family calendaring and scheduling
For the most part life is hectic and crazy, especially when you have family and professional responsibilities like many of us do. Unfortunately, life doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, it seems that every year is more hectic than the previous. I remember a comment I made to my wife about 15 years ago: “I can’t wait until things slow down a little.” I’m still waiting for this to happen.
Technology can either help our cause or get in the way. Specifically, I’m talking about helping to manage our time and the time of others, whether it be a small team of coworkers or our family. In many ways, our sanity depends on our ability to effectively manage our time. Today, we’ll be talking about how we can use technology to make this aspect of our lives just a little (or a lot for some of us) more manageable and enjoyable.
There are many apps and services that help us to manage our time effectively. Some are simpler than others, and I’m always a big fan of keeping things simple! If you know me, you’ll understand why. I have a wife, 6 children, a very active business to run, church responsibilities, and other activities that keep me out of trouble. Two of the more common scheduling systems that I see in use are Apple’s iCloud service and Google’s Gmail service with integrated scheduling. Both are free and both are good. Most of what we talk about here will be conceptual, but in some cases we’ll be talking about mechanics. For those moments, I will talk specifically to iCloud, which is my calendaring service of choice, but the same principles will apply to Gmail and other scheduling services.
First, let’s start with the basics. Each member of my family (again, there are 8 of us) has their very own (free) iCloud account. I created an account for all of our children, even our then 2 year old for one reason… to ensure that we could have a standard naming convention for all of us. With a relatively uncommon last name like “Allgaier,” this was pretty easy. For others (sorry Bob Smith!), good luck. Again, this is free to do and means we can check this off the list.
Now that everyone has their own account, it’s time to start using them. We have a rule in our family… “If it’s on the calendar, it happens. If it’s not, it probably won’t.” I will talk about the significance of that in just a minute, but that includes everything from work schedules to play dates with a friend and everything in between. Not only will this help to keep others in the family in the loop, but it teaches our children good scheduling habits at a young age.
Now that we have that concept out of the way, let’s talk about sharing (and this is a HUGE part of why we schedule). As I mentioned before, we each have our own individual calendar (and some of us may have more than one calendar for work, personal, etc.). That’s great, but the idea is to allow others to know our whereabouts to help manage family time effectively. Below is a diagram showing how our calendars are shared with each other.
Let’s walk through it together.
In our family, we have decided that Mom’s calendar and Dad’s calendar don’t necessarily need to be shared with each other. This isn’t because we don’t care about, or want to know, what the other person is doing but because our schedules are usually so full, it helps with our sanity. For activities that affect us both, we have another solution. Keep reading.
Each of the children’s calendars are shared with Mom and Dad with full access. This way, Mom or Dad can easily add events to a child’s calendar for them, if needed, and the child is aware of the addition through alerts, etc. The children calendars are not shared with other children for the same reason that Mom’s and Dad’s calendars aren’t shared with the children. They just don’t need that much information. This, of course, is a personal preference, so feel free to adjust and adapt as you see fit for your family.
In addition to individual calendars, there are two more calendars that Dad (in our case) owns, manages, and shares with others. One of those is a “Mom and Dad” calendar. This is a shared calendar between Mom and Dad for things like weddings, date nights, etc. Events that affect both of us. The other calendar is a family shared calendar. This is a calendar that is used for events that affect the entire family… family vacations, church, etc. This is also the calendar where we list when family members will be out of town so everyone can be aware.
Conceptually, I hope that makes sense. Now, let’s talk about the mechanics behind how this works. As I mentioned before, I will use iCloud as our scheduling platform of choice, but the same principles apply to other services like Gmail.
By default, each iCloud account already has a primary calendar to work with. To add more calendars (for example, I have one for work, personal, etc.), we simply open our calendar app of choice (Calendar for Mac OS X, in my case) and then go to File > New Calendar… (you can also create a new calendar by going to www.icloud.com/calendar).
From here, we can name our calendar and even assign it its own unique color. Using colors is a VERY useful way to distinguish one calendar from another. In our case, my work schedule is green, the family calendar is yellow, and so forth. This allows me to quickly glance at my calendar and know what’s going on.
Sharing a calendar is quick and easy and can be done either from the Calendar app or www.icloud.com/calendar. To the right of each calendar is an option to share that calendar with someone else. Simply click on that button and enter the email address of the person you wish to share the calendar with.
As you do this, you will notice that you can choose permissions for that share (view only or full access). If you choose full access, both you and the person(s) you are sharing the calendar with can add, remove, or change calendar events. If you choose read-only, the person(s) you share your calendar with can see your calendar but won’t be able to make changes.
One final note: when adding events to calendars that are shared with others, it’s a good idea to use more than just the event name field. I find that adding notes and the event address makes it much easier for everyone to stay on top of things. In some cases, it may be useful to add images or a document to an event. This of course is up to you.
Now that we have our calendars shared with each other, we can access that information on our computer, on our iPhone/iPad, or via the web. As long as we are using event alerts, we are also notified of events at the appropriate time. We can not only view, but we can also add calendar events for others (depending on share permissions) and make changes as necessary. The initial setup takes just a little work, but once you find your groove, this can make a HUGE difference in effectively managing your time!
Ok, I realize this may be a LOT of information for you to take in. It may be a good idea to digest it, then come back and read it again (and again and again) to really start to understand how you can apply these principles in your family or work group. As I mentioned before, every family or team is different, so you may want to adjust and adapt slightly, but the fundamental principle of having something should apply to all. Good luck and happy scheduling!