Saturday, August 18, 2007

Giving yourself to the schedule

There was an interesting New York Times article this week about a family who had trouble of keeping track of their cars. To resolve the issue, the mother, writing the story, adopted Google Calendar to resolve the situation:
That’s all they would need to create personal calendars that they could share online with a master family calendar, which would display all appointments in color-coded text blocks. Another thing that set Google apart was a recently beefed-up spreadsheet tool that enables me to create a monthly budget chart that might trick my husband into confronting the truth about our finances. I also had big plans to use the documents tool to make a grocery list everyone could edit.
Turns out that she had mixed success.

For that family, giving themselves over to the need for a group schedule appears to have happened late. For us, it happened a few years ago. The parties escalated (and as regular readers know that is a big problem for us), the after school activities grew in number, there were events at school and just many amendments to a normal weekly schedule. Add into the mix that on certain evenings or on certain days one or both of us might have work commitments or travel and just keeping up became a nightmare.

Our initial pass was to agree to put all events on the calendar on our iMac in the kitchen. The idea being, if it is not there, it does not exist. That was a good solution but sometimes you find out about something at work and don't have access to the home machine. Also, you might need to commit to a work event but can't consult the schedule.

After much angst about whether we could rely on an internet-based means of scheduling, I moved us over to Google Calendar. What a marvel it is. It is so easy to consult, put schedules in, and even link to maps of where to go. We have separate calendars for all five of us and am teaching the two eldest to put parties and the like in the schedule themselves. That way we can train them early before it is seen as an imposition. Big Brother serves best when they are young.

Many people have reacted in horror to this outcome that we use IT to communicate rather than some personal touch. Well, those people do not understand the magnitude of the logistical problem we face. More often than not they have a single person responsible for where the children are. We can't rely on that and so we track them on Google. If we could get some GPS locators on them and tie that back in we will be set. It might seem impersonal but there is nothing less personal than a lost child. Can you imagine the conversation with police?
"So can you tell us where you last saw your child?"

"Well, this morning but her mother apparently dropped her off at a party at 10."

"It is 2 now, who picked her up?"

"It was supposed to be me but it turned out that I was taking another child to Taekwando."

"So the mother stepped in ..."

"Well, she had to take the youngest to another party."

"Have you checked at the 10am party?"

"Well, the invitation went with the child and we have no record at the moment of whose party it was or where it was held."

"Have you thought of putting this on Google? It's free."
I mean, we all want to avoid that.