Don’t Kill Mario – Calendaring Pitfalls And How to Avoid Them

Mario pitfall

“Time Management” is a tricky topic for professional development, because it’s rife with knowing-doing gaps.

Ever play Super Mario Brothers? You know where the pits are. All you have to do is avoid them. Run when you need to, jump when you need to, and Mario lives.

With time management, everyone knows about the tools, and even how to use them (the basic features, if not the more advanced features of digital calendars).

But professional development isn’t about knowledge; it’s about practice. We get no credit for being aware of best practices; it’s only implementing them that counts.

And we know this, yet—like a kid who keeps letting Mario fall to his pixelated death—we often fail to make it across the knowing-doing gaps.

What are some of these pitfalls, and how can we avoid them?

Here are two that I’ve experienced, and that I see all the time in schools.

Pen vs. Pencil

There’s a reason we say “pencil me in” rather than “pen me in” or “permanent marker me in.” We know our schedules are subject to change.

So why do we write things on our calendars, but not update those appointments when they change?

I recently had a major schedule conflict because a “maybe” appointment had turned into a definite appointment, and I didn’t note the change on my shared calendar. At the same time, the same thing happened to my colleague. This meant we couldn’t coordinate our schedules, and we had to scramble to adjust our plans.

This was totally avoidable because our shared calendars communicate our real-time availability…if we keep them updated.

Defiance and Unrealistic Plans

Have you ever hired a personal trainer, shown up for your gym session, then refused to follow your trainer’s directions?

We know it’s not smart to burn a $60/hour session with a trainer.

So why do we burn our equally valuable time by making plans for how we’ll spend the day, then not following them?

Often, it’s because those plans are unrealistic to begin with.

If I tell my trainer I want to run ten miles tomorrow, yet this is my first time off the couch in weeks, I’m going to have trouble following the plan.

Likewise, if you schedule 6 hours for “work on observation reports” during the school day on Friday, you’re going to get interrupted. That’s the job, and you have to plan for it realistically.

When you plan realistically, the only thing keeping you from following the plan is discipline—and that’s something you can control.

Last Call

Today is the last day to join the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network and get Upgrading Your Calendar and Streamlining Your Meetings for free. December can be your first paid month.

Upgrading Your Calendar

In this workshop, we’ll explore more of the common pitfalls—the knowing-doing gaps—school leaders experience in managing their schedules. You’ll learn how to get the most out of your calendar tools, whether you should switch to better tools, and even how to ensure that your meetings are more productive.

More urgently, registration for the Network closes indefinitely this Friday, and I have a bunch of workshops that will be going in the “Disney Vault” for up to a year.

So if you’ve been thinking about it, take another look, and I hope you’ll join my by this Friday, November 22 at midnight Central time.

Optimizing Google Calendar Notifications and Alerts

Too many devices

I’m a big fan of Google Calendar, and a major reason is that it can send me whatever kind of notifications I want, to whatever device I want. Among my options:

  • Email reminders, daily or per-appointment
  • Popups from the browser-based Google Calendar window
  • Popups from the Mac Calendar app
  • SMS (text message) reminders
  • iPhone or iPad push notifications—which can be either banners that disappear, or alerts that stay onscreen until you dismiss them
  • Carrier pigeon messages

Just kidding about that last one, but it’s a pretty comprehensive list. In fact, we can go overboard. Here’s how to get just the reminders you want from your Google Calendar.

Pick Your Defaults

You can set reminders on a per-event basis, but you can also set up default reminders for new appointments, so you don’t have to fiddle with reminders.

I personally like a 2-hour popup and a 15-minute popup, in my browser and on my iPhone. I’ve turned off Mac and iPad reminders because they’re redundant since I always have my iPhone with me, and if I’m at my Mac, Google Calendar is open.

To customize your default alert settings, click the gear icon, then Settings:
Google Calendar settings icon
Google Calendar settings 2

Then, under the Calendars tab in Settings, click the Reminders and Notifications link for your calendar:
Google Calendar reminders settings notifications 1

Then, you’ll see a truckload of options for reminders and notifications:
Google Calendar reminder all options

Prevent Noise

You can customize your notifications to your heart’s content, but the key strategic element is this: don’t give yourself so many alerts that you start to tune them out. I don’t need five emails to remind me I have an appointment. I don’t need 100 text messages.

I need the habit of looking at my calendar regularly, and maybe a push notification to my phone to remind me when an appointment is about to begin.

How do you approach calendar reminders? What are your strategies, tools, and habits?

See also: 4 Reasons to Switch to Google Calendar

Workshop: Upgrading Your Calendar & Streamlining Your Meetings

My next Network workshop is coming up on Tuesday, November 19:
Upgrading Your Calendar
In this workshop, I’ll go in depth on the high-leverage opportunities we have a school leaders to manage our day’s scheduling more effectively. I’m thinking of adding bonus tutorials to supplement the live sessions, so let me know what questions or suggestions you have. More info on the Network »

4 Reasons to Switch to Google Calendar

I’ve used just about every calendar tool out there over the years, and the time has come for just about everyone to switch to Google Calendar.

Calendar

Forgive me for being blunt, but I think the benefits are undeniable.

1. It’s Free
That’s right – Google Calendar costs you nothing. If your district is using Exchange/Outlook, they’re paying a license fee for every account, but Google Calendar is free, and you don’t need anyone else’s permission to start using it. Just create an account and get started. If you already have a Gmail account, just go to google.com/calendar and start using the calendar you already have.

2. It Works on Every Device
I’m an iPhone/iPad guy, so I wish I could recommend iCloud’s calendar, which is built into your iPhone. Sadly, I can’t, because the iCloud calendar is terrible at talking to anything that isn’t an Apple device – and this includes other humans who need access to your calendar.

The good news? Your Apple device will work with Google Calendar – in fact, the built-in Calendar app on iOS works perfectly with Google Calendar. Just go to Settings » Mail, Contact, Calendars and enter your Google account details. Turn Calendars to “on” and you’re good to go. Now you can access your calendar in your:

  • Computer’s web browser
  • Mac Calendar app
  • Outlook calendar view (yes, really!)

As well as on your:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Android phone
  • Android tablet

So you always have access to your calendar.

3. It’s Powerful
You might assume Outlook has the most powerful calendar features because it’s a desktop application and is used in many professional settings. But Google Calendar is just as powerful, and has a number of tricks up its sleeve. Did you know Google Calendar can do all of this?

  • Send calendar invitations just like Outlook
  • Send you a text message (SMS) appointment reminder whenever you want
  • Create recurring events with complicated patterns, like “every 4th Wednesday of the month”
  • Respond to keyboard shortcuts – my favorites are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 j, and k
  • Show your appointments in daily, weekly, monthly, or list view

4. It’s Shareable
I’ve saved the clincher for last: Your Google Calendar can talk to other calendars in whatever way you want:

  • Share your whole calendar with your secretary or family
  • Share your free/busy info—your availability—but not your specific appointments with anyone you want
  • Designate others who can edit your calendar, e.g. secretary
  • Link your calendar to scheduling tools like ScheduleOnce so it’s easy to set meetings with other people

I wish I got $5 for everyone I convert to Google Calendar, but I don’t. I’ll be satisfied if you get a boost to your productivity by making this effortless and extremely beneficial switch.

Have you switched? How did it go for you? What’s your favorite tip in Google Calendar? Do you miss anything about Outlook or whatever you were using before? Leave a comment and let me know!

Build Trust With Your Calendar

Honesty matters in relationships

Calendars are ancient technology. Everyone knows how to write down appointments and them in order to show up on time to meetings. But not everyone has a trusting, functional relationship with their calendar.

In dysfunctional calendar relationships, just as with people on an afternoon talk show, the two biggest problems are with honesty and communication.

What goes on your calendar? Appointments – firm commitments you’ve made with others or with yourself. If it’s not a rock-solid commitment, it shouldn’t go on your calendar, and you can’t lie to yourself by putting something unimportant on your calendar in order to convince yourself that it is important. You don’t have enough time in the day to book yourself up with low priorities, and if you do so, you’ll stop trusting your calendar. When you stop trusting it, you’ll stop checking it, and you’ll start to miss even the most important appointments.

While getting organized can be motivating, an organizational system is not a motivational system. You can use a fork as a screwdriver, but it won’t work very well and will probably get bent out of shape.

If you bend your organizational system to try to motivate yourself to do things you haven’t committed to doing, you’ll undermine your system and won’t be able to rely on it.

Be honest with your calendar, trust your calendar, and us it only to remind, not to motivate.

Google+