Calendar "hacks" for incompatible digital/analog people?
July 29, 2013 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm a software engineer who loves having the latest gadgets and spends much of my time online; she's a stay-at-home mom who avoids the Internet like the plague. This causes problems when it comes to our calendar.

She uses a simple month-at-a-time wall calendar to manage her busy schedule of appointments, playdates, etc. The thing is (to me) a barely legible mess of scribbles a month or more in advance. I use Google Calendar for my personal appointments and Outlook for meetings.

She steadfastly refuses to use anything digital for the family calendar, leaving me little choice but to deal with paper as well. I cannot access her calendar when I'm at the office, so if I want to take an evening class or get together with a friend or colleague I have to wait until I get home to see the thing. Then when I do get my hands on it, it's a discouragingly long time into the future before there's any white space, and it's hard to know which items are "hers" or "ours." Plus by the time I'm home I've usually moved on from whatever the idea was in the first place.

Anybody know any good "hacks" we can use to stay in sync?
posted by rouftop to Human Relations (19 answers total)
I cannot access her calendar when I'm at the office, so if I want to take an evening class or get together with a friend or colleague I have to wait until I get home to see the thing.

Plus by the time I'm home I've usually moved on from whatever the idea was in the first place.

? Why can't you just call her and ask?

it's hard to know which items are "hers" or "ours."

Different colored pens for "hers" and "ours" should solve this.
posted by cairdeas at 2:32 PM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Can you have her use a highlighter or special color of pen to distinguish between appointments on her calendar, so you can tell what items are hers vs. both of yours? That would solve that problem. (on preview, what cairdeas said!)

Does she text? Can you guys get up to date on your calendars, and then she text you with any updates that apply to you?

Alternatively, if you can solve the legibility & hers vs yours issue, you could copy the calendar or take a photo of it, and then you would have a semi-updated schedule with you for spur of the moment.

Or, you can set a reminder to remind you of the class/get together once you get home, and you can check the calendar.
posted by needlegrrl at 2:34 PM on July 29, 2013

You may not like my answer, but: if she's doing the family calendar, meaning she's the one who keeps track of where everybody needs to be, and facilitates that, and deals with all the kid-related stuff, then she gets to decide what works best for her. Full stop.

Full disclosure: I'm a mom, I do my family's calendar, and yes, though I'm semi-tech savvy and do use the internet all the time, i've never managed to buy in to the idea that an online calendar is best. I use a "week at a glance" type of calendar.

For readability: get her a much larger wall calendar, or try a white board-style calendar so she can write and erase when/if things change.

You can stand there in front of it, say, twice a week, and enter it all in your Google Calendar, and then check to see if there are changes. I'm not buying into your statement that it's hard to tell what's "hers" and what's "ours."
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:34 PM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

You can also copy everything that's on there right now into Google calendar, with her help if there's something you can't read, and then going forward she can put a pin in anything that's new or changed, so you can see it when you come home and update accordingly.
posted by cairdeas at 2:35 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd just take a photo of the wall calendar every day when you leave for work. Look at it on your phone. As a compromise, ask her to write more legibly and/or outline things requiring you in a way where you can distinguish them and/or make a much LARGER wall calendar that you can see better from your phone. Everyone wins!

Even more complex: have a webcam trained on this calendar and a way to access that camera from your phone.
posted by jessamyn at 2:39 PM on July 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

Change to a printed 8.5x11 calendar, and scan it regularly with OCR (eg: Doxie), then dump it into Dropbox. Then you can always see a current version, and have old versions to check for changes. OCR will make it searchable.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:45 PM on July 29, 2013

Not sure how old your children are, but as they get older and into more school related activities than play dates, your wife will likely be forced to go digital. Our school district's a paperless one with the calendar online, the notices being sent via email or text, etc. Homework online. Sports teams schedules all online and via email. I think the compromise would be for you to establish the family calendar online inputting the initial data then printing out a copy for your wife to hang on her existing calendar. She then writes any new event by hand onto that calendar. You would then add them to the Google calendar. Show her how to access it, add to it and print it, but continue to do it yourself initially. Get her used to it and dependent on it, and she will eventually start to use it. In the meantime, you do all the digital work and print it out for her.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:53 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can't you just "sync" your calendars once a week? I use Time and Chaos (recommended by a Mefite!!!) and basically, I keep that on my laptop as my "real" calendar, but also have a weekly planner calendar I can carry with me. On Sundays, I sync Chaos to my Google Calendar (so my phone has a copy of my calendar on it) and also copy things to my planner.

IDK why you're complaining about the depressing lack of white space? You presumably know you and your wife are busy, right? If the problem is that y'all are overbooked, the calendar being on a gadget isn't going to help.
posted by spunweb at 2:56 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not a technical problem or a digital/analog divide. It's actually two problems.

The first is being busy. If you've got two kids with two activities each that meet twice a week, that's already eight slots gone, and there may not, in fact, be much whitespace left. But that's all about making the difficult tradeoffs between activities and between people. Maybe little Suzie needs to choose between her travel soccer league and scouting so that Mom and Dad can have an evening to themselves every week, but the calendar won't really help you do that, no matter how sophisticated and digital and synchronized.

The second problem is that your wife maintains a calendar that she expects you to obey but refuses to format it in a way that is legible to you. That's what you're implying, at least, that her primary means of letting you know when you are required at an event is the paper calender. That, in itself, is a problem, and it's made more difficult by the fact that there's no practical way you could take ownership of the scheduling (is it possible she resents being the keeper of the calendar?). However, her life would be a lot better if you consistently followed the calendar and weren't constantly bugging her about it, right? Try to make it a win-win from her perspective.

Maybe it's sufficient for her to write more carefully and make judicious use of colors. Maybe you need an enormous wall calendar with 5x6 inch / 13x15 cm squares and a blizzard of fine-tipped dry-erase markers.

I sympathize with both of you: my handwriting is to terrible if I want to make a list for my wife I need to type it or tell her orally, but at the same time online calendaring is one of the things that makes me feel like I'm living the in future, and I couldn't live without it for our family. Good luck.
posted by wnissen at 3:17 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, just to reframe -- can you not look at this as "her" schedule? It's your family's.

She uses a simple month-at-a-time wall calendar to manage her busy schedule of appointments, playdates,'s hard to know which items are "hers" or "ours."

Like, I've never had kids, but if your kids are young enough where they're still going on playdates, I don't know if it's safe or fair to assume that their playdate time/homework time/whatever, is "hers". Maybe if you approach more as a team, and less as "your way is stupid, and filled with all these stupid things I don't care about!!" you'd have better luck brainstorming a solution.

Also, Google Calendar is not a drug. Please don't trick your wife into becoming "dependent" on it. That would be so condescending and duplicitous, because you would basically be pretending to help her and be engaged until poof! she knows how to do it so you don't need to help her manage your family's time anymore.
posted by spunweb at 3:21 PM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just a few threadsitting comments...
  • A webcam was my first thought, but that would only help for the current month, and the calendar doesn't live on a wall but tends to float around the house.
  • Calling her mid-day doesn't work because she's rarely in front of the calendar herself or indisposed enough to look at it.

posted by rouftop at 3:31 PM on July 29, 2013

If it's a 'writing vs typing' issue for her you might consider getting her a samsung galaxy note 2 (it has a pressure sensitive pen that you can use to write with any place there's a keyboard and the handwriting recognition is surprisingly badass and accurate) is an expensive phone, but if u get good sprint coverage in yr area, you might consider, which uses their network (for much cheaper depending on bill averages 25-30 $ a month)'s android so it is def compatible with Google calendar.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:41 PM on July 29, 2013

How about a frig calendar with movable weeks?

Then it's easy to use multiple colored pens and snap a picture of once per day or so.
posted by cnc at 4:00 PM on July 29, 2013

The calendar should stay in one place. That's probably the first thing. Then you can take a picture of it or otherwise have some sort of record of it (enter things into your digital calendar?) on your phone.
posted by limeonaire at 4:16 PM on July 29, 2013

I keep my calendar clearer by having a separate whiteboard planner that has the repeating, every-week activities on it (girl scouts, swimming lessons, etc)

If you entered those on your online calendar as recurring events, then you'd be able to quickly see which nights are always unavailable because little Timmy needs to be taken to his tapdancing lesson.

The paper calendar just has the one-offs like doctor's appointments and family occasions.
I get a big calendar with big squares from Organised Mum (More Time Mom ones are good too) so I can read multiple events on one day.

But why not just asking your wife to highlight events that you're required for would do the trick, txting to ask if you're free on the 17th (etc) or say "I need to check the family calendar that I'm free, I'll get back to you tomorrow"
posted by slightlybewildered at 4:37 PM on July 29, 2013

I personally have a digital work calendar with work only stuff, and a paper calendar for EVERYTHING, despite having about a million electronic devices and steady web access. Paper calendars just make more sense to my brain.

But anyway, my parents have done this for years. Mom keeps the master calendar, usually in the same spot, but not always. Anything my dad needs to know or be present at, she makes herself a note and tells him when he gets home from work. If he wants to doublecheck, he'll call and leave a message. She'll call him back when she can. However, mom has great handwriting and dad's writing is pretty illegible, so that's what works for them.

TL;DR: Copy the calendar into your digital format. When she adds or changes the main calendar, she puts it on a post-it for you to update later. Keep the calendar (or at least the post-its) in the same spot so you'll remember.
posted by rakaidan at 4:48 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you need to find a way to meet in the middle. I understand if she doesn't want to keep a digital calendar, but she needs to make the shared information accessible. If she expects you to be at certain events/activities or plan your day around them, together you can come up with a way to share that communication. I like the idea of a big, color-coded wall calendar. If she prefers the small, moveable calendar, can you confer every Sunday night to plan the week? Even if this weren't a digital-vs-analog issue, it is still unfair to you that her calendar is hard to read and access. Can she email you about important events?

To be fair, I much prefer a printed planner overall, but at work I absolutely use the Google Cal (we have Google Apps for Business) to schedule meetings, etc.
posted by radioamy at 8:28 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it's your responsibility to get the data into the calendar format you prefer, for your own use (i.e. scheduling classes, work or social events).

That means you need to sit down in front of her calendar every Sunday and add anything new into Gcal (it will only take forever the first time, or maybe at the beginning of every month).

Occasionally you may get a little out of sync - you update your Gcal on Sunday, she adds something new on Monday, you schedule a conflicting thing on Tuesday...but that would happen anyway, no system is perfect.
posted by amaire at 10:34 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreed that you'll probably need to be the person converting the information to digital.

Perhaps you could ask her to write each new thing on a postit.

Or, if you'd prefer a weekly update to your google calender, you could ask her to use a different coloured pen each week. Then, you know that only the things that are in green need to be added. To make this easier, one of those pens that has 4 colors of ink can be attached to the calender with string, or something.
posted by Ashlyth at 4:51 AM on July 30, 2013

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