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