Like most busy working people and parents, I can get overwhelmed by the many people, tasks and appointments vying for my attention throughout the day. My calendar was killing me. My work calendar was fine; it was the school stuff that was out of hand. I was getting emails from the school, from my son’s room parents, and from the cubmaster about upcoming events and deadlines. My task list was even worse. I was trying to manage tasks in my email, voice mail, company IMs (instant messages), company intranet and regular mail. Something had to give and I needed a better system.
Over the last year, I’ve been working to take back my calendar and task list. With help and nudging from my husband, Maki, here is what I’ve done.
Google Calendar Is My Best Friend
If you have a Gmail account, you have Google Calendar. Maki and I set up a Kato-Pineda calendar in Google calendar. We post every single family event and deadline in the Kato-Pineda calendar: playdates, birthday parties, dentist appointments, date night, dinner party at home, Maki’s parents’ trip to Japan, when my older son doesn’t have school, when the nanny is on vacation, yada, yada. We’ve shared this calendar to our entire family plus my assistant.
Next, we got the cub scout troop to create a Google calendar. Here, we post all pack and den events (including event details and directions), monthly meetings, cub scout service opportunities, etc.
Finally, by pure luck, the room parents for my son’s classroom had also set up a Google calendar. This calendar shows all school days off, class activities to which parents are invited, dress down days, short school days, etc.
I use my iPhone to view a consolidated calendar that includes my work calendar and ALL of my Google calendars. My iPhone even magically brings in birthdays from Facebook and the US holidays from Google. So on any given day, I can see that: it’s John Smith’s birthday, it’s a dress down day at school, I have 3 work appointments, Maki has a ham radio meeting and there’s a cub scout pack meeting at night. Love, love, love what this consolidated calendar view has done for my sanity.
Evernote For All Tasks and Details
Evernote is the best note-taking, reminder app I’ve ever used. I use Evernote by creating notebooks for the major buckets in my life: Matrix Group, Kato-Pineda and JP personal. I then create notes for to-do items, notes from a meeting, things I need to remember, etc. I then use tags to further categorize my notes.
The Kato-Pineda notebook is where Maki and I have notes for all the thing we need to do at home and personally. We have a to do list for the house, a Target list, a Giant list, a CVS list, a list of books to check out from the library, etc. This notebook is shared between me and Maki and here’s how we use it. Say I find myself at Target. I usually have a list of things to buy but Maki might have things he needs as well. Since the Target list is a shared list, we both maintain it throughout the week. So I can go to the list and buy whatever is on the list. This way, no more going home to say “I went to Target” and Maki says “oh, shoot, I needed x, I wish I would have known you were going.”
The Matrix Group notebook is where my new biz team manages tasks and priorities. We have notes for our proposal hot list, a JP call list, a Bryan call list, a list of potential blog posts, topics for the Matrix Missive newsletter, etc. Here’s the awesome part: since the notebook and notes are all shared, we keep these notes updated throughout the day and week without having to send email every time a list is updated. I might decide to update the list some evening and ask Bryan to make a bunch of cultivation calls the next day. If I find myself early for a meeting, I check the JP call list and make calls. It’s that easy.
The JP personal notebook is where I store notes for gift lists, books I want to read, etc. I’ve even started a Recipes notebook where I’m posting recipes and tagging them by breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, chicken, pasta, etc. I even have a note for my weekly meals so I can easily remember what I made the past few weeks.
What is perhaps the best thing about Evernote is this: I installed Evernote on my iPhone, Sony laptop, Mac laptop at home and iPad. Because Evernote is in the cloud, I have access to my notes from every device and the notes are always fully synched. Crazy how well this whole thing works.
These systems are working for me because:
- they are shared with the people I collaborate with (husband, assistant, new biz team)
- they are in the cloud and therefore I have access from anywhere, on any device
- they are inexpensive (Google calendar is free; Evernote is free but to share, you need Premium, which is $45 per year)
- they are easy to use.
How about you? What systems are you using to stay on top of your lists and calendar? What’s working?