The Compact Calendar is a printable calendar based on an Excel spreadsheet, designed to be easy to use in impromptu planning by yourself or with a group of people.
About the Compact Calendar
(Impatient people can skip to 2010 COMPACT CALENDAR DOWNLOAD :-)
For those of you new to the Compact Calendar, it’s just a simple printable calendar created using Microsoft Excel’s date calculation functions and presented like a candy bar o’ time. I pre-print the sheets and use them for “sketching schedules” in group meetings; these notes then become the basis for working up more detailed planning.
This year’s update adds improved first day of month highlighting (thanks Gregor Erbach) and automatically-calculated holidays, so now it’s even easier to update the calendar every year. Missing in this release is the “start any day of the year” support that a reader submitted a few months ago. This would be a useful feature, particularly for schedules that don’t start on January 1st.
The Candy Bar Theory of Calendar Design
I used to do a lot of on-the-fly estimating for proposals and production at various web agencies. The problem with traditional calendar design is that they chunk time in months, not continuous days. When I’m planning, I am trying to answer questions like:
- How many days are available, including weekends?
- When are critical deliverables?
- How much calendar time is needed to finish a task?
- What are the specific days we have to work around?
One way to do this is to use a long timeline, like a Gantt chart. All the days line up one after the other in a long horizontal format, which makes it easy to see how long something takes; distance is directly equatable to duration. This is great in theory, but the Gantt chart lacks compactness and is cumbersome to use because you can’t see everything at once.
Enter The Compact Calendar
The Compact Calendar, by comparison, is great for representing a schedule compactly while maintaining the important context of weekends and holidays. In general, we’re trying to fit our tasks into continuous days of work that cross month boundaries; by running all the days together, we can maintain that sense of continuity and still not lose track of what month it is.
While in meetings, I can quickly block out chunks of time for an entire year, marking important days and making detailed notes on deliverables as we’re talking; this provides the starting point for future detailed planning. When I’m doing impromptu planning by myself, I just circle dates and underline ranges, writing notes in the empty space on the right. It is basically a form of doodling your schedule. It’s a great planning tool to whip out during a meeting, so I try to keep a few printouts of this spreadsheet handy to do a quick thumbnail schedule on-the-spot.
The advantages of the Compact Calendar:
- The days are all packed together visually, so “distance” corresponds directly to time. This makes visually estimating how much time you need much easier, an visual advantage shared with the Gantt chart.
- The calendar for an entire year can fit on a single piece of paper, with plenty of room for notes. You can also just print out a section of it, for short projects, by using the “print selection” feature of Excel and it should retain the headers.
- It still largely retains the monthly calendar format, with days of the week in columns, so it’s a bit easier to use than a Gantt chart.
- Saturdays and Sundays are shaded differently, so we are not as tempted to plan our work schedule on them.
- It’s easy to count weeks too. “Unit weeks” tend to be the building blocks of longer-term projects.
- You’re forced to break up project tasks to fit into each 5-day work period. Gantt charts, by comparison, tend to draw long lines through the weekend because that’s what lines want to do. Even if you don’t work on the weekend, from a visual perspective it seems to imply that you should be working. This has always bugged me, from the perspective of visual gestalt and information design.
- Because we retain the days of the week in the same column, it’s easy to mark recurring events that are tied to them. “Oh, every Friday we have a company meeting.” Easy to see where they’ll be; not so on the Gantt chart.
The main drawback of the Compact Calendar is that you can’t easily show dependencies or overlapping tasks. It’s also not so good for detailed planning, but you probably would use other tools for that. For example, I sometimes use my Excel spreadsheet version of the Gantt chart, which is much prettier than the ones that come out of Microsoft Project.
Compact Calendar Workflow
Here’s an example of the calendar in use…click the photo to zoom in!
In general, I use printouts as a thinking calendar, doodling in estimated times and circling dates, dependencies, and deliverables. You can see how I use lines to connect with the notes on the right side of the paper.
At client meetings I can use the calendar to note other dependencies, deliverables, and ask about company meetings and other potential conflicts like vacations. It’s a lot easier to pass the sheet around than a laptop; people can contemplate paper more easily.
After I get things worked out, I will sometimes make a “clean” version of the schedule using a new sheet and give it to the client to photocopy.
When I’m managing other people in person, sometimes I’ll use the Compact Calendar to quickly note their deliverables and the dates on this sheet. I’ll also sometimes point out dependencies, and then they have this sheet they can just stick up on the wall and follow. I find that people just need to know when something is due so they can tackle the work; if they have to read a detailed spec or the proposal to find this critical information just slows things down. Specifics of course matter, but that’s a post for another day.
Modifying the Compact Calendar
If you’d like to modify the calendar, download the latest year (2010). It’s much easier than before:
- If you need to change the year, just modify the year at the upper right of the blue calendar header. In other words, change 2010 to 2011 or whatever year. Thanks to the help of several readers, the calendar will automagically reformat.
- You can add holidays to the HolidayTable on the
Tablesworksheet. This table is an Excel Named Range, so make sure that if you expand the table, you redefine the range. New in 2010 are auto-updating holidays, so when you change the year the default holidays also update. I’m using some gnarly Excel formulas to do this, however, so adding your own holidays can be tricky. If you like, just enter a regular Excel date, but keep in mind that these will have to be manually updated if you change the year.UPDATE: If you are using OpenOffice, the Easter Sunday date is not correct because the DAY() function works differently. Replace the calculation with the EASTERSUNDAY() function instead..
- There are three conditional formats in use: one that makes the background of the day blue for the first day of the month, and another that makes the day number itself bold and blue for holidays in the Holiday Table. Thanks to Gregor Erbach for fixing a bug in the conditional formatting code; it now works when the 1st of the month is also a holiday.
- If you don’t need the entire year, you can select the range of rows you want, then when you print check “Selection” in the “Print What” part of the Print dialog box. The headers will print automatically at the top of the sheet, and it will also print a little larger. Useful for shorter projects.
Download the Calendar Template
- Microsoft Excel 1997 or greater
- Download using the link below, unzip the archive. In the
Excelfolder, you’ll see files named something like
CompactCalendar.xlt. This is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet template.
- Double-click the file (Windows) and a new spreadsheet will be created based on the template.
- Print it out, or annotate the calendar within Excel. Again, I just print them out; you could make a fancier “production calendar” too and print that instead, if you’re that type of person.
- Optionally you can copy the
.xltfile into your Microsoft Excel templates folder. This gives you the ability to create new calendars using Excel’s New Document command.
Download USA 2010 by Dave Seah
2010 International Calendars
These versions have been generously created by bloggers around the world. Thanks! If you’ve made a version of the Compact Calendar for your locale and would like to share, put it on a page on your own website and I’ll link to it here!
Argentina 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
Brazil 2010 by Ricardo Cabral
Canada 2010 by andryou
Canada (Quebec) 2010 by Vincent Abry
Chile 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
China 2010 via Elvis Yang
Colombia 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
Denmark 2010 / 2011 by henrik
Ecuador 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
Fiji 2010 by George (note: seems to only be the PDF)
France 2010 by Oplusimple
France 2010 by Vincent Abry
Germany 2010 by Lennart Groetzbach
Guatemala 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
India 2010 by Ranjith R
Italy 2010 by Luca Magnani
Japan 2010 by Yoshiomi Kurisu
Malaysia 2010 by oboitoke
Mexico 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
Netherlands 2010 via Diepfries
Peru 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
Poland 2010 via KosciaK
Portugal 2010 via Miguel Alho
Russia 2010 by Ivan Bulychev
Slovakia 2010 by Užívateľ
Slovenia 2010 by Jernej Zupanc
Spain 2010 by Jeroen Sangers
Sweden 2010 by Christian Eriksson
Taiwan 2010 by ench
United Kingdom 2010 via Andy Davies
Uruguay 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
Venezula 2010 via Jeroen Sangers
Last Year’s International Calendars
NOTE: These were provided by generous bloggers around the world who have localized the calendar for their locale, but have not been updated for 2010.
Austria 2009 by Ronald
Estonia 2009 by Eero
Greece 2009 by Gerasimos Tsiamalos
Hong Kong 2009 by Catus Lee
Indonesia 2009 by Eka
Libya 2009 by Dino
New Zealand 2009 by Jon Pawley
Phillipines 2009 by Arvin Pedregosa
Romania 2009 by Andrei Neculau
Serbia 2009 by Goran Anicic
Singapore 2009 by John Spencer Tan
South Africa 2009 by Jason Bagley
South Africa 2009 by Peter
- Yoshiomi KURISU has programmed an online Compact Calendar Creator that will even create PDFs. Very cool!
- Over on NumbersTemplates.com, they’ve released an updated version for iWork Numbers.
You can find more printable productivity tools on The Printable CEO™ Series page.