Are you hoping this school year, the whole family will be on the same page when it comes to communication? Don’t use the refrigerator door. We’ve got something better.

A new school year is a chance for a new start. It will be the year everything is organized, right? This will be the year when we’re “all on the same page” about events. Mom and Dad will always know what events the kids have, right? We’re going to have a family calendar and we’re all going to put our events on it.

And that family calendar is going to live (drum roll) on the refrigerator door!

After all, that’s been the treasured place in many households.

But there’s one big problem with the “calendar on the refrigerator”

You can’t take it with you.

When the band director announces a new rehearsal date, wouldn’t we agree it needs to go on the calendar? But you can’t put it on the refrigerator calendar unless you have the refrigerator at hand.

So poor Eric has now inherited the job of remembering to write that event on the refrigerator calendar when he gets home.

Maybe he’ll remember.

Maybe he won’t.

And if he doesn’t, he’ll be in trouble…again, just like last year. So much for this year being different.

In Get Organized…Digitally! we devote a chapter to calendar management and how it’s changed in our digital age. (Hint: It’s easier than the paper calendar days for those who have a good strategy)

Meet the Baileys

In the book, you meet educators William and Maria Bailey. They have three children. Eric is 13, Cindy is 7, and Bobby just turned 2.

William and Maria always thought of themselves as organized people. But things were falling through the cracks. Both William and Maria lived by their paper planners. A calendar on the refrigerator held appointments for each family member, at least in theory.

In practice, appointments were scattered all over several calendars, a school-issued assignment book, and random papers relegated to the bottom of book bags. Details for appointments were trapped in emails. On the weekend, William and Maria would compare planners and look through bookbags for their two older children in an attempt to organize the week ahead.

A Google Calendar for Everyone

We’re going to solve the calendar problem not with a refrigerator, but with shared Google Calendars.

William and Maria both have Google accounts. Therefore, they both also have Google calendars. They started brainstorming their family needs. Appointments happening during the workday would not need to be shared with each other. Appointments related to parent conferences and teacher observations the other was conducting would only serve to clutter the spouse’s calendar.

The critical items to share with each other were after-school, evening, and weekend appointments. So, William and Maria decided the default calendar for each would be their work calendars. Each created a calendar in the left sidebar of their respective calendars. They named the calendars William Personal and Maria Personal respectively. Each clicked the ellipsis beside the calendar name to select the settings & sharing for the calendar. 

Under Share with specific people, each added the other person and granted rights to make changes to events. With sharing in place, William could look at his Google Calendar and see three distinct calendars. He would see his work calendar (for which he chose a blue color), his personal calendar (in red), and Maria’s personal calendar (in purple). Things were already looking better!

Maria liked to plan surprises. She worried how she would keep the plans for William’s surprise party from him now that they had shared calendars. Maria noticed when she opened an appointment, she could click a dropdown labeled Default visibility and change it to Private.

William and Maria looked back at their paper planners and realized they often entered events for information only. They lived in a college town, and traffic was always heavy on fall Saturday’s when the football game was at home. Cultural events were plentiful in their town.

Maria went into Google Calendar and added another calendar. She called it FYI and chose a bright yellow for its color. She shared it with William. They pulled the various flyers off the refrigerator door and started entering events of interest into the FYI calendar. One click on any event opened it and allowed the couple to enter details and an address for any event.

What About the Children?

Three children kept the “Bailey Bus” busy. Keeping up with soccer practice and band events for Eric, soccer and dance for Cindy, and medical appointments for all three children was a never-ending struggle.

Eric had gotten a phone for his birthday. William and Maria decided it was time to put the phone to work. Eric had a Google account. Therefore, he had a Google Calendar. The couple showed Eric how to share the calendar with each of them and give them rights to add events.

One of the family struggles had been getting Eric to write his events on the “refrigerator calendar.” He would forget. Even when he remembered, mom and dad would forget to look at the refrigerator. When you’re a school administrator, it’s embarrassing to get a call from the soccer coach to tell you everyone has been picked up from practice…except your child!

Eric quickly adopted the habit of adding appointments to his calendar. Like magic, they appeared for both William and Maria in a green color. Eric learned how to add to his calendar with his voice. That capability made adding to his calendar even easier and more fun.

Eric had a big smile on his face when the dental assistant handed him a card for his next appointment. He whipped out his phone and said, “OK Google, add Dental Appointment to my calendar December 19th at 2PM.” As he put his phone back in his pocket, the dental assistant couldn’t help but be impressed. No longer did the Bailey family need little cards magnetized to the refrigerator. They faithfully used their calendars.

Eric added practices and games and concerts. The Symphonic Band trumpets had after-school sectional rehearsals every Tuesday afternoon. Eric added the event once and clicked for it to repeat every week at the same time.

He put his parents’ birthdays and their anniversary on his calendar and made those repeating annual events. Like his mother, Eric found how he could make an event Private and not show up on his parents’ calendars. Suddenly, forgetful Eric was remembering those special days. William and Maria were wondering what happened to this boy of theirs.

Eric added school projects, church events, and major tests. Nightly interrogations from mom and dad became a thing of the past. The conversation at family mealtime became less about the mechanics of events and more about the successes of the day. That phone Eric got for his birthday was now beginning to earn its keep.

William and Maria felt Cindy was a little young to manage her own events. So, William went to his Google Calendar and created one more, an orange calendar for Cindy, her favorite color. He shared the calendar with Maria and gave her edit rights. He also created a brown-colored calendar for two-year-old Bobby. Mother and father could each see a calendar for every member of the family and turn any calendar on or off. They could see the calendar displayed as a month, a week, or a day. They could see the calendar from their desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or phone.

Who’s Driving the “Bailey Bus”?

Knowing where each child was supposed to be and when simplified life for William and Maria. But a question mark remained. Who would provide transportation for each child? Eric was responsible for negotiating transportation and being sure the appropriate parent had entered it on their calendar. If he was riding his bike or riding with a friend’s parent, he was responsible for updating the appointment in his calendar to reflect that.

As for Cindy and Bobby, if Maria was going to be responsible for transportation, she would click the appointment, change the calendar for that event to her own calendar, and save. William would do likewise. If an upcoming appointment was still showing in Cindy’s color or Bobby’s color, that meant William and Maria needed to decide who would be responsible for transportation.


William asked, “Maria, when I look at my calendar, I can see your events. But I find myself looking weeks into the future to see you have added something new. Is there any way when you add something to your calendar, you could tell me or email me, or something?”

Maria did a little research and came up with an answer. She had William go into the “settings” for each calendar and look for Other notifications. Here, William could choose to get an email when an event was added, changed, or canceled from that calendar. Maria did the same for calendars shared with her. As soon as Eric added an extra band practice to his calendar, both William and Maria got an email. When William’s evening graduate class was moved an hour later, as soon as he made the change on his calendar, Maria received an email.

Speaking of notifications, William, Maria, and Eric began to reap another benefit. Fifteen minutes before any calendar event, the phone would vibrate and an audible reminder would sound. In the Bailey household, forgetting became a thing of the past.

Maybe this year would be different

The refrigerator has the important job of keeping food cold, and it does that job well. When it comes to helping us keep up with our schedules, we need something more. This school year, let Google Calendar become the family calendar and help the entire family get on the same page.

If you liked this post…

If you liked this post, you’re probably someone who has a vested interest in helping young people be successful in school. Here is a series of posts I wrote on Managing School the Easy Way. Each has a video and podcast embedded:

And if you liked the story of the “Bailey Bus”…

Get Organized…Digitally! is filled with stories…stories of people like you and me who found ways to use digital tools to organize and simplify their lives. Life doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes make it. Have you ordered your copy?

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