Do you find yourself having too many calendars? There’s your work calendar, your family calendar, and maybe even a personal calendar. Even if you’ve got all of these calendars in electronic form, you can still find yourself in a situation where you need to check in multiple places to make sure you’re free. And with multiple places to look, mistakes are bound to happen.
It’s pretty easy to bring all of your calendars together on any mobile phone, but it’s hard to see and plan from such a small screen. Depending on how strict your workplace is, it may be harder to bring all of your calendars together at work. I just started a job at a company that takes security around personal laptops very seriously. I can’t install any old app or plug in onto my computer. When it came to my calendar, this was leaving me very frustrated because I wasn’t allowed to add my personal account to Outlook. If you’re in the same boat, here’s how you can easily get around this problem.
I’ve got a family calendar in Cozi. And a personal calendar in Hotmail (Outlook.com). In my case, as I was trying to coordinate my work schedule against something as simple as attending my son’s basketball game or making sure I left work on time for an evening school meeting, I had to check my work calendar, Cozi.com and Outlook.com. That was just too much for my brain to keep track of in 3 different views.
We’re using Outlook at work. We happen to be using the 2010 version but what I’m about to describe also works in 2013 or Office 365. From most calendar programs, Google, Outlook.com, Cozi, you can share your calendar as a calendar “feed” or as a link. This generates a URL that you can use to access this “calendar feed”.
From inside Outlook, under the home tab, choose “Open Calendar”, then choose “From Internet”.
After this, you’ll get a dialog box that lets you copy the URL you got from your other calendar program. Once you paste that in, that calendar will be added to your calendar list. In my case, I’ve got my personal calendar that I named “Doreen Hotmail” and my family calendar from Cozi.
Now, you can see all of your calendars overlay-ed with one another. This helps you keep from double-booking yourself and helps you more easily manage family commitments against your work commitments. The best part is that you can keep your work calendar as the “active” calendar and the other calendars really appear to be sitting in the background, not distracting you but helping you avoid creating conflicts across work and home.
Note: I’ve shaded out the names of my kids and co-workers to protect their privacy
If you’ve got kids who are involved in after school activities, this blog post is for you. If you’re a Stay-At-Home-Parent, you’re trying to coordinate everything and make sure the kids are where they need to be. And you want them getting picked up and dropped off on time. If you’re a working parent, you’re trying to coordinate all of this with your child care provider.
Our family had a busy week this week. It was the first week of track practice for my 13 year old son in the 7th grade AND it was the first week of rehearsals for the school play for my 9 year old daughter in the 4th grade. I faced the week with great trepidation. Looking at my calendar, I think you’ll see why:
To try and tame the chaos, I color coded my son’s activities in red and my daughter’s in blue. I told my sitter, “Let’s just plan to text each other a lot to get through this first week on this crazy schedule.” On Wednesday, I had the pick up time for Play Rehearsals wrong. And my sitter was having a really hard time understanding all of this when looking at it on her iPhone.
My son has Autism, so it’s particularly important that he understands the schedule using the visuals of a calendar. When I got this text message from him on Wednesday night while he was with his Dad, I knew I needed to do something to make this calendar easier to understand:
Looking at the calendar, I had everything crammed into ONE calendar. I had more details than were really needed. Too many things were overlapping each other. I needed to simplify the calendar. My babysitter needed to understand when to pick the kids up and where. My son needed to understand his own schedule, know when he was getting picked up, and not have his sister’s activities cluttering up what he was looking at. He needed to see what HE cares about.
What to do?
I created a separate calendar for my son. It’s under his Outlook.com account, but I set things up so that I can edit it directly while using my own account. I also set up an account for my daughter while I was at it. Next, I got rid of the overlap by moving my son’s track stuff into his calendar, my daughter stuff into her calendar, and then focused the family calendar on pick ups and drop offs. The new version is much better:
Notice the tabs across the top. Each tab represents a different calendar in a different color. You can show multiple calendars at once. And when you turn off my daughter’s calendar, it was a much clearer picture for my son. We sat down and reviewed the schedule again. Here’s what he is seeing on his iPhone now:
And here’s what the babysitter was looking at (on a Windows Phone), because my son’s calendar is NOT in view:
I’m hoping that the schedule will be more clear. Everyone will be happier. And I won’t be distracted with lots of text message from a frustrated babysitter who can’t figure out where I need her to be because I haven’t set her up for success. Yes, we’re using multiple calendars and sharing them. It may sound complicated at first but once it’s set up, you’ll wonder how you ever functioned any other way.
For those of you interested in some of the nitty-gritty details, keep reading. For the rest of you, happy scheduling!
Some details for me to explain:
What is “Juanita House”? We are in a split family. Since the kids have 2 homes, “home” isn’t clear. I call my house “The Juanita House” so they know where they need to be. I don’t want to call it “Mom’s House” or “Mom and Jeff’s House” because it is “Our House”. Dad didn’t name his house (because he’s functioning like a normal person 😉 ) so we just call his house “Dad’s House”.
Who are all of these people? Dad is Dad. Jeff is my husband. Marie is the afternoon babysitter. Lauren is my son’s ABA therapist (Autism services aide). When I set up appointments with Lauren, I actually email those to her so they are on her calendar. Dad also has the appointments for “which house” on his calendar as well as anything that is on the days when the kids are with him at the end of the day. There’s a lot going on here but this way, everyone has what they need on THEIR calendar.
Please send me your follow up questions! I’d be happy to do a dedicated blog post to deep dive on any questions you have.
We’ve all read the quote “Behind every strong man is a strong woman” as well as all of the related quotes that mock the whole idea. While I understand the criticism of this quote, I strongly believe that having a strong support network, whether it’s a spouse or extended family or friends, it’s a critical part of being a successful working parent.
At work, when I see someone that I view as very successful, when I am able to get more “behind the scenes” information, I often learn that they have a spouse at home who doesn’t work. Their spouse is doing all of the heavy lifting related to keeping a household running, raising the children, volunteering with the PTA, very important and critical work.
For those of us who don’t have this kind of situation, we can still be successful at work. It just requires a bit more juggling and planning. This blog focuses on a strategy to help your support network at home help you so you can be more successful at work
Tip #1 Create a Family Calendar and share it with the right people.
In my case, I created a calendar on Outlook.com. From any calendar, Outlook.com, Google, Yahoo, whatever, you can “Share” the calendar by clicking the “Share” button and then providing the email addresses of the people you want to share it with. My babysitter and my husband have the calendar. I helped my sitter set up her iPhone so that she sees this calendar. I only add items that show up in the weekday afternoons so that she only sees stuff related to our family when she’s working. She literally uses this calendar on her iPhone as a checklist for what needs to be done today and where the kids need to go. My husband usually has this calendar turned “off” but it shows up in his list of calendar so that he can easily see what’s going on at any time.
By creating a Family Calendar, you’re creating a “Communication Center”. All appointments go here. Everyone knows where to look for information. How does this help you at work? You cut down on how many times the babysitter is texting you with random questions during the day about the schedule. In fact, when she DOES send you a text, you know it’s important and related to something that you really need to respond to in the moment. You no longer have your spouse IM-ing you with questions about whether or not you’re free next Thursday after work so you can get together with his co-worker and their spouse. You organize your schedule so you can FOCUS. This is a critical element to being successful at work. if you’re constantly being distracted by things from home, your efficiency at work drops more than you realize.
Tip #2 Get the right appointments onto your spouse’s work calendar
Many working families share the responsibility of dropping off and picking up the kids to/from school and childcare. But work responsibilities often mess up that routine. When an important meeting is scheduled first thing in the morning on a day when I’m usually taking the kids to school, I create a calendar appointment that covers the school drop off time and send it to my husband. If he has a conflict that he can’t move, he just “Declines” and I know I need to figure something else out. The same goes for me. If he can cover it, he “Accepts” and I know I’m covered.
By doing this, you’re setting things up in the moment. No need to remember to talk about this when you get home from work (and risk forgetting). No risk of your spouse forgetting to put this in their calendar, not to mention getting on the right day. It’s fast, simple, clear.
This same approach can be used for meetings at the end of the day. Have you ever had one of those “Executive Reviews” scheduled from 3 to 5pm? They never end on time. You spend the last half hour of the meeting watching the time. You’re stressed. You’re distracted. You’re not focused on the actual meeting because you’re worried about picking up the kids on time. Don’t put yourself in this situation.
When that Executive Review is scheduled for the end of the day, send your spouse a calendar invitation for them to pick up the kids or meet the babysitter. You’re now free to focus on the meeting. Beyond that, often, the most important conversations happen in the hallway after the meeting. Put yourself in a position to be there for that conversation. By taking this simple additional step, you’re lowering your stress, covering the responsibilities at home and creating an environment where you can focus, do your best work and be there for critical conversations.
Tip #3 Planning for the Week
Even with all the right appointments in the calendar, sometimes the family may not be actively looking at their calendars. Family life is all about routine. Routines are what help us manage the chaos and the volume of activities going on. We can keep a lot of that routine in our heads and not rely on a calendar. But the exceptions are the things that mess us up. And the exceptions are the most important things to capture in the calendar because they are hard to remember.
On Sunday evening or first thing on Monday morning, email the calendar out to the people who need it. In my case, this is obviously my husband and babysitter. But I also include my ex-husband and the behavioral therapist who works with my son who has Autism. To email the calendar from Outlook, go to the Home tab and select “E-mail Calendar”. From there, you’ll get options to send the “next 7 days” and an email will be created with the calendar info. I highlight the exceptions to the routine so my family can scan the email and get those exceptions for the week in their head. If you use a calendar like Cozi, they have a wonderful feature that automatically sends a weekly calendar to a preset list of people every Sunday evening.
By incorporating these 3 tips into your day to day management of your schedule, you’ll be amazed at how it will smooth out the bumps in the week. It should also help you go from “surviving the week” to really excelling at work.
Because I work on Outlook Calendar at Microsoft, I see requests all the time to “automatically add travel time to my calendar”. Why don’t we see this in Calendar solutions out there today? It’s a bit tricky. Before I tackle the question of “Why Not?”, let me give some advice on how to deal with this using the calendar solutions that are available today.
Tip #1 Think about travel time the moment you add a new item to your calendar.
You know where you will be going to and where you’re going to be coming from. When you create a calendar item, also create additional appointments before and after. Calendar reminders are getting smarter and smarter. These smart reminders help you leave for an appointment on time. For example, Google Now will look at the address in an appointment on your calendar and look at your current location and then pop a reminder at the right time so you’ll leave on time. But what if someone at the office schedules a meeting right on top of the time when you would have been traveling to the appointment? This is why it’s useful to add that “travel time” appointment. It helps you communicate to others (at work) both the time you’ll be away at the appointment as well as the time you’ll be away traveling to the appointment. The same advice holds for traveling BACK from the appointment.
Tip #2 Think about travel time the moment you ACCEPT a new item on your calendar.
Whether you have a job that requires you to travel from client site to client site or you work in an office that is part of a larger campus, you need to think about the amount of time you’ll need to get to an appointment the moment you commit to that appointment by accepting it. Proposing an alternate time to accommodate travel time right when you set up an appointment will make it easier for the person you’re meeting with to modify the time to allow you to arrive on time. They will appreciate how proactive you are. Even more, being this proactive will be perceived as showing respect for THEIR time.
If you work in a corporate campus environment, it’s actually a bit tougher. You’re not driving across town, but you may need about 10 minutes to get from your building to the building of the person you’re meeting with. I see people take the approach of leaving a meeting 10 minutes early. But often, the actual decision making happens in the last 10 minutes of a meeting so by taking this approach, you’re missing critical moments in your work day. Instead, my advice would be proposing a time with a start time that is 10 minutes later. Instead of accepting a meeting from 2 to 3pm, propose a 2:10 to 3:00 meeting, assuming this is a smaller meeting where the meeting organizer has some flexibility. When you propose the time, add a comment like this, “Can we start 10 minutes after the hour so I have time to get from my previous meeting in building X?” Again, you’ll be helping this meeting start on time by not being in a position where you have not choice but to be late.
The Result: when you take this extra step of accounting for travel time, you’ll reduce stress in your day to day. Instead of checking your calendar in the morning and being faced with what feels like a horrible obstacle course that will result in you arriving late to everything all day, you’ve created a manageable schedule that you can glide through in order to accomplish everything you need to accomplish that day.
So back to the question of “why don’t calendars today automatically add travel time to your schedule?” All I have is a theory but here it is: Your time is as precious or MORE precious than money. Using money as an analogy, imagine if your bank automatically committed your money to other things every time you spent money. For example, you spend money on school supplies for your children so your bank decides that you should be saving for college as well so it transfers a chunk of money into your child’s college fund just because you spent money on school supplies! People SHOULD be saving for college. But that doesn’t mean that they want someone else making that decision for them. The analogy applies to time as well. Just because you’ve committed to something on your calendar doesn’t mean that you want your calendar automatically committing to other things. Maybe you’ve accepted a meeting that you may or may not end up attending? If your calendar automatically adds travel time to block your schedule, you may not be very happy about that. I’d love to hear other theories on why we don’t see features like this in calendar today or if there are calendars out there that do this that I haven’t seen.
I don’t travel much for my job at Microsoft but as I’m heading to Minneapolis to attend this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration Conference, I’m feeling grateful for one of the few benefits of having a split family: the flexibility to travel worry free.
I share custody with my kids’ dad. While I’m at the conference, focused on learning, networking and recharging my batteries, I won’t be worried about my kids because they are in great hands. And they are literally at home. Since their dad handles things just fine on his own all the time, the routine isn’t even that out of the ordinary.
My son has Autism so changing the routine can be especially difficult for him. We plan these trips well in advance, put the information on the family calendar as well as our shared Outlook calendar that my son can see on his phone. When he knows what’s coming, he can anticipate the change in the routine and handle it quite well. As he headed to his Dad’s after school yesterday with our babysitter, OFF our normal Monday schedule, he sent me a text message, “Have a good time on your vacation.” 🙂 He knows the routine is different. He knows why. And he’s just fine.
It’s not always easy for spilt families to get along. And things aren’t always coming up roses for us either. But one thing we’ve never argued about is knowing that we need to do what is best for our kids. Part of this is a fundamental understanding that supporting one another in our careers is one big way that we can do what is best for our kids.
Two weeks ago, my ex-husband had a business trip AND needed to be in a wedding in another state. We give each other advance notice. We adjust the schedule. The kids stay stable in their home and school routines and we are able to do the things we need to do for work and even our personal lives. It works. Sure, I could get help from other family members in a pinch but since being with their dad is also being at home for my kids, it’s the best option for them, which makes it the best option for me.
How do we keep track of all of these exceptions in the schedule? Outlook Calendar. I keep a calendar that I share with the kids AND our babysitter. I share appointments with my ex that show what day the kids are with him, what day they are with me, and any other appointments related to the kids. He can see all of these appointments in his work calendar, his single calendar. We’re always looking at the same calendar and it helps keep things straight.
As I travel this week, it will cause OTHER exceptions to the weekly routine. My husband is traveling with me (ANOTHER bonus!) so he won’t be going to guitar lessons with my son this week. We’ve updated that appointment in the calendar to say “No Guitar Lesson / Jeff is out of town”. This will serve as a reminder to the babysitter and will also remind my son of the change, making it easier for him to handle it that day.
So if things aren’t this smooth in your world, I highly recommend making changes so you can find this same level of flexibility and coordination with your ex. It will help get both parents focused on a common goal: stability and predictability for the kids AND it will let you both focus on your careers or whatever personal goals you’re working on. Happy parents = happy kids. Isn’t that what we’re all working for anyway?
It’s hard enough for a typical family to keep track of everything between school holidays, career deadlines, soccer games and business trips. How does a split family do it?
I’m divorced and I’ve found that sharing a calendar is the key to successful communication and coordination. To be blunt, I really don’t like needing to talk to my ex. 🙂 Before we got our calendar together, I felt like I was talking to him more than when we lived together. Sharing a calendar has solved that.
We split custody 50/50. We both want to be involved. I’m already keeping a calendar so why no share it with him? I put all of the dates in the calendar like:
Kids at Dad’s
Kids at Mom’s
Parent Teacher Conferences
Stuff Like That
I’ve set up this calendar in Outlook.com. I use Outlook to see both my work calendar (with Office365) AND this Outlook.com calendar which I’ve named “Family Calendar”. For the events I listed above, I “invite” my ex and those events are sent to his work calendar. He only keeps one calendar, that work calendar, so this was the best way to get this stuff in there. When we first got organized, the number of “invitations” was a lot. But now that it’s set up, it’s easy.
Both of us are pretty busy with work so we try to be very flexible with each other in terms of scheduling. By using Outlook, we can run changes by each other over the phone or even via text message and then I make the updates in Outlook. When an update is made, the updated appointment is sent to him. It may feel formal, but it’s a great way to confirm the conversation we had and make sure things are straight – BEFORE we hit a conflict or have a miscommunication.
I also share this calendar with my husband and babysitter. We just use basic calendar sharing. My husband accesses the calendar when he’s trying to plan things and wants to see if we have the kids or not. My babysitter uses this calendar to manage each day. I add additional items that I don’t invite my ex to like Guitar Lesson, Piano Lesson, Reading Tutors and things like that so the babysitter has that schedule. But I don’t add my ex to those items so they won’t fill up his calendar over the top of his busy afternoons at work.
Each Sunday night, I email this calendar to my ex (along with my son’s Autism specialists who work with him in my home). It serves as a reminder for all of us to look at the week ahead and update anything that was forgotten. This is especially handy in terms of support work schedules. As conferences and business trips come up, they can be managed ahead of time.
Even though we’re divorced, we both need to support each other in our careers – as we do this, we’re helping each other do the best we can for our kids. And by having all of the kids school commitments in one place, we can also coordinate so that we can BOTH attend or make sure at least one of us is attending. Again, it’s the right thing to do for the kids.
So if you’re pulling your hair out trying to coordinate your custody schedule with your ex, AND stay on the same page with your shared babysitter, give this a try. You’ll be amazed by the amount of harmony it will bring.
This question can add stress to the end of a very long day. And if you don’t have a great answer to that question, it can leave you feeling even worse.
I happen to enjoy cooking. So when did this become such a chore?! When I have the right ingredients on hand, putting a fabulous, healthy meal in front of my family gives me a boost and makes me feel good. So I decided to make this, along with the meal planning that goes with it, part of my routine. It’s something I need to spend time on anyway. Why not do this chore in a way that’s much more fun and enjoyable? And if this can make the week run smoother, even better!
Every weekend, typically on a lazy Saturday morning before the activities of the day take over, I spend time with the latest edition of Cooking Light Magazine and some favorite cookbooks to plan my meals for the week. As I pick out my recipes, I do 2 things:
1. Add the name of the dinner I’ve chosen into my Outlook calendar. Or you can just write it into the family calendar on your wall. It may seem a bit silly to write it into the calendar but once the busy week gets underway, you’d be amazed at how quickly you forget the great plan you made the weekend prior.
2. Capture all of the ingredients in OneNote. I’ve got a shopping list page in a OneNote notebook that I share with my husband (more on that later). Over time, I’ve organized this list to match the order that I roll through the store in. I keep a lot of the typical items in the list like milk, eggs and apples so I remember to restock that stuff but it allows me to also remember the unique things for the recipes I’ve chosen.
From there, the plan is set and the weekend agenda can take over like it usually does. Often getting the actual grocery shopping done can be tough in between all of the kids activities and time spent with friends. This is where having the list in OneNote is super handy.
At the grocery store, if the list is long, my husband and I can divide and conquer. We can both look at the list at the same time and check things off. Since the list is ordered based on how I usually move through the store, he can start at one end while I start on the other. We literally end up meeting in the middle. Since I don’t have the ordering of my list perfect (yet), we both check items off the list on our phones and nothing is forgotten.
If you’re just getting started, this may feel like advanced organization. But if you start with one meal or even just a basic shopping list, you’ll be amazed how over time, it gets easier and easier. I’ve had random weekends where the meal planning just didn’t get done – and what a stressful week it was!
So turn cooking and meal planning back into the hobby you used to enjoy. And reap the rewards through the rest of the week.