One Calendar to Rule Them All! How I Use iCal to Coordinate Multiple Schedules
After just over a year of trying various systems, My Person and I have a shared iCal system that makes scheduling our lives, jointly and separately, much easier and more efficient.
We are Apple people. He's the original Mac enthusiast, but I converted a few years ago. I love how seamlessly Apple products sync. As a digital immigrant, I can learn new software and new apps by trial and error and get the gist of the program. But I'm no techie, especially when it comes to hardware. I know that Apple products will play nicely with each other. And I'm willing to pay more for that convenience.
Why one calendar?
We've been trying to manipulate our perfect calendar system so that we know what events are coming up and how to plan accordingly. After reading Todd Henry's The Accidental Creative, I am even more convinced that having one calendar is the way to go. Henry advises keeping your life on one calendar so you see all of your commitments. You see every deadline, birthday, meeting, or event for work and home in one place. His argument is that you can't create quality plans for future projects and commitments unless you see that bigger picture of your whole life.
But our lives are so segmented. How do I accurately track every event on just one calendar?
Take advantage of iCal features!
As of today, I have access to 16 different custom calendars that can all show up in iCal. But I don't have to look at all of them at once unless I want to. I can go into the Calendars feature to show all of my calendars and uncheck any that I don't need in that moment. I can toggle these calendars off and on as many times as I like.
And with seven different colors available for color-coding, I can select certain colors to cover calendars that thematically go together. For instance, My Person shared several calendars with me. He has calendars for his work schedule, his hobby schedule, his academic schedule, and his personal schedule. I color-code everything for him in brown. On his iCal, he uses completely different colors to organize his life. Since we each have our own color-coding system, iCal makes it easy for us to share calendars without changing our individual systems.
Being able to segment our lives so precisely has made a difference in how we're using our time.
My breakdown for the segments of my life...
Here's a screenshot of some events from August for me. I've eliminated several calendars, including my school calendar because a few events had sensitive information in there.
My Irene calendar is in green: Mostly, I use this calendar for personal reminders, doctor's appointments, and such. But this calendar is shared with My Person so if I have school events that are helpful for him to be aware of, I add them to this calendar so he has access to that information.
I create those solid green banners by making an event in iCal an all-day event. By not adding any time frame, the banner automatically populates at the top of my iCal feed for that day. I had used this feature a little before, but My Person frequently uses the banner to make sure that key events float to the top and are not forgotten. He'll create another event with the actual times, but if we're looking at all of our calendars, then having the banners floating there gives a good visual cue that something important is happening that day.
My personal Trello board is also in green: I color-code this feed the same as my Irene calendar, but this stream has dates that My Person could care less about. For instance, I keep track of book publishing dates, movie releases, and a host of other geeky events that don't impact him. Also if I want to do something for him, but I don't want him to see that on my Irene calendar, I can add that detail to my personal Trello board with a due date and the information will be pushed to my iCal, a feed that My Person does not have access to.
My school Trello board is in blue: Here's another board that My Person doesn't need access to. I'm big on scheduling everything. When school ends at 2:30pm, I want to know what I should be accomplishing between 2:30 and 5:30, when My Person picks me up. I'll write my tasks on my Trello cards and estimate how long each task will take. I can reassign the due dates and times, if need be, but this system gives me some structure so I remember what the heck I'm supposed to be working on.
My Trello board for this blog's editorial calendar is in purple: As I plan post ideas and figure out when I can write, I put that information onto Trello cards with due dates. This calendar is probably the one I futz around with the most. I'd love to be writing more, but...
Not sure what all this Trello talk is about? Trello is the program I use to manage my To Do List. And I love it. Check out my posts Managing More Tasks With Trello or Four More Quality Features That Have Me Further Obsessed With Trello if you'd like to learn a little more about Trello.
In the screenshot below of the weekly iCal view on my iPad, those banner reminders really stand out. You can also see more details on how Trello pushes out to iCal.
One Trello caveat:
All of the blue events above are tasks I scheduled with Trello as tasks to do after school. I can schedule a start time with Trello, but not an end time. Based on the blue strip, each Trello task looks like it takes the same amount of time to complete, which is not true. On Tuesday, August 11, I scheduled a 3pm task of writing various thank you cards to people. The blue strip around that task makes it look like something I can finish quickly, but my next task is not actually scheduled until 4pm. Just a little tick to be aware of if you're thinking about trying Trello with iCal.
Our shared calendar is in red: Events here are ones that both My Person and I attend. We also use the shared calendar to set aside time for us to plan our life together. We have a weekly strategic planning so we can go over our schedule, discuss money matters, and make plans for vacations or renovations or whatever joint projects we have coming up.
Our meals calendar is also in red: We set aside time every Saturday to meal plan dinners so we know what groceries to buy. We usually go to the farmers market on Sunday morning, so Saturday is the perfect time to figure out what we want to cook during the upcoming week. Then we actually place meal names into our dinner time slots. We try to balance what we're eating with how long the prep and cook time for each meal actually is. We do consider the overall schedule and don't plan to cook on a night when we can anticipate that we'll both be exhausted.
Our holding calendar is in orange: Since we do tend to eat the same meals regularly and around the same time, we move unused meal events to this holding calendar. When we place a meal into holding, we'll usually stack the events on the Sunday for the following week. When we meal plan, we'll usually look at our full schedule for every calendar, except holding. Once we see the vibe for the week, we start moving meals out of holding and onto the meals calendar for actual time slots. As we move meals, I update the grocery list.
Our travel calendar is in yellow: I like color-coding anything vacation-related in sunny yellow. This calendar tracks actual transportation time. If we're flying, this calendar is sort of duplicated by our TripCase calendar. Why sort of? We send our flight information to TripCase as one means of being alerted as early as possible of any flight changes or delays. If the airlines make changes to our original plans, we can still see what we entered on our travel calendar, but the TripCase feed that pushes out to iCal will change. Want to know more about TripCase? Check out my post: TripCase: Make Managing Travel Plans Easier.
Our vacation calendar is also in yellow: This calendar holds the bigger picture of our vacation plans, including any other reservations we may have. If we know that we want to see a particular something something, we'll place that destination in the vacation calendar and move it around as we fine tune our itinerary.
The holidays calendar is in yellow too: These calendars are really useful when you're just trying to figure out what day certain holidays fall on. There are a variety of these that you can subscribe to.
The birthdays calendar is in red, but with a gift box icon: I make a point of adding birthday information for the special people in my Contacts. The beauty here is that the birthday information in Contacts is then pushed out to iCal so I don't have to keep adding birthday events every year. iCal automatically populates that information.
Are there any limits with iCal?
With the syncing support of iCloud, iCal is an amazing productivity tool. There are some limits, which are non-issues for the regular person using Apple. Check out this information from Apple Support: iCloud: Limits for Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Bookmarks.
Since I don't use the reminders feature, theoretically, I could have 100 custom calendars that I either created or was subscribed to. One hundred! I don't think I'll ever have that complicated of a life. Just another way that Apple gives me flexibility though.
The perseverance pay-off...
My Person and I have been sharing calendars for over a year. Recently, we instituted the shared calendar, along with the meals and holding calendar. These additions have made a huge difference in how we plan and use our time more wisely.
Previously, if we were both attending an event, it would be duplicated in my personal calendar and his personal calendar. Annoying! And by adding the shared calendar we're doing a better job of remembering to strategically plan our life. Previously, the strategic planning event got bumped around a lot. Mainly, we just didn't know where it fit. Now it has its own home!
The practicality of the meals calendar is paying off too. Our trips to the farmers market and grocery stores are even more focused, which saves time and money. Oh sure, we're spending time coordinating the meals, but I'd much rather spend time at home planning than wasting time in the grocery store feeling frustrated.
We feel like we have optimized our system for us, but who knows what adjustments may be needed in the future. How do you coordinate multiple schedules to maximize your productivity? Please share in the comments. Or if you found the information here helpful, please share the link with a friend.