Planning with Google Calendar

April 23, 2016
I love planners, sophisticated filofaxes and artsy bullet journals. I love planning my days, (you should see me plan travel, it gets ridiculous) and crossing off to do lists. And I love the promise that comes with a brand new planner, those tantalizing promises of direction, productivity and success.

But I don't want to invest a lot of time, creativity and energy (not to mention money - those planners can get expensive) in something that will eventually become clutter on a shelf. I certainly don't need more stuff, especially if it's something I'm going to replace yearly, and I don't really need anything else to carry around.

Typically I just use Google Calendar to stay organized, which does the job. It's not particular pretty or inspiring, but it does what it's intended for.

This weekend I found that Google Calendar has a new Goals feature, (this shows up on my tablet but not my phone) where you enter in the name of your goal, how many times a week you'd like to devote to it, and for how long. Google Calendar will find gaps in your schedule for your goal.

I thought this was a super neat idea! There are a lot of things I want to get do each week that don't require an exact time (like draw more), and it would be great to have them automatically populate my week and adjust according to my appointments, classes and gym time. 


I had already added my non-negotiables, and not just weekly activities, meetings and other similar plans. I had lunch and dinner and time for watching TV or playing video games blocked off. For some reason, I never added laundry on Thursdays or vacuuming on Sundays - probably because I secretly hoped my husband would do them.

Then, I started thinking about and adding my goals. I thought of things I want to do regularly, but don't always make deliberate time for and the things I know I need to do, but don't have scheduled.

These are mine:
+ Work on Thesis, in one hour and two hour chunks
+ Grading, in one hour and half hour segments
+ Hour of drawing three times a week
+ Hour of blogging every day
+ PT exercises every day
+ Dishes everyday
+ Cleaning: Vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, bathroom and in general a few times a week. 15 minutes here and there has got to make a difference, right?

I also added in my commute to and from campus at an event since that's really easy to forget about, and since I catch a bus the time I need to allot for it can change depending on the time of day and where I'm going to on campus.

So after using it for several days, this is what I've found:

+ Just getting things on the calendar is a huge help for me! I can move them around later, but just visually seeing how my week looks helps me plan immensely. Any level of automation is a step in the right direction.
+ If you schedule something during the same time a goal, it will (usually) automatically find another time for that goal. 
+ If you mark it as done, it crosses it out on your calendar!
+ So far, it seem to try to keep my weekends free.
+ You can color code everything! I use the default blue for work related things, pink for chores, yellow for food, and sage green for gym and PT. Purple is for one off appointments and meetings, and light blue is entertainment. I use grey for tentative plans, or things that don't have set times yet. Orange is for creative time, like blogging and drawing.

 + It keeps scheduling me to do things at 8 am. Sorry, this is still coffee time (it has since learned not to do this ).
+ It can't take location into account. For example, I can't do dishes right before I teach because I'm already on campus.
+ You know how I listed that it would automatically rearrange goals if they conflicted? Well, this means I can't schedule anything else to do while waiting for laundry. Not a big deal, that'll just be catch up time or free time for me, but it's not great for multi-tasking.
+ It's strict about the times you enter, so if I want to work on my thesis for a three hour stretch, it won't adapt to a 2 hour and 45 minute period. I can, of course, add in an event manually, but that sort of defeats the purpose.
+ It's not great at consolidating. I think I may be using it for far more than it's meant to be used for, because it will set me a 15 minute task at say 10:00, and then another at 11:00, and then have trouble fitting in a hour long goal between 10:00 and 12:00.
+ If you defer a task it sometimes disappears and you can't defer something by 15 minutes and have all the other goals move back 15 minutes as well. Sometimes I'm not at a great stopping point and just want 10 more minutes, but I have to either stop, defer the next activity or redo the day's schedule.

Work Arounds and other Tips:
+ I can add the same task twice for different time periods to ensure I don't only do it when there are long stretches of time open. For example, I have my thesis added as both a two hour and a one hour activity- sometimes I'll work on it for two two-hour long blocks for a total of four hours, but sometimes I'll only have an hour free between meetings.
+ I think I may stop using it scheduling my thesis, since that's something I should be doing for a few hours everyday, and 9-5 once I stop TA-ing and grading for the summer. That'll give it more structure to work around, instead of a blank day.

Overall, Goals needs some work. For a service that's suppose to be automated, I spent a lot of time rearranging my days. Usually I sort of enjoy this step, but when something comes up I don't want to have to redo my whole day in order to stay on schedule. For example, yesterday while working on my thesis, I couldn't get a hold of my adviser so I graded instead. I think this was sensible choice, but I didn't meet my goals according to the App unless I switched 'grading' and 'thesis' manually.

I'm going to keep using Goals to help me maximize those odd 15 minutes here and there, but I won't rely on it to block out large amounts of time for me. Maybe I'll update this after a few more week.

Or maybe I'll cave and buy a filofax.

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