Lack of Organiza…LOOK A PONY!

You know those people that live and die by their paper planner? When they lose it, life almost ceases to go on, and they run in circles like a bee with a pollen allergy?

I’m not one of those people.

You know those people that have a crackberry/palm pilot/iPhone strapped to their side, and if their batteries die, they do too?

I’m not one of those people either.

As it turns out, I’ve been trying to get organized for close to a decade now. For some reason, I can never quite get it when it comes to scheduling things. It’d be nice to claim I’m too creative for schedules, but not only would it be a lie — it would also just be a nice artsy fartsy excuse for my failure. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Now that I have 2 awesome jobs, scheduling is critical. You see, I also have an awesome family that deserves my time. (What did they do to deserve that you ask? Well, they fed me, now they’re stuck with me) My current attempt at organization is Google Calendar:

The advantage is that I can access it from any computer, and “syncing” is not required. I’ve tried the syncing game, and it always burns me. When I get a phone next month with a data plan, I should be able to access my calendar anywhere. This pleases me…

How do you stay organized?

21 thoughts on “Lack of Organiza…LOOK A PONY!

  1. I subscribe to the “organized in my own head” school of thought. I don’t own any sort of blackberry/palm/whatever device. I don’t know how to IM on my cell phone. (Yes, I know how to call people and answer it when it rings.) If I got one of these devices, I’d have to spend a month entering names/addresses/numbers and I’d hang myself sometime before completing the task. I found your number once…I can find it again.

    I’ve had the same Asst. Location Manager on my last five jobs and she says I keep so much stuff in my head that if I ever get run over by a bus, she may as well just go home because I don’t share enough.

    I’m probably guilty, but it’s all part of not wanting to waste time storing info.

  2. I love using the sms feature on the google calendar, so it sends me text messages reminding me where I’m supposed to be.

    Paper planners are too bulky, and while I loves me my gadgets, I haven’t found an electronic one that I like. I hate the outlook calendar with a mighty hate, but that’s what we are stuck with at work.

    Oh, look, it’s 6:30 AM so I should go back to work on my homework.

  3. Tania, what are you doing here? Tsk, tsk. ::cracks whip::

    Professionally, I live and die by my Outlook calendar, and yes, that does mean that when the crap-app goes down, I’m a wiggling mass of worthless goo.

    Okay, not really. I don’t have many meetings, as 80% of my job consists of actually performing engineering tasks for field sales teams. I perform these tasks on a first in, first out basis, and typically won’t deviate from that plan unless a whiny sales team complains to my boss.

    Since I receive my tasks via Siebel, another crap-app, it’s a miracle I get anything done at all…

  4. First, I have OCD, so organization comes naturally to me.

    I was okay with nothing, until my grandmother moved in. Now I have a work PDA that synchs with our work e-mail/calendar system (GroupWise), where I have three personal calendars in addition to my work calendar (the three personal calendars are all overlaid onto my work calendar.

    I do NOT synch at home, but just slap the PDA into the holder at work, and I’m good to go. This lets me keep track of my teaching schedule, keep track of my personal appointments, and keep track of my doctor’s appointments, as well as when Michael is on pager duty.

    Mostly I just like having the PDA to refer to, and as a backup alarm in case I forget something.

    But if we change our wireless system to support iPhones, my boss will get an iPhone, and I’ll most likely get a blackberry. And as long as it can snych with my work calendar, I’m good to go.

  5. I have a Moleskine planner (8.25″ x 4.25″ x 0.375″) that either sits open on my desk, or is tucked neatly in my “go-bag.” As the most out-of-bag travel it does is the 3′ from where my bag goes to it’s spot on my desk, it doesn’t have much of a chance to get lost.

    When there is something at a specific time (such as a 2:30 conference call) and I don’t think I’ll remember it, I use Remember the Milk to send me an on-time reminder; I either IM or text it in to Twitter, which passes it on to RTM, or I call Jott and it passes it along. Then I get a nice text message or IM at the time of the event. Takes all of 2 seconds when looking at my planner that morning.

    I can’t stand electronic organizers, whether it’s on a cell phone/PDA or an online or desktop calendar; it always seems like it takes more time to enter appointments than it does with a paper calendar, and you’re a lot less likely to be able to enter them immediately (leaving room for you to forget).

    (What’s that? You need a computer to put something on your schedule? You have to *log-in* to your schedule? Wow. In the 15 minutes it took you to find a computer and log in to your program, I wrote down the rest of the year’s appointments on my old paper planner, with the pencil I had right here in my bag…) O_o

  6. I used to be a crackberry addict but then I gave up.
    For the most part I lightly use my outlook calendar.

    I’m forced to use Numera Track-IT at work which is an overbearing program.

    It does help desk, puchasing, library, inventory and a billion reports my bosses don’t read. It’s a slick program but it takes a full time person to keep everything updated in it.

  7. Hmm… I have one of those giant wall/desktop calendars at work, on which I scrawl in penciled notes to myself. At home, I tack all my appointment cards and bills to the fridge. Between those two and old-fashioned memory, I seem to be keeping up fine – but then my life isn’t high-intensity tightly scheduled most of the time anyhow.

  8. I write notes on random pieces of paper, occassionaly write on one of two calendars, and keep a lot in my head. I don’t use electroni methods because like Justin, I am of the opinion (based on my own testing) that paper is faster and memory is fastest. Also, I have little need to share my schedule, since I work for me and am employeeless. It (mostly) works for me. Except when I can find the piece of papaer or forget ’cause I didn’t write it down. But that’s pretty rare.

  9. I use Outlook at work because I’m forced to, but all-in-all it works pretty well.

    I use Google calendar for personal stuff. I like it so far, but I still find it a bit cumbersome.

    I would caution you that actually scheduling time for your family on your calendar may eventually lead you to treating it like just another task, rather than treating it as spending quality time with the loves of your life. I find myself in that rut from time to time, and I have to stop and take a deep breath and remember that for all that I’m trying to write and be a full-time chemist, my family is the first thing on my priority list.

  10. You make a great point. Thankfully, apart from softball games and such, I don’t schedule family time. I try to schedule the rest, so all the white space is family time. 🙂

    (Except for the white space during the day, where the whitespace is my day job…)

  11. Justin Ryan,

    I *have* to use the calendar for work, because we have shared calendars so everyone else can know when we’re out or busy. (Since we have to cover the front desk, we all need to know what everyone else is doing at a glance. So I leave my calendar open at work, and have everyone’s calendar displayed at the same time.)

    And that shared calendar function is *really* nice, since it lets me know at a glance who is doing what where and when.

    And I don’t think Outlook is any worse than GroupWise. I think any calendar system has its benefits and drawbacks. The nice thing about Outlook is that you don’t have to do anything special to sync it with a PDA, since most PDAs come with MS software already.

  12. Plus, most people have Outlook open for email all day too. No logging on, just open the calendar and type. This, of course, assumes I am sitting at my desk. When someone proposes a meeting while not sitting at a desk, I or the other person will usually follow up with an email.

    Personally, I use Outlook for work stuff and my PDA as a backup for my brain for other stuff. It also has other features that are useful, like addresses and lists and the like. When I was young I just used my brain (worked better then and I didn’t have a lot of appointments). Then, when I got a job and things got more stressful, I used to carry a Daytimer to keep track of things. The PDA I got a decade later to downsize things. I’ll still use a small notebook for lists and things, but the pile of random bits of paper I used to do is gone, thank goodness.

  13. Time for a security guy rant moment.

    Do any of you google calendar users ever worry about someone else getting into that information?
    Google is a trusted family name now but at the same time you are transferring where you are and what your doing over the internet every time you use their calendar.

    I could come up with a potential list of fun/malicious things a bored hacker could do with google calendar accounts.

    The other potential problem is that if your putting facts about your life out for google to store what is the time frame for data retention and who might get access to it?

    If someone uses gooogle for search, calendar, document storage book reading etc who knows what kind of things could be done with that data.

    If google ever decided to sell or spin off all their stored data privacy for a lot of people might take a back seat. Imagine if you went to a job interview and they had some software that accessed google info on applicants.

    “I see here that you left a lot of projects looming at you last job according to your google calendar. Hmm and you also did a lot of shopping online at the job before that.”

  14. Monochrome: You have a valid point, and I guess rather than try to “secure” my data, I just try to live transparently in all I do. I don’t put things like, “BUY BEER” on my calendar, and maybe that’s partially my subconscious trying to sanitize my online presence.

    I’m also fairly certain that at this point, any future jobs/careers will only be benefited by my online track record as opposed to hindered by it. I realize I’m probably in a minority there, but nonetheless, I think it’s true for me.

    As with all things, your mileage might vary.

  15. Michelle K:
    I’ve been in that position too, where a given system was foisted upon everyone by someone higher up. If it works for you, super! I didn’t mean to suggest anyone else’s system wasn’t a good fit for them (I don’t get to see them in action, who am I to judge?), just express my feelings about (based on my experiences of) electronic scheduling.

    I still think that electronic methods are inefficient, redundant, carry a failure potential, and prone to missed appointments. If the power goes out, if you’re away from your desk, if you get stuck in traffic and can’t get back to the office, Outlook or gCal or any other electronic service is of no use to you (unless you’ve got someone back at the office who can access your system and tell you where and with whom you’re meeting at 2:00, which is a whole other issue). A paper calendar requires nothing but light and the physical ability to turn pages, both of which most of us have at all times.

    Let me offer a case study that shows what I’m trying to say:

    I’ve got a close friend who uses gCal via the Lightning extension for Thunderbird. He’s a master’s student in psychology (starting his Ph.D. next fall), and works as a T.A. for three different departments at the University. When he happens to be in his “office” — about three hours a week — everything is golden, because he can access gCal with no problem to add and retrieve appointments.

    The other 17 hours he spends on-campus as a TA, he has two choices: Carry his laptop (Dell Inspiron, Ubuntu HH, ~6 lbs) and hope for a WiFi hotspot, or pray he remembers what was on gCal. Ditto for when he’s in class as a student himself, and the rest of the week when he’s running his own errands and just generally being a person.

    If he makes an appointment at any point other than those 3 hours in his office or when he’s at home and online, he has to write it on a scrap of paper and stick it in his pocket, with the hope that he’ll see it when he gets home and remember to put it on gCal. Of course, it’s entirely possible that he may have to cancel it, because he made it without checking his schedule — because he couldn’t — and he may find that he already has something scheduled for that time. Doctors appointments, church activities, social engagements, campus activities — almost everything that needs to go on his schedule is done without the benefit of having it in front of him to check and/or enter the appointment. As one might guess, he has a habit of missing appointments, and the reputation that goes with it.
    Now, it may be my rampant OCD, but I say any system where you have to write your appointments down twice (once on scraps of paper, and again on your online schedule), can’t keep your calendar with you to check appointment conflicts, write down new ones, or even see when your existing ones are, is inefficient, redundant, and prone to making you miss appointments.

    I can’t help but contrast that with my little black Moleskine sitting securely in my bag (which I carry at all times because I keep my meds and other vitals in it) which never powers down, is never out of reach, never suffers data loss or corruption, and never leaves me in the lurch for knowing exactly what my schedule is, and think it’s head and shoulders above the electronic alternative.

    If electronic works for someone else, I say brava; in my experience, I’ve never worked with anyone for whom it worked (and I’ve worked with a lot of people that have tried).

  16. Justin,

    That’s the point of the PDA in the equation.

    I take my PDA with me to DR appointments etc, and I can tell immediately whether I’m available for an appointment.

    I was using my calendar system at work only for work appointments, and found myself missing doctor’s appointments, or not knowing if and when I had to take my grandmother somewhere.

    When I put everything into my work calendar, not only can I see current and upcoming appointments, but it also has an alarm to remind me of my appointments, which was been a godsend.

    As far as google calendar and yahoo calendar, I played with them both for a bit, but the only thing I’ve found slightly useful is the bit at the bottom of Yahoo mail that tells me of upcoming appointments. i.e. birthdays.

    But since my PDA/work calendar can do the something (I can set an alarm two weeks in advance to remind me to buy a birthday/whatever gift) it’s not that useful.

    In my experience, our e-calendar system as work is a godsend. It’s tied into our e-mail, so we all use it, and being able to see what someone is doing when is wonderful. Our GAs almost all immediately started using the calendar system for their personal appointments after they input their data for school and work.

    And as the person who does the schedule… well, if I had to do the schedule on paper (and I sometimes do my drafts on paper) I’d lose my mind.

  17. I use a paper planner, with monthy and weekly pages. (I’m a Franklin Covey addict — I’m one of those super-organized, really annoying people.) I write major appointments and stuff in the monthly pages, and then use the weekly pages to keep track of my schedule and lists of things to do every week. I used to get overwhelmed when I had one running list of things to do — I never had everything done! Now, when I prioritize and can write stuff down for later, it works much better.

    Plus, I have address tabs in the back, so I can keep track of important phone numbers and email addresses, whether they belong to friends and family, the place where I go to get my hair cut, etc.

    Congrats on your Google efforts — hope it works for you!

  18. My Treo 700P syncs with MyYahoo! Calendar. My assistant and I both can update the calendar (the husband too to let me know of soccer games and stuff). That way if something happens to Morris (yes, that’s my PDA’s name, leave me alone) then I have it elsewhere and if I don’t have power, I have Morris. It’s the best thing I’ve found because I don’t use Outlook and I refuse to move from the Palm OS. I also use a lot of the organizational techniques in Getting Things Done by David Allen – I cannot recommend that book enough. I think you have to find something that works for you and use it. Yahoo texts me a reminder for my appointments and due dates. I use backpackit.com to organize my to-do lists (and share them so my husband and assistant can see/update). The people that work for me have backpackits as well. It sounds convoluted, but again, it works for us. I think you just gotta do what works for you. I’ve tried system after system after system and they just all failed — for me.

  19. I follow a daily routine that is coupled with a weekly routine. (Just like the earth rotates 360 degrees in a day and on its axis during a whole year) I break down my day into four chunks morning, afternoon, evening and night. Mornings are usually for the family, evenings are for studying and nights are usually spent online with you guys.

    But that changes during the week I can’t be online when I am coming home from a class at night. Of course on the weekends I like to throw all that structure out the window and do whatever the hell I feel like doing!

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