In order to be organized and prepared, it is important to have a good calendar system. And it has to work for you personally, otherwise you will never be able to rely on it to help you run your household. So the first question is: should you choose paper or electronic for your family calendar?
Pros and Cons of a Paper-Based Family Calendar
If you are someone who does not use a computer often, still keep your address book in a handwritten bound notebook, and does not have or use a smartphone, then a paper- based calendar system is probably your best bet. The biggest disadvantage of the paper calendar system is that you will need to do a great deal of writing of the same repetitive information….for example, if your son plays soccer every Wed afternoon for 8 consecutive weeks, you will need to write that 8 times in your calendar.
For a paper-based system, you will need a basic monthly calendar- with one month displayed per page and enough room in the date boxes for you to write in all of your appointments and activities.
Pros and Cons of an Electronic Family Calendar
If you are someone who already spends a fair amount of time on your computer, and perhaps already uses an electronic calendar, and/or uses a smartphone, the electronic calendar system is a good way to go. (I personally use an electronic calendar system, Apple's iCal system.) When looking at various options for electronic calendar software, I think that the following features are very important:
It needs to allow you to enter recurring events
So if your daughter has a dance class on Friday, and it occurs weekly from Sept-June, you should be able to enter it in one place, tell the system how often the event repeats, and poof- it populates the dance class on all of those Fridays. You should then be able to go in, and delete those specific Friday dates when class won't be held- such as New Year's Eve, for instance. And the system will allow you to just delete that date without deleting all of the classes scheduled after that date.
It should support multiple “calendars”
For example, I use one calendar as my Family Calendar, another to define my Weekly Tasks, and a third to record my Menu Plans. If I wanted to- I could create a unique calendar for each member of my family, and then choose to view all calendars at once, or just one or two family members' activities at at time.
And I feel that a good electronic calendar gives you several options for printing out that calendar.
I like one that allows me to print out a monthly calendar view (one month per page), and a second print option to show a weekly planner. I also prefer a system that allows me to select which of my calendars to include in the print out. For example, when printing my monthly calendar- I do not want to see my weekly tasks and menu plans, I really only want to see my family appointments and activities.
This where you ask me: ” Sharon, if I am putting all of this onto my computer- why should I waste paper and print anything?” And I say “Oh green goddess- you are so right, I too love the environment, but I do not carry my laptop with me everywhere, and my smartphone, as smart and wonderful as it is, cannot show me my calendar in a monthly view where I can easily read all of my appointments right there side by side in a font that is bigger than a grain of salt.” Seriously, if I am at the dentist and need to schedule a visit for just one of the kids – I need to be able to scan an entire month and see the details of each day in that month, because Lord help me if I make a mistake and schedule that appointment on a day when all of the kids are out of school and I have to take all six kids to the dentist office and entertain them while one child has work done. Trust me, it's not pretty. It's much better to be looking at a monthly view of my calendar, with all of it's gory details, then to make that mistake.
Some other nice features of an electronic calendar are:
- Ability to invite someone to an appointment- so when you schedule your Mom's Night Out for next Thursday with your girlfriends, you can send an invite to your husband and he will get an email that notifies him that he needs to be home to watch the kids so you can go out with the girls!
- Ability to sync with a smartphone- this one I think is a “nice but not necessary”. As I said above, I need to see more info right in front of me, and for that- my smartphone just can't deliver.
- It is backed up on your hard drive, so when you back up your computer (and you are backing up your computer files regularly, right?) you have a saved copy. You will appreciate this if you've ever left your paper calendar in the doctor's office, and then can't remember where you've left it. Or if your child decides that your calendar makes a really great coloring book…. if it is an electronic calendar- no worries, just print out a new copy!
Which type of calendar do you prefer to use- an electronic calendar or a paper one… and it if is a paper calendar, do you like the kind that you can carry around or one that you can hang on the wall?
desktop calendar picture above courtesy of .reid on flickr