So how do you manage your schedule when you are working out of your office (or perhaps if you don’t have a fixed office)? There are a number of more traditional options starting with ye olde faithful diary (I love the Moleskine diaries in particular) and moving on to your calendar on your phone and your laptop. As with any data, it is a pretty good idea to have some form of backup and one way of backing up your schedule is to make use of an online calendaring system and link your local system with an online system. That is one consideration to bear in mind.
Another factor which is particularly important given the shift from having teams working together in a fixed location to have distributed teams working all over the place and being mobile is that you may want everyone to know what everyone’s movements are so it becomes necessary to have some sort of shared calendar which you can take a look at and see where your colleagues are. Again, an online calendar may be your answer here.
In case you were wondering, I ultimately ended up deciding Google offered the best calendar available, plus it has easy integration with Gmail. I do my scheduling here, get SMS alerts to my phone so I don’t miss meetings, and can access it from anywhere. I generally view three calendars at the same time- one for work, one for personal obligations, and then the one for holidays, so I know when other people won’t be working. These calendars can be shared using a resettable private address that works with ICAL, HTML, and XML, so coworkers can view my schedule during a project. Since I don’t have my schedule sync’d with a Blackberry or Treo, I have become quite dependent on the calendar’s alert system. This sends me a SMS message at a set amount of time before an event is about to take place. Unlike some other online calendars this time is highly configurable so for an event across town I can alert myself an hour ahead of time and for a phone call the alert can be set for 10 minutes beforehand.
While this is still a relatively basic system of organization it has been successful. When I find out about something that needs to be done I put it on the appropriate calendar, input pertinent information (who/what/where) in the description, set the proper alert, and then file it away. The monthly view keeps me aware of what is happening over the long term and when an event is approaching I get a text message telling me just what I need to know.
I took a look at a couple options when I decided to move some of my calendars off my laptop and online to ensure that if anything happened to my laptop I was not suddenly clueless as to my schedule and to be able to check my schedule wherever I may be (provided where I am has Internet access and a browser). I also settled on Google Calendar and while I still have a few issues with it and don’t consider it a total replacement for iCal on my Mac, it is a pretty good start in the direction I want to head in.
There are a couple things that really come in handy and which you could look out for when choosing an online scheduling platform. Look for a way for your colleagues and team mates to subscribe to your calendars so they can see when you are busy and when you are free. The same need could arise for your clients. I have been thinking for a little while now about publishing my calendar for my clients and letting them see when I am free and when a busy so they can schedule time to see me. While you are at it, look at whether the platform you are looking at enables you to both publish the details of your events and restrict views to busy/free info.
There are a couple alternatives to Google Calendar. If you use Yahoo! Mail, then take a look at Yahoo! Calendar. Other options include Kiko (probably my second choice after Google Calendar) and Zoho Planner (there is a handy review on lifehack.org). 37Signals also has Backpack which, while a paid service if you want to use the calendar, is a popular option. Ultimately you should pick the option that appeals to you most given what you want to achieve. My choice so far is Google Calendar. It is free and does most of what I want and has the potential to do more of what I need. It integrates into Gmail and comes at the great price of free!
So back to my original question. How do you manage your schedule?