Streamlining Calendars

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Photo by danielmoyle

Most of us have demands on our time that requires the use of a calendar so that we know where we are supposed to be at any given time. Add in multiple activities with their own calendars, and multiple family members with their calendars and activities, and you can easily end up with information in dozens of places.

How Many Calendars Do You Have?

I want to take a moment to make point about the difference between appointments and calendars. Appointments are single events. A group of related appointments would make a calendar. A single piano lesson would be an appointment. A group of piano lessons, along with recitals and competitions, would be a calendar.

The first step to streamlining your calendars is to know where all your information is coming from. Start with paper; you can look for information from your planner, work schedules, activity calendars, school schedules, holiday plans or concert schedules.

Consolidating Smaller Calendars

At this point you will want to designate a main calendar and enter in all of the information from the paper calendars. This will leave you with one place to check for information on what is happening.

I do not recommend getting rid of the paper calendars, though. Should there be a discrepancy, you may need those papers to refer back to later on. It might be a typo on your part, or it might be misinformation on the calendar itself.

The Value of an Electronic Calendar

While I like the availability of paper calendars, and keep an informational calendar in my kitchen, today’s life on the go demands that we have our calendars with us.

Keeping my calendar information in a form that I can access from any computer and my phone means that I can have that information when and where I need it. My main calendar is Google Calendar, and I access it from my phone, my home computer and my work computer.

Adding Calendars

Sometimes it is possible to add the supplemental calendars to your electronic calendar. Our school district puts out a (confusing) schedule of staff days, adjusted dismissal days and holidays in their beginning of the year booklet; all are color coded based on A or B start times, and then all three levels of school (yes, all on the same little 6-inch square grid). At the same time, a bit of poking on the school district website turns up an electronic calendar that I could link to through the Google calendar.

For other calendars that I cannot link to, I can export the data from the system and import it into Outlook. I created a separate calendar within my Google account so that I can show or hide this information at will. This applies to the imported Girl Scout calendar (kept in another web system), my employer calendar and my client calendar (both flavored of Outlook).

Other People’s Calendars

Having all of your information in one place is a good step toward calendar streamlining, but you have to consider other people’s calendars that may have an impact on yours. If you are the primary transportation for children, or if your family has activities where you need to be there to cheer them on (think sports), you need to have that information in your calendar as well.

While it is a relief to have all of my information in one place, there was more. I do not operate independently, and with my daughter being a pre-teen, she has to be places and I am the transportation. Since my husband works out of town during the week, his daily schedule isn’t so much of a concern, but his weekend activities have to come into my radar because they affect my free time.

So with all of my information in one place, the next thing was to link in my family’s schedule. My husband’s calendar ends up in his Google account, so I was able to link to his calendar much like I could link to the school district’s. The plus side to this is that I can make changes to his calendar and put our daughter’s activities on there so he doesn’t miss recitals.

Since my daughter is not old enough to have an email account, I had to work a bit differently with her. I set up a calendar underneath mine, and I put her activities in there. She has the Cozi application on her iPod Touch, and this gives her access to that calendar.

Not Carrying A Calendar

Now, after spending all those words talking about consolidating calendars, I do want to point out that sometimes it is good not to have your calendar with you. If you are the sort of person who has trouble saying No to things, you can use not having your calendar as a chance to interrupt that cycle.

The conversational response would go something like this: “I can’t commit to attend the fundraiser for albino platypus preservation because I don’t have my calendar with me. I’ll check it when I get home and get back to you.”

See how that works?

Streamlining calendars is simply of matter of getting all the information into one place. You can do it on paper, or you can do it electronically; but either way will boost productivity by only having one place to check.

Photo by danielmoyle