Thursday, February 17, 2011

Calendars Are Only As Good As Their Users

Simple Enough, Right?  It makes sense that the right calendar can be one of the best time management tools you can find.  With everything becoming so crazy busy for everyone, a good calendar can be a life saver.  Along with my addiction to pens (that's another story, for another day), I seem to be drawn to calendars.  I am constantly searching for the right way to sort out my life and improve my time management skills.

I have too many calendars. Sharing a house with my mother actually means that there are two calendars in my kitchen. I also have a dry erase wall calendar in my 'office'. I have a calendar on the closet door of the kids room.  I have a calendar in my bedroom.  I have a nice calendar from a realtor friend that is a full month per page but more like a notebook, this one fits nicely in my binder. I have a google calendar, facebook birthday calendar, yahoo calendar, cozi calendar.... I've tried Remember The Milk, and I use Reminderfox for Firefox.

It seems pretty obvious why things get missed!! I can't look everywhere, can I?

Okay, it's not as bad as it sounds. These calendars are not items I use all the time... I have gone through testing phases with each of them.  Tried, tested and most of them failed miserably.  Whether it's an online calendar that is too hard to update, a cell phone planner that misses reminders, a nice notebook calendar that is forgotten in the well organized binder.... (again, another story, another day). I just have not been able to get one that works for me. 
"But..." I hear you saying, "you only need one, you just need to USE IT."  Right?

Not necessarily...
We don't have serious scheduling issues here. The darling Trucker is fortunate enough to be home weekends now. And it is rare that he works late at night. I have the ideal 'mom job' at home with occasional meetings. I normally have my dates scheduled far, far in advance.  The kids get a school calendar every month. Newsletters, emails, field trip forms, etc.... there are a lot of things to schedule but nothing extreme, and it rarely overlaps.
So let's break this down a bit more...

The kids calendar is great for them to write their own things on. Friends birthdays, cool things coming up at school, when the new movie or book is coming's for them to use.  However, they know that if it's not on mom's calendar, it's not happening.  

Trucker doesn't write anything, anywhere. I have to try to catch the ramblings from him to get things on the calendar so I don't overbook us...(sure, it's MY fault).  

Mom's calendar has the master birthday list, including most of her friends and all of her side of the family.  This is great for me when I transfer details at the end of the year. If I've asked her to babysit, I also note it on her calendar.  It's a respect/space issue, I suppose. We must have our own calendars (two feet away from each other... the battle for the kitchen....hahaha).

My fridge calendar is my command central.  I sign a field trip form, mark the date on the calendar, return signed form to the backpack. I also note on the calendar if it is paid for and returned. (For my forgetful moments) Special lunch forms - date noted, which child ordered, if paid, etc.  Birthdays, meetings... as soon as it's booked, it goes on the calendar.  Forms due back?  noted.  Appointments are booked with the calendar in front of me.  Regular events like school library days and early dismissal are noted at the top of the page. I try to keep everything there.

My notebook calendar, although often forgotten, is great for my meetings. I can make notes of times that I will be out of the house or days with no school, so that any new appointments I need to add can be at least partly confirmed quickly. (I may have to confirm sitters, but the date is free)  This notebook calendar has been a place for me to keep track of work assignments, log my time spent on work, and note to-do's when I need to.  As nice as it is to have with me.... It doesn't fit in a purse!
Do I have a purse calendar too?  No... I would sincerely drive myself insane.  But in the process of learning how to say "No" to people I have also learned how to say "It sounds good, can I let you know after I check the calendar?"  And often, I will text message myself with a reminder so that the details are together when I get home.

I know there are smart phones in the world that would solve some of my problems, but for now, I'm still to cheap to buy into that.  I want a cell phone that rings... not one that can do everything. I am connected enough through that simple phone line. It gives you 3 ways to reach me (call, voicemail, sms) and that is more than enough.  I don't need to have portable Facebook, google, email, and more... at least, not yet anyway.  And the fact that I have to PAY more to have less means of 'escape' just strikes me as ridiculous.  
No offense to those reading my post ON a smart phone....of course....haha

Back to the point of my story.... Is one calendar enough?  No, not always.  And no matter HOW MUCH you write on a calendar... it won't help you if you don't look at it. 

It is also easy to go overboard on a calendar 'system'. Some people color code everything, others are sticker addicts.  I've heard people say that they like to see the stickers there, so they know something important is happening.  
In my opinion, if there is writing on my calendar... 
There is something important happening.... 

Funny, it makes sense to me.  I don't need bright colors or big stickers to catch my eye.  I am capable of looking at it, and reading what it says.  Again, no offense to sticker lovers or color coders....I'm slightly surprised that with my pen addiction, I don't color code everything.... I have simply figured out that the refrigerator door is the best place for me to keep my calendar. If the calendar was in an out of the way place, I wouldn't see it, wouldn't check it, and definitely would miss things. (I tried that for a while, kept it in my office, but finally cracked and had to move it back out).

After two years of reading about and researching time management skills, and testing time management tools, I have found that none of it has helped me.  I landed back where I started, at least with the calendar issues.   There is no single calendar or program that works for me and that's okay. Because it WORKS for me.

And yes... I do still forget things. No one is perfect. No time management systems are perfect. There are things that get missed or forgotten. Does that mean I'm not organized?
Nope. Just shows that I'm human. And I'm okay with that.

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