Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Use Tech to Help Manage Your Time

I promised a couple of months ago that I would write about how I use tech to make my life as a special needs parent easier. The system I use can be used by any busy person really (and it is). Of course I started a post, got distracted and then totally forgot about it until I came back yesterday to post about something entirely unrelated. So I'm going to try again. I'm not an expert, I just think I have found a system that works for me. So take from it what you feel would be useful in your situation. I'll be glad to offer what advice I can if you need to adapt what I've done to meet your own unique needs.

There are two main components to my scheduling system:
  • a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or an iPod Touch
  • a GMail account
Everything I do is on a shoestring budget. If you can't afford a smartphone, look at used iPod Touches. They have all the same calendar features. Our first iOS device was an 8gb 2nd generation iPod Touch for which we paid $80 on Craigslist. Even if you have a non-smartphone, if you can receive text messages, you can add and edit appointments at home, and get text message reminders. And GMail accounts are free.

Both iOS and Android devices will allow you to directly access your Google Calendars through their own calendar apps. I'm not going into detail here, but you can find configuration instructions for iOS, and since you have to enter your GMail info into your Android phone, it does the rest for you.

Once I had a GMail account and an iPod Touch, I created multiple calendars in GMail that I could view concurrently. There are calendars for me, my wife, Joseph, Maria, Anna, and my work stuff. Whether I'm viewing my calendar in a web browser or from my mobile device, I can choose to view all the calendars, some, or one. When I'm scheduling a new appointment, I just have to look at that day and I see a color coded schedule so I can make sure I don't double-book someone and I have enough travel time (promptness is very important to me). See this YouTube video that some other helpful person made, and which I've embedded below.

Once you have your calendars set up, you can add repeating events, like your weekly OT and SLP appointments. I've got two kids in speech therapy, one weekly and the other bi-weekly. Without this, I would be totally lost. After you've created a repeating event, you can make "exceptions", where you edit a single instance of the event, or delete it, without changing the rest of your series. So your SLP is on vacation, just delete that instance of the event.

GMail/Google Calendar can remind you about your appointments in several ways. If you're using an iOS or Android device, a pop-up is probably the easiest way. In any case, I prefer to be notified 24 hours before an appointment, and then again 1 hour before. Though I'm considering switching from 24 hrs to 12 hrs for the first reminder. Anyway, you can learn how to change your default reminders here. That way, when you create a new event it will have the default reminders already set.

Finally, you can share your calendars on an individual basis with other GMail users. My wife and one of our aides have GMail accounts, so my wife can see and make changes to all of our calendars, and our aide can see Joseph's calendar (which includes events that tell us which aide is scheduled for what time.) That way, if Joseph has an appointment that is outside of his regular routine, or he doesn't have an appointment that he would normally have, everyone with access to the calendar can see that.

Please ask questions. I'm sure there's something that I've failed to mention here.

Next time, I'll be writing about how I use a scanner an Dropbox to keep all the mountains of paperwork, forms, and questionnaires organized, and I'll share how it's saved my ass.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. It’s very informative and helpful information. Keep up the good works guys!

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