In Part 1 I discussed some basic concepts of time and task management. In Part 2 I introduced a couple of specific time management systems. Part 3 is where we get down and dirty. I’m going to show you specifically my system using Google Calendar.
Remember, I started with with the premise that “The System” does not exist but “a system” is critical.
This is not negotiable. No system = no management. Even an imperfect system (which accounts for all of them) is better than no system. In fact, you will learn a lot implementing any system and, if you are like me, you will modify that system over time anyway.
FYI: This is a tacit admission that my system is IMPERFECT! I know, hard to believe.
Introducing Google or SIGN UP NOW!!!
I’m a bit of a Google fanatic. Gmail isn’t pretty, but it’s effective. Google Calendar is NOT perfect – but it’s online, accessible, and integrates with everything and everywhere. Google Drive and Apps have fewer features than Microsoft Office.… and that may be a good thing.
In fact, simplicity is the key to good time and task management.
I’m going to cover some of the ways I manage time and task using Google calendar. Most can be adopted by any calendaring system, although there are some features of Google Calendar worth mentioning.
How to Get Google Calendar
Sign-up for a Gmail account/Google account. Use the “sign-in” button in the upper right. When you go to the sign-in page, below the username and password fields, there will be a “create an account” link.
TIP: Don’t be too cute when you select your username. Your Gmail account is tied to all sorts of things like YouTube and your Google profile.
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org may not be your best options…. just sayin’
Your Google (Gmail) account gives you access to a variety of Google services – all are accessible on the web (Cloud based). Of special importance are:
- Gmail - email, tons of storage, filtering, etc.
- Google Calendar - shared/collaborative calendars
- Google Drive - shared/collaborative applications, documents and file storage – like Dropbox but better
- Google Keep - quick notes, lists, audio, and images
- Google Alerts - notifications to your email when key terms are indexed by Google
- Google Analytics - track website visitors and traffic
- Google Maps - navigation
- Google Plus - poorly designed social media
- Google Hangouts - video conferencing
- YouTube - video
I could go on, but suffice to say, there is a lot. It’s worth the FREE you pay for it and then some.
Navigating to Your Google Calendar
Once you sign up for Google and get your Gmail account, there is a universal access menu to all things Google. In the upper right corner of your screen, you’ll see this “apps” icon:
Click on the “apps” icon and you’ll be presented with the following screen. Note: you can customize this – I have, so what you see will be slightly different.
To get into Google Calendar, simply click the “Calendar” icon.
Some Quick Customizations for Google Calendar
I’m not going to show you the various parts of Google Calendar. Most of it is self-explanatory. However, there are some useful customizations and setup items.
Mobile Enable Your Calendar(s)
Your calendar can send you phone notifications. Specifically text (SMS) messages. This is extremely useful.
Go into your calendar “Settings” icon. That is the gear icon below your profile name (and picture, if you’ve added one) in the upper right hand corner.
Go into “mobile setup” and add your phone number. You’ll be sent a verification code via text message. Enter that in the box provided and voila! You can now add SMS reminders to any calendar appointments. I’ll explain how I use those a bit later.
Custom View – 4 Weeks
Above and to the right of your Google calendar are the “Views” available to you. They include: Day, Week, Month, 4 Days, and Agenda. I’ve highlighted 4 Days because that is actually customizable.
Go into the same “Settings” gear icon as above. Scroll down the “General” settings list and find, “Custom View.” Set it to whatever works for you. I’ll explain why I use “4 Weeks.”
I view my calendar most often in a “Week” view because I can still view and set appointments for specific times. I like to see my week laid out more so than a single day.
However, there are times I need to move appointments or tasks forward several weeks. This is made easier by customizing that view to a “4 Week” view. This is different than a “Month” view, because if I am in the last week of a month, I cannot drag appointments into the next month.
The video below explains it a bit better. View it full screen for greater clarity.
Ensure in the left-hand column under, “My Calendars” that you click on “Tasks” to enable the tasks component of Google Calendar. There is some confusion surrounding this. I know some people setup Google Calendar and it is enabled. Other times it isn’t.
Also, you can assign different colors to your calendar(s) and tasks.
I’ll explain tasks in a moment and I’ll explain how and why I use multiple calendars as well.
This is an important customization that you can do on a calendar-by-calendar basis. For me, I like my calendar to send me text message/SMS notification. I establish two default SMS notifications.
- 20 minutes prior
- 2 minutes prior
However, you can set your reminder to be an email 1 hour prior, an email a week prior, etc. You can also set “popups” – which pop-up when you have the calendar open or pop-up on your phone.
To Set Your Default Reminders
- Go to the “Settings” gear icon
- Select the “Calendars” tab
- To the right of the calendar name, select, “Reminders and notifications”
- Set your reminders and press “Save”
Tasks Versus Appointments
Google Calendar has both appointments and a special task calendar. I’ll be the first to admit, their task management is basic. While you can share your calendars, you cannot share tasks.
Appointments are either events with a specific start and stop time or all-day events. They can be set to repeat at specific intervals – daily, weekly monthly, every other week, etc.
Tasks are non-time specific items that only appear on the day they are set. They cannot be shared and they don’t (currently) have reminders. They are a simple to-do list for a given day.
My System for Calendar Management
I’m going to include a short video below. But, in general, here are some of the things I do with Google Calendar:
- Setup and Use Multiple Calendars
- Preview Your Calendar
- Preview & Review the Day
- Review the Week
Use Multiple Calendars
I’m not covering the sharing aspect of Google Calendars in detail here. But…. you can share your calendar with multiple Gmail users. This is amazing for resource and team planning.
And in Google Calendar, you can see all your appointments side-by-side and simultaneously, color-coded by calendar.
But, I don’t want or need everyone I work with to have access to or to see my personal or main calendar. For this reason, I setup multiple calendars.
Organizing Multiple Calendars:
- Main calendar: Shared with my manager.
- Phone reminders: Shared with no one – sends me miscellaneous phone reminders I don’t want clogging my main calendar (for instance: today’s US world cup match – remind me to watch it).
- Daughter: My daughter’s calendar. I want to know her schedule, when she is with her mom, or significant appointments – even those I am not attending. So, rather than creating an appointment on my calendar, I see it on a separate calendar.
- Band calendar: Shared with musicians I play music with. Also shared with my manager and an occasional booking assistant.
- Speaking calendar: Shared with my manager and an occasional booking assistant.
Once setup, I set their colors as desired. It really takes very little time and allows granular control over those teams I work with.
Preview Your Calendar (5-10 minutes)
Set an appointment. It can be Sunday night, Monday morning, etc. The optimal time is dependent upon your life, not on what I tell you. I set my preview for Sunday evening but often, family obligations and the scurry of the weekend actually pushes it to Monday.
However, I’m aware of this but I put a repeating calendar item on Sunday evening at 6pm.
During your preview, there are a couple of things you should do:
- Review the week prior. Make sure tasks and appointments that were not completed are moved forward. Those that resulted in a “next” appointment or additional tasks are added to the calendar. (Note: in the best of situations, this should have already happened during a daily review or the Friday weekly review.)
- Set key project work as an appointment. Set phone calls as either a) tasks on a given day or b) all day events on a special calendar. I use the special calendar (phone reminders) in order to remind myself to make a call at 9:10am for instance. I add the phone number I am calling into my appointment and set an SMS (text) reminder for 20 minutes prior and one for 2 minutes prior.When the reminder is sent to my phone, it comes in with a clickable link to dial the phone. That way, I’m not searching for the contact. This is more efficient and safer if you are driving, for instance.
Preview/Review the Day (5-10 minutes)
My first activity in the morning is…. to make coffee. But then, as I am drinking my coffee, I review my day. I make sure any rescheduled appointments and unfinished tasks from the day prior are moved forward to an appropriate day. I ensure time is blocked out for project work.
At the end of the day, I review that day – again, moving tasks and appointments forward as necessary.
NOTE: If I am doing this daily – regularly – I don’t have lots of tasks to move forward. But I include it here because part of making a system work is working the system.
Review the Week (5-10 minutes)
I don’t think I need to cover this much. I do this on Saturday morning or Friday night. It is typically an afterthought because my daily review/preview takes care of this. But prior to the week ending (Saturday evening for me), I like to have moved unfinished tasks and appointments forward into the new week.
Again, this is redundant because I’m going to do my Sunday evening/Monday morning preview as well. If I am taking care of things, this takes 5 minutes or less.
Google Calendar in Action
Here is a short video showing some of these concepts. Important – I use tasks to remind me to follow up with someone as well. For instance, when I send an important email, I will add a tasks – sometimes a week away – that asks me if they’ve responded.
Take a look at the video below. View it full screen for greater clarity.