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Summary:

By Sal Cangeloso Working away from the traditional office setting presents us with a number of organizational problems. When I recently had to deal with a large increase in phone conferences and meetings I realized that my system of To-Do lists, scraps of paper, and emails […]

By Sal Cangeloso

Working away from the traditional office setting presents us with a number of organizational problems. When I recently had to deal with a large increase in phone conferences and meetings I realized that my system of To-Do lists, scraps of paper, and emails to myself was not a sufficient way to manage my schedule. Unlike responding to an email or working with a deadline, actually having to be at a certain place at a certain time was a new challenge to me as a web worker.

Many offices rely on Microsoft Outlook and Exchange server for scheduling, but independent operators have to explore other options. I experimented with Outlook 2007 beta, Mozilla’s Sunbird, and even Chandler, but ultimately decided a web solution would be the best bet. This left me with lots of options, many of which were those hot web 2.0 sites we read about every day. I tried all the obvious ones, from 30 Boxes to Backpack to Zoho Planner, and a number of wild cards, like Remember the Milk, Airset, and Kiko, but had trouble finding something that offered the right mix of ease of use, accessibility, and features.

My question is this: how do you manage your schedule?


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.

Sal Cangeloso is the editor of XYZ Computing

  1. Nice post…

    Personally I use Backpack. Its a great site, as are all the other 37signals apps, but Backpack has everything I need, included custom pages and a great calendar. I have email through work so that is not a problem for me and there is no need for Gmail/Yahoo. At first I hated having to pay for the service, but its so cheap and Backpack is so good, that I can’t really complain.

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  2. I recently posted on the same subject:
    http://circa1977.com/2006/07/31/synchronicity/

    Calendars galore. iCal, gCal, Backpack…All interlinked via iCal standards, all always updated, all always handy.

    The missing link is my Outlook calendar on my work PC.

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  3. ZohoX is looking really good so far. Still digging in, only complaint I had to the ZohoX team is that the calendar – you are stuck with the dropdown 30 minute increments. Don’t like that, but other then that, everything else I’ve tooled around in works great.

    Rex

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  4. I am in the same boat, but I am looking for a contact database in addition to a calendar. I have been using ACT! for work clients and Outlook for personal but I really want to get away from ACT! and find something that will sync with my phone/PDA. I use a Nokia Symbian 60 platform device and it’s hard to find something.
    In the past I have tried PHProjekt and my employees still use it. I have alse experimented with Appshore. Somebody mentioned Zoho to me a few weeks ago and I am considering trying it soon.

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  5. I basically do the same as you, but with Yahoo. Use the calendar to send msgs to my cell and/or Gmail.

    Yahoo has the added bonus that it will sync Yahoo contacts and calender to my cell (this doesn’t work with all carriers, but does with Cingular.) Not only does this update my cell phone list of phone numbers, it also provides a complete backup of them on Yahoo.

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  6. I use a mishmash, but it works for me. Google calendar for most tasks combined with backpack reminders just to remind me about things. Everything sends me text messages. Also, I use Google calendar as my repository with the backpack feeds going into GCal.

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  7. Yahoo! ain’t all bad – if you use the entire package (mail, calendar, to-dos, etc.), it’s remarkably robust and interconnected. Now, with Y! Go, it connects with the smartphone. Nice package.

    Google’s combination is good, but not quite as full-featured.

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  8. I agree with you, google calender combined with gmail is relatively better option. I love the SMS alerts feature tough it is still not available in my country.

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  9. I use a Powerbook and Blackberry and wanted all my stuff to be available online too. I settled on a Exchange account which I rent for a few euros a month. It syncs my calendars to my Mac and Blackberry. I did have to buy GroupCal which used to be terrible software but now works very well. Addresses are also synced on all platforms so if I add an address online, on the Blackberry or on my Powerbook within minutes it is available everywhere. My email is available everywhere too. And not just incoming mail but also my sent items.

    I didn’t like switching to Exchange but once you have everything set-up it just works so well that I now recommend the same set-up to every web-worker I know.

    One more detail: I have an old PC at the office with a CardReader attached to it and Outlook installed. I save the businesscards I collect and once a week scan them at the PC. Then they get synched to all my other devices too.

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  10. I also use google, gmail and calendering. besides that i use Zohoplanner for notetaking and todo lists. Still good enough for me, but I’m only a small potatoe.

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