Did you know you could masterfully pull the strings and control the chaos of your family activities with one tool? It might save you from aiming an expletive-laden feast of words at the next birthday party invite in your mailbox.
A Day in the Life
As the mom and Chief Operating Officer of this household, I’m expected to have an excellent grasp of my family members’ ever-changing schedules.
Are you kidding me?
I think about my paper calendar on the fridge, a portrait of defiance against the all-consuming digital age we live in. I scoff at my cell phone and its promise of organization.
“Mom, I want to join the Lego Building Club….” announces my 6-year old son, self-proclaimed Lego Master Builder. I have a blurry picture of his current schedule – Hip Hop classes, basketball, and swim instruction. I am determined to make it work. My daughter jumps at the opportunity, “So I don’t have to go to track practice?!” Yes, only one of them got the overachiever gene.
The phone rings. It’s the receptionist from our dentist’s office, reminding me of an upcoming appointment for my husband. I feel like kicking a big rock. I furiously note the details on both my wall calendar and my cell phone. Then, I send him a nice little text to remind him and to thank him for keeping me in the dark. Later in the week, I’ll have to remind him again, depending on my mood – in person if I’m having a good day, an email if I’m busy and a text if I’m annoyed. Perhaps, I’m letting my usual passive aggressiveness get the better of me.
While I still have my cell phone in my hands (yes, I willfully distance myself from it when I'm home!), I peek at my To Do list. Call exterminator. Call sanitation department to pick up my old exercise equipment. Reschedule orthodontist appointment. Stuff Bulbasaur costume. Seriously, why are these things still on the list? Aren’t they just a quick phone call and note to my calendars?
Well, it’s not that easy. My system is tedious and patchy at best.
(Ok, Bulbasaur shouldn't have to wait. )
And nothing, NOTHING, brings on the Psycho sound effects quicker than the sneaky arrival of the school calendar on a late-summer day. It’s a screaming interruption and wake-up call at the same time. We all know August is the “Sunday” of summer but with that calendar in hand, we are now forced to take action.
If you have school-age kids, and you are a mom who can’t say no to volunteer opportunities at school, you know you need a state-of-the-art calendar! It had better be a pull-up hologram screen, accessible from anywhere, with total privacy, updated automatically and color-coded for everyone, even the dog. (And I’m reaching here, we don’t even have pets).
It should also have automatic reminders sent out to all family members’ phones, notifying them of what’s ahead in their schedule.
The last part is a personal pet peeve of mine and finally caused a breakthrough in my methods, as you’ll see below.
Aha! What have we here…?!
The days of summer were endless but the bedtime routines were not flexible. My daughter tried to find a way to break me. “Mom! What are we doing tomorrow?” she would yell after I told her to put away her iPad for the night. It became her favorite bedtime delay tactic - she knew I would take the bait. After I tried incoherently to update her on all the things I had swirling around in my head, I frustrated myself and sent her off to bed once and for all.
I had to find a solution.
What helped was that my daughter recently got her own cell phone so she had tools for organizing her life. I had already hijacked her phone and set up alarms for various chores – do your laundry, take your vitamins…
Something cracked, sizzled and popped in my brain and an idea appeared in front of me like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies.
We could start using Google Calendar!
So we did.
And you know what, I am done with the old ways!
In one afternoon, I was ready for the school year.
And so can you!
So, pick a quiet afternoon, grab your computer and click on the picture below to get started.
Here are my tips for making it work for you and your family:
DUST OFF THAT LAPTOP
It’s important to set it up on your computer initially. Once the groundwork is done, you can use the app on your phone going forward.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF GOOGLE
You will need a Google email. If you don’t have one, go to www.gmail.com and Create an Account. Don’t worry, you can still keep your current email from another email service provider as your primary email and use this as a shell for your Calendar. That’s what I do! However, if you use your new or existing Gmail address as your main address, you will unlock cool benefits - more on that soon!
EVERYBODY IS SPECIAL.
Set up a Calendar for each person in your immediate family, including your children. Do you want each member of the family to access your calendar or your partner’s? If so, enter their emails to share the calendars. In order to share, your child will need an email address, and it doesn’t have to be a Google email. Choose an email address with a name that doesn’t contain confidential information (e.g. their birthday) and can still be used professionally as they get older.)
THE SCHOOL CALENDAR HAS BEEN CONQUERED!
You can also link other calendars to yours so you don’t have to type anything manually! Does your school have an “iCalSubscribe” on their Calendar page? If so, you can link all their dates automatically into your calendar. Pretty cool, huh?!
FOR YOU, LUCKY GOOGLE RESIDENTS....
If your Gmail account is your main email address, good for you! Whenever you make travel arrangements and you receive a confirmation email, Google recognizes that and adds the dates and times to your calendar. Google Calendar also tracks your packages – once you open a Shipment Confirmation email from the vendor, you get a prompt that asks you if you want to “Add to Calendar”. For heaven’s sake, click yes!
AW, DON'T WORRY....
If you miss having a paper calendar on your fridge, you can still print your monthly Google Calendar and stick it on your awesome Home Command Station! (Oh, yes, that’s for another post!).
Conclusion: Life After Google Calendar
When that festive little envelope shows its happy little face in your mailbox, you won't panic at the different actions it requires - check for party clothes, figure out and buy just the right birthday card/gift/bag to stand out, put date in calendar so we don't have any embarrassing excuses like we lost that adorable little invite....). You'll schedule it in Google Calendar, with reminders, and you're set!
I want you to experience the kind of peace of mind that comes with simple but effective tools. Post your stories below about how Google Calendar changed your life!