[ I wrote this piece originally back in 2009. But things have changed. This is an update.]
“I turned in all my homework and am now getting mostly As. Will you turn my phone back on?” â€“my daughter
“Will you take me to a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday?” â€“my mother
“We need to pay taxes!” â€“my husband
“I brought my science grade up to an A, will you let my computer back on the Wi-Fi network?” â€“my son
“Can I have that article revision by Tuesday?” â€“my editor
“Can you send me an outline by Friday?” â€“my other editor
“Don’t forget to tell my readers about those cool giveaways I lined up for this week, research that story on getting into college, file my column, post to my blogs, pay the mortgage and rent, get a haircut, call my sister back, go to the bank, and answer 200 emails.” â€“me
That is a pretty typical day around here in scattered blogger, freelance writer, and mother-of-two-tweens with elderly mother land. There was a time when the less desperate things on a list like that would just drift off never to be done or remembered until someone was mad at me or my blog was covered in cobwebs.
But these days I have a system! Okay, I’ve always had a system. It’s the secret to my success. But right now I have a very spiffy, slick, and shiny system.
My Shiny System
Instructions: Never believe that internal voice that says, “I’ll remember that.” I whip out my phone or tablet whenever anything that requires action from me comes up. Taking my mother to her doctor’sÂ appointmentÂ goes right on my Google calendar on whatever device is handy. But most often, I make a note in the Remember the Milk app on my phone or tablet because that’s the quickest way to be sure this won’t slip my mind. But sometimes typing anything is awkward — while walking, cooking, driving. Then I call my own Google Voice number and leave myself a voice mail reminder.
When I get to my office — away from the fray of home life — all those reminders are waiting for me. Before I read my email, I log into Remember the Milk and organize my day — put things on my calendar, postpone tasks that don’t need to be done today, and see if it’s possible to get my list done in the time I have. Then I hit email where there is bound to be pitches from sources and PR people and requests from editors. But because I use Producteev for Google Apps, I can turn emails into tasks — that can later beÂ syncedÂ to my calendarÂ or shared with colleaguesÂ — simply by clicking on a button right there in my email. (How you use it will depend on the other tools you use but it helps capture those action items that tend to get lost in email.)
But that’s all very behind-the scenes. Here’s how it works in real life:
I’m at breakfast with my family. My mother informs me that she needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment. I agree and put it on my calendar.
The kids tell their tales of woe about how cruel I am for shutting off their phones and locking their computers out of the wireless network for their sub-par grades. They dug this hole, though, so I don’t jump up to fix it right away. But I do make a note in Remember the Milk to take care of it later.Â I
carry on with breakfast, enjoying my coffee and eggs. I do pretty much the same thing every time someone asks me for something all weekend long: make a note in RTM or call Google Voice to leave myself a reminder,Â and get back to relaxing, gardening, and getting outside. I also texted the hair cut appointment — which I made while riding in the car — to my Google Calendar. I enjoy my weekend without feeling as if I have to rush to my phone/computer/whatever before I forget. I know I’ll get to all this stuff eventually. I sleep well and enjoy my family, garden, and a couple of movies.
When I get to my office on Monday morning, I turn on my computer, launchÂ RTM and email, and sip coffee. The reminder to deal with my kids phones and computers, pay the taxes, and everything else are right there in my to-do list. The hair cut and doctor’s appointments are on my calendar. And the voice reminders I sent myself are amusingly transcribed by Google Voice in my email in-box along. A few clicks to add larger projects that came in through email to Producteev and I haven’t forgotten a thing.
Another voice I have learned not to believe? That of a teen insisting his or her grades are perfect. I log onto the school’s grade management system to confirm these claims before I launch the software that controls my wireless router and log onto my cell service provider’s family allowances service to let the kids back into our wireless network and unblock their cell phones.