar doesn’t necessarily say much about how you run your life.


  1. #1 The Ridger
    February 22, 2008

    I like the printed calendar for (a) being able to see the whole month with scrawled notes even if I’m not logged in, or am on the other side of the room and (b) the pictures.

  2. #2 Amy
    February 23, 2008

    It would be interesting to study the relationship between how often you use a calendar (or what sort of calendar you use) and what your job or lifestyle is. You’d expect that people with really busy lives, or technical jobs, would use calendars more often and be more likely to use electronic ones. On the other hand, I have a busy life and a technical job, and I hardly use a calendar (either printed or electronic) at all. So the naive expectation might be wrong, and maybe it comes down to more idiosyncratic personality factors or something.

  3. #3 Michael
    February 23, 2008

    I have to say, the survey itself had some issues with it. I mean, it wasn’t actually managing the most important part of my working day, which isn’t the calendar with actual appointments: it’s the calendar with the TASKS. And for that, I don’t even use a calendar. I have a whole program (with date tags included, but still) that simply parses my immense and ugly todo list.

    I wonder how many others out there rely less on time-driven assignments (call them appointments) and attend more to deadline driven assignments (call them tasks). This might explain why the data aren’t that illustrative, in my mind.

  4. #4 InnerNinja
    February 23, 2008

    interesting studies. I use a palm pilot myself, which i know is becoming antiquated already.

    i also use an old-fashioned compass while i’m driving since my sense of direction is so terrible. honestly it helps me figure out whether i’m headed in the generally right direction or not.

    pretty lame technology for one who claims to be a ninja, huh?

  5. #5 Freiddie
    February 24, 2008

    “It was a little surprising for me to see that over a third of our tech-savvy readers still rely on printed calendars — 208 out of 612 respondents.” I wouldn’t find that surprising at all, especially if you can’t or don’t bring computers to work/class (and the lack of portable ones).

  6. #6 Sarah
    February 25, 2008

    As a student, I use both google calendar for long term things and a weekly planner for assignments, meetings, etc. However, I also use a sort of calendar that you didn’t mention. If I’m afraid I will overlook something (perhaps because it’s not in my regular schedule) I’ll write it directly on my wrist. I’ve noticed my friends doing this also – cryptic notes on the back of the hand or the arm.

    Maybe part calendar/planner, part string-around-the-finger, part status symbol (“Just see how busy I am!”)

  7. #7 John
    February 25, 2008

    I would have been curious what distribution across demographics and psychographics use social calendars. Merely replacing paper with computers without adopting any advances offered by the technology kinda misses the point. Most electronic and online calendars let users collaborate to set up meetings, but few share their calendars so software agents can suggest dates and schedule meetings. Instead, users propose dates via e mail through multiple round robins of okay and not okay. That gains hardly any productivity and maybe even hurts it. I suspect most people would prefer their computer work for them than to work for their computer.

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