Planning and organization are dear to my heart. I like talking about my own systems and I like hearing about other people's. If you feel the same then I have two fun things for you: this post, which is all about my current calendaring system, and this week's episode of the planning podcast Best Laid Plans featuring yours truly.
I've followed Best Laid Plans host Sarah Hart-Unger for years on her Best of Both Worlds podcast with Laura Vanderkam and on her blog, The SHU Box. She launched Best Laid Plans in July of 2020. In the episode this week, Sarah and I chat about my list management systems in Google Keep and Todoist as well as my strategies for getting things done in the midst of such a full life season. I also talk passionately about my Gmail organization system and my spreadsheet grocery list. I hope you'll pop over to Best Laid Plans on any podcast platform and listen!
On to the topic of today's post: my current calendaring system. For several years I enjoyed using a paper planner and specifically the Get To Work Book in conjunction with using Google Calendar. I wrote about using Get To Work Book in 2015 which is a bit outdated for how I was using it most recently but will give you an idea. When I was using a Get To Work Book what worked well for me was keeping all appointments and commitments up to date in Google Calendar then using my paper planner to track weekly tasks. I had a good system going. Then the pandemic hit and shortly after I had a baby. Suddenly the relevance of any kind of calendar went out the window.
As I return to being able to and needing to plan things I'm trying out going completely digital with my calendar. My digital organization also includes lists in Google Keep and Todoist, which I explain in the episode with Sarah. I also hope to share a blog post on the topic.
Now my calendaring system rests entirely within Google Calendar. I love how easily I can access and edit my calendar on my phone and on my laptop. In my current system I maintain several different calendars, each with a different color:
+ Personal/Family is for appointments and commitments for myself, the kids, or the family.
+ Girl Next Door is a shared calendar with my co-host Erica to manage everything for our podcast. We schedule when episodes will be released, when we'll record, and when we'll do Instagram Live chats.
+ School/Sports is for kid-related things like picture day, sports practice (when we have it), and school holidays/early release days. I also use this calendar to schedule reminding myself to bring a classroom donation that I signed up to bring.
+ RISING*SHINING is an editorial calendar for my blog and audioblog.
+ Writing/creative is for scheduled self-imposed writing deadlines or to schedule creative work time. This one isn't being used a lot right now but was helpful when I had more childcare and work time.
+ Travel, self-explanatory.
+ Mom and Dad travel. This is a funny one but since my mom has retired and now that my dad is retired too my parents have been traveling a lot! At least pre-pandemic. I like making a note of when and where they are traveling so I don't have to keep asking my mom, "Now when are you guys going to be in Yosemite again?"
+ Birthdays. I'm proud of this Google Calendar hack. Google Calendar automatically imports birthdays somehow (from your contacts? from Facebook? from your brain? I don't know) but they never seem to be the birthdays I actually want on my calendar. Also annoyingly, you aren't able to add birthdays yourself to this calendar. My solution: I toggled the default birthday calendar off and created my own birthday calendar. Now random birthdays from my contact list don't show up and I can make sure to add the birthdays that I actually want to remember. Highly recommend!
A few techniques that I use for making my calendaring system work for me:
+ Any time I schedule an appointment, whether in person at a doctor's office, salon, etc. or over the phone, I put the event in my calendar right then. That way I never miss an appointment because I didn't transfer it to my phone and I don't have to deal with those little appointment reminder cards.
+ Whenever a commitment of mine or with the kids will require Chris to be on solo-parent duty I invite him to the event so that it's on his calendar. Right now this includes most of my appointments since we don't have childcare for Maeve. Examples include podcast recording, book club, hair cuts, and my counseling appointments.
+ If the main purpose of an email is a calendar event then I create the relevant calendar events and delete the email. For example, each month I get an emailed school newsletter for the boys filled with dates to remember: early release days, spirit days, picture days, upcoming PTSO meetings, etc. I open up a tab with Google Calendar and create events in the School/Sports calendar. Then I can delete the email newsletter without any worry that I'll forget something.
+ Having regular dates with my calendar. A calendar only works if you use it! I don't have a lot of commitments right now so I spend time in my calendar a few times a week. In busier seasons I would check my calendar at the beginning of every day. During a calendar date I see what's coming up that I need to prepare for, make sure Chris is aware of any of my commitments, and capture any events that have arrived via email or text.
On not keeping a paper planner
So far I have not minded having only a digital calendar. I like the simplicity of it a lot. However, I do miss crossing off accomplishments with highlighters which I found most satisfying. At this point I don't feel compelled to bring a full paper planner back into my life but perhaps there's a middle road. I've had my eye on the Intentions for the Week printable from Tracy of Shutterbean/thehandwritingclub. The one-page printable has space for listing tasks to complete, tracking goals for the week, and even listing dinners. I like the idea of having one page for the week on a clipboard. At the end of the week the sheet can be recycled. I think this might be in my near future.
And that's it! I'd love to hear about your calendaring system and what's working for you.