Lately I’ve been talking a lot about using calendars to get organized. There was Staying Organized with a Calendar and Planner Part I and Part II. I knew I had paper planners covered-after all I had used them extensively throughout my school years and military career.
Where I have wanted, needed actually, to move is into web based calendars. Although I understand how they work, I have not yet implemented one for myself so can’t really talk about the ins and outs. So I did what I find myself doing often these days-I popped on over to Twitter and asked my network of followers if there was anyone who had experience with computerized calendar systems and was willing to write me a guest post.
Enter Thom! He answered almost immediately and was happy to share his knowledge with all of you. This post is an overview-very soon he’ll come back and share some more details.
I’ve been a geek all my life. I’m always trying the latest gadgets and the latest software. I try everything. I do this because I love to see all the cool new things coming out. But I always come back to my tried and true tools for productivity and time management.
As everyone knows, the Internet has become a household name. And most of you reading this are undoubtedly looking to find the most economical solutions to everyday problems. I’ve been a geek for most of my life, and I have tried every type of gadget and played with every type of software. But what I use most is calendaring. Web based calendaring to be more specific.
For years I was a paper planner person. I felt in control of my life if I was carrying it with me. I could quickly write something down, or check my schedule where ever I was. But in 2009, I don’t use paper any more for managing my calendar. I use web based tools and will probably never use paper again.
The quality of calendaring tools available on the web is amazing. You have the choice between the ultra simple and the ultra complex. Of course the more complex the more it costs. Me personally, I wanted something easy, accessible and most of all cost effective.
There are several types of online calendaring systems. If you’re an Outlook user, Microsoft offers a desktop and web based tool, but the web tool is something usually setup by the Corporate IT department. It’s not really something an individual can setup. There are other desktop applications for email and calendaring, but I want to talk about web based tools that are easy to use and free.
The important aspects of calendaring to me are
Quickly add new appointments with out a lot of work
Ability to see day, week, month
Share with others
Available on the web or on my phone
Let’s look at one of these individually.
If I’m in a conversation or on the phone, and someone says “let’s do lunch” or “I’d like to stop by on…”, I want to know my schedule right away. But I also want to add a new appointment just as quickly. If I have to click through four or five screens, I just get frustrated. However, if I can add that appointment with one action, I’m a happy camper.
I like my calendar to be in month mode. I like seeing the big picture. That is one reason I didn’t like paper planners, I had to rummage through a bunch of pages to see out several weeks or months. I rarely work from a day view and never from a week view. For what ever reason, none of the online tools have an ascetically pleasing week view. But I like having options.
Sharing calendars is becoming a great way for family, friends, and groups to share important events on specific dates. A great example is the Birthday calendar my Family shares. I set up a calendar in Google Calendars, added everyones birthdays, then shared it with everyone in the Family. Now there is a central place to see birthdays. We’ve expanded to include Family activities so we know what each others children are doing too.
You may be a one computer person. Meaning, you typically use one computer either in your home or office. But there are many people who use computers at home, the office, have laptops, and even public computers found in places like the Library. Now, with the ability to access calendars on the web and a phone, you can stay updated just about anywhere.
I’ve used a lot of different tools. And my recommendation for calendering is to use Google Calendar. The reasons behind this are Google uses unobtrusive text based ads in their applications versus Microsoft and Yahoo!, who use very large intrusive picture ads. Google also offers the largest amount of space, public and private calendar subscriptions, and appointment sharing. But the most important thing you will find with Google tools are their ease of use. You just can’t get lost. The have worked really hard to make a clean and simple interface.
I will discuss some advanced uses of online email/calendering in a future blog post, on how to use a full suite of online tools for managing many aspects of your life.