Thursday, May 30, 2013

45 UHeart Organizing: Synchronizing Schedules

The paper vs. digital debate has been around for years and years now, and it really all comes down to personal preference and what works best for you.  I personally love writing things down, because it then seems to be engraved within my memory and I love touching pens and paper and seeing everything at a glance, but there are also times when going digital wins big!  Contributor Anneke, from the blog This, That & Life, has found a way to keep her entire family on track with schedules and appointments, thanks to Google's calendar and sync capabilities.  Here she is now to share how it has changed her life for the better.

I remember when I was growing up, every month my mom would draw up by hand a BIG, oversize calendar with the family schedule. It was your basic calendar format and every family member had their own color {of course}. We could all see what the month was going to look like, as far as who was going to be where and when. Well, fast forward 20+ years to the digital age, and you have the same exact thing available to us with even greater potential to stay organized and efficient with our time.


To some of you, this may be an absolute no-brainer and you've been operating this way {couldn't imagine your life without it} for quite some time now, but I wanted to share this information with those of you who could really benefit from making the leap from paper to digital calendars. I have literally had face to face conversations with enough people {even young people!} about this who then finally "made the switch" and are now thanking me for telling them!!! So, before I begin, I definitely have to lay a few things out there:

  • I'm not some crazy awesome, technologically savvy girl that's about to show you an in-depth how-to. There are many resources out there.
  • I will absolutely always be a pen and paper girl, but mostly for my personal day-to-day "To Do" list, jotting down ideas or sketches, etc. I confess....I'm the girl who will write something on the list and cross it off just because I've already done it, but it wasn't on the list! You either TOTALLY get that or just laugh at us list-loving peeps. I don't mind one bit!
  • This post is mostly reaching out to those who are frequently involved in and need to know the schedule of another person, multiple people, or those who possess separate calendars for various aspects of life.
One - Ok, so first things first. YOU NEED AN ACCOUNT!

My husband and I organize our calendar communication through GMAIL. I'll admit my husband was the one who finally got ME on board. I had an e.mail account through our internet provider, but then we switched, and I was scrambling to figure out how to save my contacts. How many of you can relate to that one??? Then there was some e.mail forever lost on hotmail. Creating multiple gmail accounts has significantly streamlined our lives because it is "cloud-based" technology.

Two - Once you get yourself set-up with your contacts, day-to-day appts., etc. you can then add another person's calendar to be accessible when you are logged into your account. They have to give you permission and the owner of an e.mail account is always the one who determines the level of sharing with someone else. You may be able to add and view a schedule for work, but you would not necessarily be able to edit another person's calendar. Here is how our family has personally utilized multiple calendars online through gmail:
  • I have my personal account that I use to input all of our family's appt., sports activities, school activities, family birthdays, parties, massage appts. {I wish!}, etc., all of which can be color coded per family member or priority. This account is all things personal and this calendar is shared with my husband.
  • My husband has a personal account for everything work/personal related that I need to know about. He is a firefighter with an ever shifting schedule as well as the union President which has him participating in many meetings. He shares this calendar with me. This is so helpful because if he is off of work one day, he may take the kids to swim lessons while I work on something else. It's literally always changing in our family.
  • I have a blogging gmail account for everything This, That and Life related.
  • We have a Beach House vacation rental {last year's BIG project!} where I'm responsible for correspondence with inquiries and tenants. Both my husband and I share this calendar which is directly synced with our account so we know what dates the home is booked.
  • At one point, I was even able to view a volunteer schedule because it was shared through "cloud" technology.

Three - Now that you have the ability to view just one calendar at a time or all of them at once and that these calendars can be synced with your iPhone or tablet.

I can't even tell you how much less stressful it is since we made this switch a few years ago. No unnecessary arguments over lack of clear communication. No more wasting time so you can "Go home and check your calendar and get back to you about that". Not that we always have to be available instantaneously because the date on the calendar is free, but instead I may say, "Let me check with Michael about that and get back to you."

There IS definitely the ability to look ahead and plan accordingly because everything is inputted. My husband knows his schedule for the entire year even though he's on an eight-day rotation. I love that I can look ahead 3 months and see if he happens to be working a particular Saturday that I could schedule for our child's birthday party, for example. This is all without having to spend 10x longer writing it down or wasting time figuring it out because the timeline is so far out. This helps us be purposeful with our time too and not get overbooked.

So are you already on board with "cloud" technology and syncing accounts or is this a bit foreign {and possibly intimidating} to you? Do you have some specific online calendar tools that you've found helps keep you more organized? I hope that you'll either find this encouraging to take the leap and give it a go, or share this with a friend who could benefit from some calendar sharing tools like this! There are so many clear and detailed tutorials in the Help section to guide you through.

"Hi everyone! I'm Anneke and you can often find me working with some tools, browsing for great furniture finds, or getting all girly for a date night! Like many of you, I'm often looking for ways to make life run more smoothly amidst kids, messes, responsibilities, and limited time. I recently celebrated the awesome 3-0, ten crazy years of marriage with my hubby Michael, and have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom to 3 amazing kiddos, not to mention our sweet miniature schnauzer. We live in the beautiful Northwest, near Seattle.
Although I have a degree in Music, my brain spins with ideas about DIY projects, interior design, health, and family, all of which I blog about over at This, That and Life.  I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the wonderful contributing team at IHeart Organizing and can't wait to get to know some of you better as well!"


  1. i need to do better at this- thank you so much for sharing! i am a paper calendar girl, and when i try to go digital i fail. i need to embrace the icloud. i do have it afterall!

  2. I have friends that use this and love it! I just can't get myself to embrace it yet. I love my cute calendars etc. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. My system works for me. I think if this makes life easier then go for it ;) xo Kristin

  3. Ohhhh, this sounds like something that would be perfect for me and my hubby! We both already have Gmail accounts, but haven't yet started to use the calendar feature. This would totally help to get both of our lives in one organized space. Plus, I'll never forget to remind him of his appointments that he says are my responsibility. ;)

  4. As the mom of 5(ages 4-16) we couldn't survive with out our google calendar. I say "if it's not in the calendar it doesn't exist" We set up accounts for our 14 & 16 year olds so they are now responsible to put their rehearsals, sports practices & game in the calendar. I can see at a glance where everyone is suppose to be & what conflicts there are- it is a life saver. I also like the ability to add event details like addresses or phone numbers. The repeat feature is great so you can enter the dance class once but have it on the calendar for every Monday of the school year.

  5. I will always love pen and paper too but this is great and so helpful. As my girls are getting older I'm starting to feel the need for a more comprehensive schedule organizer to keep me sane and on track!

  6. Ok, Anneke...this is great! I have a giant pen/paper one at home and I try to use my calendar on my phone, but I'm not great at it. I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I didn't even know this was a function available!?! And I have two gmail accounts??? Obviously I am super technical. ;) But this does look way easy and my hubby and I are kind of known for having little arguments about schedules from time to time so I think this is really going to help! Thank you so much for the info! Jesse @ Scout & Nimble

  7. This is an awesome way of keeping track of your schedule. Now I would only need to get my hubby on board. You rock Anneke!

  8. I loved this post Anneke! Thank you so much for the very detailed info on how to use the google calendar system. I really do have such an appreciation for digital anything, but deep down I'm just so much of a tactile person. I absolutely have to take pen to paper. Our kids have chore charts, we have a monthy bill binder, a weekly meal plan binder, and a huge family chalkboard where we jot down notes and keep a loose schedule of important dates within the month. For me these things are comforting. I think if I had lots of activities, multiple schedules, a side business, etc to keep up with on a daily basis this google calendar system would be a godsend. I think another fear i have is what if there's a system crash or something like that? Although...the time savings alone is enough to make me want to give it a try. Thank so much for sharing Anneke!

  9. I am not sure how I'll manage calendars and stuff, but I've done some work with google calendars. I've used them for so many things, daily calendars, school calendars, scholarship deadlines. I recently created a calendar for my mom that showed all our relatives birthdays, color coded by families. She's tried a few methods of keeping track, but this one automatically shows up each year. I'm not sure she knows how to add new birthdays though.

  10. We love google calendar in our home. Hubby and I each have personal calendars that we share, plus a family calendar for events involving the kids.

    I also keep my work calendar on google calendar. I am itinerant staff for the local schools so my location varies dramatically from day to day and I don't get cell signal in all buidlings. I share that work calendar with my children's day care center. Instead of having our child care center call the admin assistant for my department and have her hunt me down, they can now call directly to the school where they know I will be. Saves tons of time when a sick munchkin needs mommy to come pick them up!

    With cloud technology and having the calendar automatically sync to my phone and anywhere I can get to internet, I know I am never double booking doctor/work/personal appointments without having to lug around a giant paper calendar! The big aha moment for me was learning to toggle calendars on and off. With four or five calendars active, it can get cluttered to look at. Just turn on or off what you want to look at and it is much less intimidating:)

    1. Leslie, Okay the 4 or 5 calendars are they each linked to a separate gmail account? for example is your personal calendar attached to one email, then the family calendar attached to another separate email? The toggle feature sounds great.

    2. You can either create a new calendar within your own account (good for little kids schedules, etc) or link them to another gmail address.

      STRONG advocate for google calendar! I could not function without it (home or work).

  11. Love this, Anneke! We use a similar system in our home as well and it works like a charm. {Unless one of us forgets to put in an appointment...oops!} Thanks so much for sharing the method that's worked for you! Hope you're having a great week!

    ~Abby =)

  12. This has just made my life so much easier.

  13. This was SO freaking helpful -- thank you! It does seem like common knowledge, but there's something about seeing it written out that gets me.

    Personally, I have to have my online calendar AND my paper calendar.


  14. I just got my husband on board with having a Google Calendar. He loves that he can see it on his phone. With two kids in activities going this way and that, combined with our schedules, one paper copy wasn't cutting it anymore. I still love to have the paper copy that I write on for at-a-glance, but for helping hubby stay in the loop, the Google Calendar can't be beat. I did learn a couple of tips from this post, though, so thanks for that!

  15. I love my Google calendar, I couldn't live without it. Hubby and I have multiple shared calendars. One for each of us, one for our son and one for useful reminders (ex. Passports expire 1 month from today, car registration renewal in 2 weeks). I still have a huge calendar in the living room so we can easily see what the month looks like.

  16. Great post! We haven't yet made the switch. Maybe one day. I am a pen and paper kind of gal. And for a family calendar we have a huge chalk wall in our kitchen. We use that every day! Then again. We have a small family-just the 3 of us.

  17. Thank you for sharing. Maybe this will help me keep on task. Great information, now to work on getting my husband on track. :)


  18. We have been using Google Calendar for the past few years and it is seriously the best tool ever! It is what lets us function in a "normal" manner with schedules that are always changing. I even started using it for meal it! :-)


  19. Great awesome post! I know this would help our family calendar, but I'm totally intimidated. And then I want family type obligations shared with my hubs, but some work obligations do not need to be shared and I don't know if that's possible and so I avoid checking it out. Until now. Your post makes me want to figure it out :-) Thanks for the details and screen prints, I'm visual and your post makes it all very enticing!

  20. I too love my paper and pen but love the ease of a digital calendar. My family uses iCloud to keep track of everyones' calendars. I found a program that allows me to then print my calendar and put it in my day planner. It is the best of both worlds. I don't have to spend endless hours writing in repeat events but I still have a place to write out my To-Do lists and meal plans. I choose to print my calendar every month then take a few minutes on Sunday to update my day planner with anything that was added since printing the calendar. It may seem redundant but it only takes a few minutes and I feel I am better prepared for the week by going over my schedule on Sundays. I totally get writing something on your list just to cross it off. I am guilty of that!

  21. I should probly get on board with this. I love my traditional calendars and colorful planners but sometimes my husband doesn't always 'remember' to check them out for important dates. Maybe... Just maybe, since we both have Gmail accounts we can both embrace the calendar on there {especially since he is in IT/Computer geek hehe} and both keep up to date with what's going on.

    Although I am more prone to paper myself, especially for important things. I have always had this fear of my technology 'devices' crashing and burning out and all of my online work will be lost forever lol.

  22. This has been how we've operated for the past 2 years and I love it! We each have our personal calendars and then we share a third calendar for family events that we both need to be at. It was so easy to keep it going when I switched to the iPhone and my husband stayed with an Android. We didn't even miss a beat, the system kept working perfectly. The bonus is that my work calendar that is done in Outlook will also sync to my iPhone. I can see everything I need in iCal at-a-glance using my iPad or iPhone. We avoid any scheduling conflicts because EVERYTHING goes on the calendar. That took some training, but we've been at it long enough that it's second nature now.

  23. Online calendars have been a life safer in our household. My partner is also a firefighter with an 8 day rotation; I work full time and am also a board member for a couple of not-for-pofit organisations entailing numerous meeting and weekend meetings; and we also have my partner's teenage daughter living with us about 30% of the time. The combination of our conflicting work schedules and having to make arrangements with SD's mother constantly had much potential for grief. Utilising calendars through the cloud has resulted in a much less stressful family life for us.

    We have been using the free version of the Cozi family calendar as the repository of all of our family appointments: firefighter shift rosters, firefighter scheduled vacations, meetings, school holidays, curriculum days, birthdays, parent/teacher interviews, nights that our stepdaughter will be at our home, who is picking up/dropping off stepdaughter, stepdaughter's sporting/social commitments etc. Cozi is online and has smartphone apps, best of all it sychronises with whichever electonic calendar you prefer - we have individual preferences for Google, Yahoo and Outlook all of which work very well, we all get the same information all of the time. The free version of Cozi is great, but has advertising which is a little less than ideal. There is a subscription version of Cozi that has no advertising, but we found that the price wasn't justified and there is not much in the way of increased functionality. Also, as we use Cozi as the repository of information, it then sync's with our own prefered calendars, we only go to Cozi to enter or change appointments/rosters - to find out what is on we all look at our own calendars on our phones and computers. This probably sounds a little clunky and onerous in terms of orgnasing, when we could just use Google calendars, however the one feature that we all truly love that keeps us using the Cozi account is that we have it set up to send us each an email on Sundays that has everyone's colour coded schedule for the week - it is a terrific reminder of what is coming up.

    The other tool that we have found really useful in organising our schedules is to use Tripit to organise all of our vacation and travel commitments, it also syncs with our calendars so everyone knows what is happening.

    We still keep an old fashioned calendar on the wall in the kitchen, so that we can see at glance what is coming up. Although this is probably just a case of old habits die hard, as we all go to the electronic calendar to see "the truth".

    1. I also use the free version of Cozi. I haven't managed to get anyone else in the house using it, yet. I stil keep a paper calendar on the fridge, plus a dry erase sheet the I fill in every Sunday with the weeks activities, appointments, etc. I use a "job ticket holder" plastic sleeve and have a weekly calendar I designed in Publisher. The printout has the recurring info (dance practices, which days the kids have gym/library/band/etc.) in one column, and then space for me to write special happenings in another column. And I have space to jot done a shopping list, too. The printout goes in the plastic sleeve, and then I use a dry erase marker to add the week's info and shopping list. The sleeve hangs on my fridge with a magnetic hook. The multi-calendar system still confuses my husband because he doesn't know where to look.

    2. I also use the free version of Cozi.

  24. Oh man, if I could share a picture in this comment, I would. I absolutely agree with the author of this article. My family consists of me, my husband, my stepdaughter, and our new unborn due in August. BUT, my stepdaughter is a child of two homes, at which she spends 50% of her time. My husband works outside the home, and I'm a full-time student.

    Here's a list of our calendars:

    College Calendar (events, important tuition dates, etc.)
    Class #1 Calendar - due dates, etc.
    Class #2 Calendar
    Class #3 Calendar
    (Sometimes Class #4 Calendar; classes change quarter to quarter)
    Dy's School Schedule
    Home (chores, activities, reminders)
    Madzilla Time (Our daughter's calendar shared between houses)
    Madz's Chore Chart
    Madz's School Calendar
    Meal Planning
    Pregnancy Appointments
    Birthdays and Holidays
    Credit Cards (certain cards offer certain rewards each month)
    Hubby and Dy's Obligations
    Hubby's Obligations
    Dy's Obligations

    And, because you can color each calendar however you like, I batch them - purple calendars belong to Madz, pink ones to me, and blue ones to the hubby. Green belongs to the new baby, but he hasn't got much of a schedule yet. My college stuff is orange, and yellow covers birthdays, holidays, and reminders.

    Plus, Business Calendar is a handy Android App for our phones that we both use so we can access any calendar, anywhere, to edit, add, remove or replace events.

    If Google Calendar EVER goes under, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself :(

    1. Multi-calendar user here too. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE (with pink puffy hearts) that I can toggle the school calendars on and off as needed whenever I want on any device.

    2. You have got lot on your plate and calendar. :) Good luck with pregnancy.

  25. I TOTALLY get people who write things down on their lists that they've already done - just to cross them off. It's my way of remembering the mountains of stuff I do every day when I start wondering why I'm tired or lamenting that I must just be lazy. Also it's calming! Look, self, look at all you accomplished today! I teach 660 kids every week - without lists, no concerts would ever happen!

  26. Great info! I'm a little "old school"…I still make handwritten lists and notes. Maybe I need to step out of my box!
    House on the Way

  27. Thanks so much for this post! I have seen and heard of others using it, but the whole thing seemed too daunting to start. Thanks for making it seem so easy!
    Eliza in Australia

  28. Wanted to chime in and say I am all about my Google calendars! I use it for EVERYTHING.

  29. I might have to try this?


  30. I am a HUGE google accounts fan. But not just calendars, I use reader & iGoogle (both soon to be closed - sad face) Drive - for which all my documents are stored from meal planning spreadsheets, finance forecasting & bills, Christmas card lists, to detailed itineraries for my holiday to Walt Disney World. Calendars allows me to keep everything sorted, I have my work calendar shared within my personal account as well as a birthdays and anniversaries calendar, meal planning, events and even a rota of when to put out my rubbish bins (i have 4 different ones here in the UK and they all get emptied on different weeks lol) The calendars, documents and items I want to share with my husband gets shared and we both have write access, its soooo easy with google.

  31. Planning to clean my room and organize my closet but dont know where to start. Finding inspiration from your blog :)

  32. Our family has been using the google calendar for years. However we opted for colour-coding instead of creating several different calendars - one colour for each member of the family.Our calendar looks very busy - with business trips, tax deadlines, vaccinations and birthday parties:)))
    It has been a life-saver and I strongly recommend it to anyone, who is looking for a simple solution

  33. My husband and I use this in the exact same manner! Love this post :)

  34. Great post! I certainly agree...nothing like handwriting with a new writing tool and fresh paper:) Oh, the smell of paper! Thanks so much for sharing!

  35. I use Google for everything as well! I use Calendar in the same ways as most commenters so far, but some other ways I use Google Calendar is to put phone numbers and street addresses in the event. If I find I'm running late to an appointment I can go right to the event which is front and center on my cell phone and make a call. And by clicking the address, I can start navigation right away as well.

    The other thing I do in calendar is take notes on phone calls. If I'm calling with a complaint or a problem with an account somewhere, I put up an event in the calendar, write the names of all the people I get transferred to, and then take extensive notes. When I have to call back to follow up (which I inevitably do) I can document the date and time as well as key quotes.

    I also use the tasks function which puts check boxes on each day.

    And when the quarter is over (with some extensive editing :( ) I download and print all my calendars for easy reference through the years.

  36. My hubby and I are both working professionals and we live by our google calendars! We each have individual calendars (which we share with each other) and then a Family calendar which is shared with our child care providers so that they can add to it if they need (grandparents, nanny). It really helps keep all the school dates, play dates and parties straight.

  37. I actually did this for myself! I have a calendar for personal, one for my photography business and one for my organizing business! Works like a charm!

    Kristen from The Road to Domestication

  38. I love that I can view my google family calendar in outlook. I can't edit it from there, but it's nice to be able to look at my family calendar without pulling out my phone.

  39. Thanks for the tips. Gave me the final push to organize myself using google calendars and I love it.


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