Friday, January 27, 2012

Consolidating calendars

I've been thinking of writing this post for awhile but put it off, because I already know what some people will suggest as a solution: "Go digital!"  But it's not as simple as that.

By "consolidating calendars" I mean, getting all the calendars and timelines in your life down to a simpler, usable system.  I thought, maybe most people have this figured out by now. But yesterday as I was surfing blogs I found a reply on one where someone was struggling to consolidate all of her calendars: work, personal, her husband's work schedule, blogging, knitting, etc. And I thought, ok maybe there will be some interest in this topic after all!

My first thought as to who needs help consolidating calendars goes to parents with kids in school. My kids' school doesn't have a regular schedule (for example, every Tuesday is Library Day). Instead, each month the teachers print out a calendar of what their class is doing each day of the month. That way I can consult the calendar each day and know whether to send swim gear, library books or PE kit. It's complicated, but I guess it avoids redundancy in the schedule.

Anyway, I don't write these things into my planner because there's no need. It's simpler just to consult the calendars on my fridge than to re-write all this stuff. But it means I have several places to look each day to see what's happening: each child's classroom calendar, and my planner. Three places is do-able. But at what point do you reach the state of "too many places to look?"

Even people who only have their own schedule to keep track of have different types of calendars to maintain: work, personal, study/ university/ grad school/ night school etc., blog post scheduling,  volunteer work, etc. It can be a lot to keep up on!

There's no one right way to keep track of multiple calendars at once. For keeping track of multiple peoples' schedules, the easiest way to see who is doing what each day is to use one of those family calendars where each person has their own column for each day of the week or month. This works well not only for families but also for roommates, coworkers, and any other place where you need to see who's where each day.

Some people like to keep their work planner separate from their personal planner. This works fine if your work/ personal lives are truly separate, or have little overlap.  For example, when I worked in a corporation we all had to use Outlook for our work schedules so that people could schedule meetings with everyone who needed to be there. I kept all of my personal stuff in my Filofax. In the rare instance I needed to schedule something during work hours, like a dentist appointment, it was pretty easy to figure out a good time.

Some people, especially those whose work and personal commitments don't follow exact time delineations, might function better having everything all together in one planner. This not only helps avoid overlapping or double booking appointments, it also helps you see what's coming up in a different aspect of your life. For example, you might not necessarily put on your work schedule to buy flowers for the dinner party that night, but if you have everything in one planner you would.

I do know there are lots of electronic options for combining calendars. Partners can share a digital calendar system where they can see each other's schedule and get automatically updated when the other person's schedule changes. But, when you use a paper planner it encourages communication to tell each other when the schedule has changed. I like that.

What about you? What method do you use to keep track of your work, blogging, hobbies, study, kids and/ or partner's schedule, and everything else you've got going on in your life? Do you find it helpful to combine everything in one calendar/ planner, or keep some things separate?


  1. Hi Laurie!

    This is my first time commenting on your page but I've been a Philofaxy commenter for a while now.

    I've recently had what you refer to as 'planner angst'. I use an Aqua Finsbury Pocket Filofax with both a week on two pages and day per page diary in it, as well as many other sections for various other things. It's packed and probably weighs about the same as a newborn baby!!

    What bugs me about Filofax though is their refills. You're expected to just write everything in one place, which is fine if you only have yourself to think about. I have so many things to put in my Filofax, such as: my social activities, days I'm out at work, days I'm freelancing, band rehearsals and concerts, when I'm on call, my husband's commitments (for babysitting purposes), my daughter's school needs and holidays, her social activities, childcare arrangements, birthdays, important reminders, oh my goodness the list goes on! So to have to cram everything into one space makes my days look a bit messy and untidy for me.

    I'm not sure if you've heard of 'Mum's Office' but I've had my eye on this planner for a while now:

    They also do these:

    It's a diary in grid format, which would mean I could have the left page to myself, a box for work, one for hubby, one for my daughter and one for birthdays/important reminders. I ordered one and it came this week. I really love the grid format but I just can't bring myself to replace my Filofax. I love all my important sections and templates that I use, as well as the pockets and transparent envelopes for bits and bobs.

    I think I'm going to keep using my Filofax until they start doing some form of grid diary! In the meantime, I have an A4 weekly template that I use in grid format that I stick on our fridge and use a new one every week. If anyone's interested in using it, please let me know and I will email a copy that can be 'tweaked' however you like.

    Other than that, I just put everything in my Filofax - appointments and reminders in my week on two pages and to dos on my day per page. It works; it's just a bit . . . messy!

  2. Oh and by the way, if anyone wants to try one of the school year grid diaries (that go up to August 2012), they are currently only £2 plus postage from Ryman's.

  3. Hi Lucy,

    Filofax used to do a Family Organiser diary and worksheets pack as part of their Lifestyle Pack range, in Personal and A5 sizes. The personal size did have a grid calendar just as you describe, but the squares were very small. I did a review of the A5 size inserts, but for some reason I didn't include any photos! Sorry!

    I later got the Personal size as well but the grid's squares were just too small in the Personal size to be useful.

    Filofax UK have discontinued the Family Organiser packs, but they are still available from Filofax USA, in the A5 size only:

    I, and many other people I know, use a Filofax as an info/ reference book and a separate diary book, for just the reasons you have described!