This week I have found myself obsessively knotting my brain around the conundrum of how best to calendarise family life.
The system, if you can call it a system, we have had up until now is a) verbal communication and b) a family Google calendar. And there are two major flaws with that system.
The first is that we rarely verbally communicate. We are both too tired. Instead, with dinner on lap, we hunker down into a box set, which in itself is probably very therapeutic but doesn’t help with managing our day to day.
The second is that, due to my refusal (and I think it is a conscious one) to grasp anything remotely technical, I mis-manage the current calendar and bung most of my engagements into it by default as I forget that I have an option to do otherwise. Which means, in all probability, Simons diary is filled with things like Rhyme Time, Baby A’s swimming class, after school playdates with O and the sporadic twice yearly appointments I manage to make to go to the hairdressers. So my suspicion, judging by the number of times we have said to each other “Im out this Thursday”. “No. I’m out this Thursday…” is that he turns it off.
Now, with two parents at work (albeit me part-time), O in school with a social calendar to rival Her Majesty’s and Baby A’s activities growing as he does…something more robust and organisational seems to be called for.
The thing is, despite us both working, in some way, within project management, organisation isn’t something we seem to do very well one we arrive home chez Pebbles. If S was an iPhone he would be flashing an error message right now saying “Storage Full”. His brain, once he has got himself through his working day, seems not to be able to take in any more. I on the other hand walk around in some kind of OCD-like frenzy, spurting out the to-do list circulating within my head to anyone who will listen. I read once, (in a inspirational book called Getting Things Done by David Allen) that when your to-do list remains an open loop in you brain and you are constantly reminded, at usually inopportune moments, of all the things you need to do and haven’t, it causes tension-inducing stress. I’m fairly sure that is what happens to me. My incessant verbalisation of my list is my attempt at getting it out of my head though I recognise its not an effective one. Simply telling my 11 month old baby that I mustn’t forget my nephew’s birthday isn’t a sure-fire way of making sure card and present get in the post. Worse still, the outcome of coupling a mumbling wife with an exhausted husband is that the error message promptly changes from ‘storage full’ to ‘shutting down’.
Allen’s book, though full of brilliant solutions and well worth a read, strays (in my view) into ‘ain’t never gonna happen’ territory. He and his partner have their own physical in-trays and each are allowed – nay – encouraged to drop actions that need to be taken into each others trays. For them that works. For us, I can guarantee, it would not. In fact, in some ways, its already been tested as I’m guilty of using S’s email inbox in a similar (but ineffective) way.
I need a better plan. Something functional. Something….simple. And if its colourful too, then all the better.
So why not go traditional? I bought a wall calendar. Correction. I made one on Snapfish with photos of the family customised with important birthdays.
The day it plopped onto the doormat I tore it from its cardboard sleeve and sat with pen and highlighter marking off school holidays, work days and events. Almost immediately the panic began to rise. S walked in the door….and I started my mumbling.
“There’s weeks we have no childcare! There are nights I have to spend away! I have Board meetings on a day with no nursery! I have work days I have to shift around!”
“We’ll sort it out”. said S, and flipping open his iPad, zoned out.
Heading to Amazon I bought a couple of extra strong magnets to hold said calendar to the fridge. Far from giving me a sense of calm by seeing my month ahead mapped out in front of me as I reached into the fridge for milk, it looked migraine-inducing with its neon and scribbles. Slowly we began to stick things over it. Recipe cards. Invitations. Postcards. One by one O stole the magnets, employing them instead within scientifically-dubious experiments to test what objects within the house have iron in them.
I decided I had best ditch the calendar idea.
Perhaps, I thought, I should get into the 21st century. Let’s get digital. And I opened my laptop. Staring back at me was a grid of numbered squares with dots on the ones in which I have some sort of engagement on that day. Far from giving me (and S) my desired overview of whats coming up, it only tells you (on a small screen) what a week has in store if you click individually on each day. I shut the laptop. There must be an app for this, I thought. I’ll do some late-night web-surfing.
Later that evening I turned to a sleepy S.
“What do you think of FantastiCal?” I asked. He sighed. He was tired. He was trying to read the five lines he manages to get through each night before his eyelids drop like shutters.
“Whats wrong with the calendar you’ve got?” he asked.
He took the iPad from me and opened the calendar. “See this?” he said, jabbing at the touch-screen. “Just make it an all-day appointment. Then it isn’t like a big block in the day. See?”
I stared in horror. “Put it back” I whispered.
“Thats my boss’s calendar. Thats my colleagues part-time hours. Can you put it back?”
He re-opened the appointment. “Ok. I’m only trying to help. What hours does she work?”
I gulped. I didn’t know. Taking the iPad back I pulled the covers up to my neck. This calendar malarky was proving to be far more complicated than I’d expected.
The next morning at work I fessed up and it turned out no long-lasting damage had been caused. But in commencing my confession I’d opened the tidal wave of calendar-focussed mumbling and this time my boss got the brunt.
“See!” I lamented. “I tap the day thinking it will make an entry on that day and it makes it for the day I’m in!”
“Google calendar.” she said, knowingly. “With an app linking to it for your phone.You could even have a calendar for Baby A” she said “and one for O. And sync them all.”
She demonstrated. It looked cool. Sod the wall calendar. Hell….even sod the blackboard which has been my attempt to date at scribing the week’s activities for all to see….invariably sabotaged by a chalky-handed O cackling “Mummy….I rubbed your writing off!”
I’d get an app, sync it to Google calendar, and we’d be away.
And I did. It’s called Sunrise. So far it looks great. We each have our own calendar. Most importantly we each have our own colour. And open loops in my brain are, one by one, being entered…then closed. Quite whether its solving the mumbling problem I don’t know.
In actual fact…..I’m not even sure if its solved the calendarising one.
“Am I picking the boys up tonight?” came S’s text.