27 Jun

my hybrid systems for keeping myself sorted: technology

Calendar* courtesy Dafne Cholet under a CC by 2.0 license

Calendar* courtesy Dafne Cholet under a CC by 2.0 license

Yesterday I posted about the principles that underpin my approach to managing my time and to dos. Today I’m following that up with the first of two posts about my hybrid tech / analogue system for keeping myself sorted. In this post I’ll talk about tech, and tomorrow I’ll talk about the analogue parts of my system, which revolve around my Traveler’s Notebook.

So, onto the tech. There’s nothing too fancy here in terms of tools, but I do have a whole bunch of systems I use with these bits of tech to keep my self sorted. The two tech pieces in my hybrid self management system are my work Outlook calendar and EverNote.


I use my work Outlook calendar to manage all appointments, both work and life. I used to try to maintain a separate calendar for life but there’s not a whole lot of divide between work and life for me so it didn’t really work. Since our calendars are visible to the whole organisation by default, I just make sure I make appointments I don’t want everybody to see private.

I sync my calendar across all my devices and rely pretty heavily on notifications to make sure I’m where I need to be, when I need to be there.

I have a few strategies I use to manage my diary that are pretty important in keeping all the balls in the air. I expend a fair bit of energy on managing my calendar but it has good pay off.

The first strategy is a simple one, but one that I find not everyone employs: I keep my calendar up to date. It’s really important for me that my calendar reflects my actual availability, rather than it just being a system for reminding me when I need to be somewhere. I need it to be up to date so people can see when I’m available, and I need it to be up to date so *I* can see when I’m available. This is pretty much the key for me in terms of keeping myself sorted. So I calendar like a crazy lady.

In addition to having all my appointments in my calendar, I also block out time in my diary for a whole range of things. If I’m not available to other people at any time, I make sure my time is blocked out. For example, I block out:

  • all my teaching contact times. I do this at the start of the semester and then edit as needed if my schedule changes.
  • commute time, when I know I have to be on campus or at an offsite meeting.
  • school runs – realistically, rather than just using the appointment as a reminder. For pick ups, I block out the time from when I need to leave home or work through to when someone else will get home and I can start working again. For drop offs, I block out the time til I’m back at my desk at home or at the office.
  • 8am til 10am every day as time I’m not available for meetings. I live on the Gold Coast and work is in Brisbane. My commute is minimum an hour each way, and often substantially more during peak hour. It’s also completely unpredictable. So I am very reluctant to commit to doing anything before 10am. One day last year the traffic was exceptionally bad and I had a 9am lecture. It took me more than two and a half hours to get to work that day so despite leaving home well before 7am, my boss ended up having to run the first half hour of class. Being stuck on the freeway when I’m meant to be in a lecture theatre is pretty stressful!
  • research days, so I can try to protect some time to write.

Since I work from home quite a lot, I use my calendar to indicate whether I’m on or off campus each day. I do this by putting an appointment in my calendar at 7.30am each day that says whether I’m on campus or off campus. This helps my team with scheduling stuff. They are also really good at looking for times in my diary where I’m clearly having a meeting day, and using those times in preference to others.

Every Sunday I check my schedule for the next fortnight and add or update my on campus / off campus appointments for the next fortnight and see what I’m up to for the coming week. That helps me with my analogue planning too.


I use EverNote to take notes in meetings because I often need those notes in electronic format to share with others, and it’s just really handy to be able to search for them.

I also use it to draft things like complicated emails, content for teaching sites, blog posts etc.

I use the business card scanning function to scan cards so I can get them out of my paper planner.

I also use EverNote to manage life projects too. For example, I scanned contracts and quotes related to our house sale, purchase and renos, using EverNote’s scanning app, Scannable. I also scanned product brochures so I wouldn’t have to carry bulk print material in my Traveler’s Notebook. My use of EverNote for these projects complemented my Traveler’s Notebook, where I made lots of notes in my life notebook and carried unpaid invoices and so forth in a folder insert.

I have a premium subscription for EverNote so that I can scan business cards and save email (among lots of other things).

Tomorrow I’ll post about the fun bit: my analogue approach to planning in my MTN.

PS. If you read to the end of this post, you’re a legend. I’m sure this is as boring as batshit to anyone but me. I’m not entirely sure why I think anyone wants to read this, but I think I’m partly writing these posts to record them for me, to come back to later. Memory keeping about my obsessive calendaring.

#blogjune 21/30

6 thoughts on “my hybrid systems for keeping myself sorted: technology

  1. Im awesome – read to the end!

    Your comments about how you and your team make use of your shared calendar is great. Some think its overkill but actually talking about how you will use shared calendars is very beneficial for teamwork and harmony.

    I’m curious as to whether a 2nd outlook calendar for personal stuff would help. You can overlay calendars to see both at once, but im not sure if you can use both for calculating availability. But that way your 2nd one could be shared as ‘availability’ only so no details are visible and no need to mark the items as private.

    • Hmmm, a second Outlook calendar might work… I’ve tried using a Google calendar but that didn’t work. Will investigate!

      It is really important to talk about this stuff and work out ways of working together and around each other’s commitments. It’s particularly important when you have a geographically dispersed team. I can go weeks without seeing some people. Three of five of us have pretty restricted on campus availability. Scheduling is a nightmare, even with up-to-date calendars. I don’t know how anyone does it without systems and shared calendars!

  2. Hi Kate – I read all the way to the end too! I actually love reading about people’s organisation strategies – I guess I hope I will somehow become more organised by osmosis!

    My organisation doesn’t use any shared calendars and it’s a nightmare. Thumbs up for sharing calendars and being open in the workplace about scheduling and time commitments!

    • I sekritly like reading them too! 😉

      And I honestly don’t know how I’d function without shared calendars. Such an important tool!

  3. Read to the end! 🙂
    I liked your notes on how you use Evernote. Making me think about how I can use it for max benefit. I tend to store a lot of blog posts, readings and reminders. The occasion note too. I’ve neglected sorting my Evernote for a while now. Thanks for sharing!

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