Sharing and Caring Week: Schedule and Paper Management

Let's talk schedule and paper management.

Last year everything was awesome calendar-wise. My office used Gmail as
our email server, so our calendars were on Gmail. My personal calendar
was, too. I made one each for the kids, and my ex-husband shared his,
and our babysitter shared hers. Et voila! Everyone's schedules all
right in one place, color-coded, and I could add national holidays,
Jewish holidays, etc. at will.

(Funny side note: I'm so used to making screenshots to illustrate things at work now that I almost pulled up my calendar, took a screen shot, and posted it here, as if you couldn't figure it out. Hahahahahahaha.)

Now, I'm at a job I love waaaaay better, but we use Outlook. And I
don't know if there's any way to integrate my work Outlook calendar
with my personal Gmail calendar.

In other morasses: the paper from school. So far I'm dealing
effectively with the papers I'm not interested in by recycling them ASAP. I just file things like handbooks and contact lists in my physical file cabinet. And the new director of my son's preschool is very anti-paper, so she
just emails everything. (And labels everything well in emails, which is
a total win for Gmail users.)

But all the assignments, and notices we're supposed to hold on to and return in a week, and all of that stuff you can't really throw away but don't know what to do with.

I'm thinking of getting magazine racks, one for each kid and one for
me, and putting them near the door, and putting papers that are "in
progress" in those. Has anyone done anything like this?

How do you manage schedules? And how do you manage paper? (Is there any
way to integrate a work Outlook calendar with a bunch of Gmail
calendars?)

1,402 thoughts on “Sharing and Caring Week: Schedule and Paper Management”

  1. I export my outlook calendar into google calendars about once a week. It isn’t ideal but it is doable. Google calendars gives you a good step by step.

  2. To solve your “notices we’re supposed to hold on to and return in a week”.I return things to school even before they want it because then I know it is where it needs to be and I don’t have to remember what date it needs to be there.

  3. We are not perfectly organized nor type-A people by any stretch of the imagination, but the following is a relatively cheap & manageable system we’ve agree upon & that works for us to lessen the chaos.For the schedule, we keep a master family calendar on basic paper (too many computer & internet issues have kept us from going digital). It is nothing more than a free, printed-out calendar for 2009 & 2010 where we write stuff down, and keep in a kitchen drawer away from little hands. Simple, but effective. The downside is we have to be home to check it, but on the plus side this fact has kept us from saying “yes” to random plans prematurely, so as a result we have been a bit more thoughtful about spending our time. We also jot down funny kid milestones & data points on the calendar, which we periodically transfer into DS’s baby book.
    For paper management – non-outrageous bills almost always get paid online the day they arrive (we actually get few paper bills anymore & the shredder is our best friend!) We’re also devotees of some of the paper-management strategies in the book “Getting Things Done.” It is certainly not for everyone, but it apparently has a cult following. We use the idea from the book of a cheapo old-school 31-day standing/collapsable fold-a-file that we check everyday (as in today we look in the #25 for Sept 25th to figure out what we need to do). This is where we’ve filed all papers that will need our attention in the near future. Today’s folder tells us it’s a friend’s son’s birthday next week, reminds us to follow up with periodically ordering & checking our credit reports, and downloading pictures from the digital camera& ordering prints. This is stuff we find important to keep up with, but would otherwise totally forget to do.
    We also have a fireproof lockable filing cabinet for longer term storage of papers like tax returns, loan payoff letters, mortgage docs, insurance docs, copies of wills etc. (See the website “The Unclutterer” for tips on what docs should be retained & for how long.) In there we also have a few labeled folders such as “Waiting For” – which includes receipts for ordered items we are still waiting to receive, & things we have loaned out to people. We also do the “Someday/Maybe” labeled folder for housing notes on our dreams & ideas for trips we want to take, how we want the house to look someday, etc.

  4. That is EXACTLY how we organize our paper–I call it organizing for people with ADD. And no space. The vertical on-the-wall magazine racks hold file folders organized with categories like “church/neighborhood,””bills to be paid” “to be filed” (In our big “storage” file folder where we keep things like health and financial records) “coupons, gift cards, etc.” and “school.” You can customize it however works for you and if you want to be uber-organized you could even have one of those cute expandable file folders and further subdivide things. LOVE this method (although our TBF file is getting, ahem, a little big). One of my more consistent arguements with my husband is his holding to the organizational systems I set up, and he’s even been able to maintain this with no angst. Then, when I need to, say, access the school information we were sent in August, I can do so.

  5. well, i wish I knew what to do with all the paper. We’re in our third week of K, and I’m going to be buried in a pile of colored-on worksheets, all of which are priceless (to the girl) because the teacher put a star on them. Will be reading avidly for tips…For calendar stuff, I favor a large obnoxious wall calendar with big squares for scrawling stuff on them. This year I bought a smaller one and I keep losing it because it fits neatly under the phonebook. I would forget entirely about an electronic one because I couldn’t trip on it, but my husband uses one successfully and sometimes I wonder if his head is attached, so maybe it would work. hmmm…

  6. Yes, you can sync google calendars with outlook! My husband uses outlook at work and I use google calendars at home, and his work calendar automatically syncs to the google calendar. It’s perfect! We just got an ipod touch too and that’s set up to sync to the google calendar. Nothing else in my life is organized, so I am perhaps a little too excited about this. Here are instructions: http://www.google.com/support/calendar/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=98563

  7. I agree that google calendar is awesome. So helpful! For some of the papers could you take a photo of the document and convert it into a pdf file and either keep it in a folder on your computer (one folder per child) or email it to yourself and that way have it in gmail? I try to recycle everything from school that I can too. If it’s possible to convert the information to electronic form I do that, usually by typing the information into a calendar event or a reminder to myself on my android phone (or you can use rememberthemilk.com)If the paper is going to have to go back to school I either fill it out right then, put it in my son’s homework drawer (an elfa drawer, right in the living room) or just keep it in his homework folder.
    Thanks for the post. I love your blog!

  8. Not much use, but I do have a big magnet thing on the fridge that has a lot of space for papers, so I stick things that will need to be sent back, looked at and thrown out again, rsvp cards that I am not sure about, etc. in there. And some post its. And recipes I want to try that I printed out, or scribbled on a piece of paper. It’s on the side, next to a cup of pens and pencils that the oldest uses to do her homeworkme to sign her homework, fill out annoying forms, etc.Now I have to try google calendar.
    Have a great weekend everyone…

  9. I have an outlook calendar at work. We have a dry erase calendar at home on the wall in the kitchen. It has a cork board section that holds some stuff that needs to not be put in a drawer and forgotten.I don’t save very much of the stuff that comes home from the daycare. Is that bad? Should crayon scribbles be keepsakes? I don’t know. Mail gets sorted everyday as it gets brought in. Bills go back to the desk and most everything else gets tossed. Catalogs go in the magazine rack in the bathroom.
    Graded school work gets looked at and then tossed. We save some bigger things like the journals he works on over the whole year but daily math sheets? No.
    Coupons get clipped and put in the drawer in the kitchen never to be seen again.

  10. The school papers I deal with immediately to do, to toss, to show Daddy. I send forms back the next day. If the school doesn’t want it until next week they can hold onto it themselves! The rest isn’t so organized. We keep an expandable file on the kitchen desk for six months. Everything that has to be saved goes in and is closed after six months, labeled and put in a file cabinet. It isn’t the best, but at least within that time period everything is filed.

  11. Cheers @Erin! That’s awesome.Last year at DS1’s paper-heavy preschool, I started a three-ring binder of his work and the weekly newsletters. He is extremely proud to be able to “read” his book (“read” only because there isn’t much text). In the inside pockets I kept things like administrative stuff and in the outside pockets I had the calendar and the class phone list.
    I am not an organized person by nature but I can three-hole punch with the best of them. And so far, for kindergarten, I am just sending stuff back as fast as it comes in so I don’t have time to lose it! (and we’re doing another notebook for this year, too.)

  12. I’m not sure our system is brilliant but it works ok -We have a rack in the front hall.
    “Real mail” goes into the top slot; junk is recycled asap. I pay bills and sort the mail every two weeks; I drop all the bill stuff into folders sorted by month rather than by type of bill (this last saved me so much angst!) and just file tax/retirement/insurance stuff separately.
    The middle slot is “outgoing” and the bottom slot is stuff like sunscreen.
    We have a box for instruction booklets and warranties.
    For school stuff we get a monthly calendar from the school that we post on the bulletin board by the fridge. Forms are filled out asap and put in the outgoing bin in the rack in the front hall.
    For preschool work I have a box in the kitchen that we throw everything in all year and then in the summer I pick out a few star pieces for us, a few for the far-flung grands, and the rest goes bye-bye.
    For the calendar we just have the paper one on the fridge that we write things on, plus the school one. I have my own system at work for work things.

  13. For your calendar issue, have you looked at cozi.com? You can sync your cozi calendar with Outlook, and you can choose which Outlook things to put on Outlook, etc… Like you could just synch your “family” things to Cozi and keep your work stuff off of it. Or my husband just only syncs things that are outside of the 9-5 time schedule so I don’t have to see all of his work meetings but he can still see things I schedule for him in the evenings or days I need him home so I can go out with friends or whatever.I’d bet that Google has figured something out to sync up, but maybe not? Have you checked their help?
    As for paper organization – I live in paper pile hell. I try and try and try but the piles just reappear all the time.
    I do have this one line with clips on it – I think it’s a curtain hanger we got frome IKEA – and that’s hanging above the desk in teh kitchen. We clip important things there (and quite a lot of non-important things) – like gift certificates, important forms to fill out, invitatoins to things, coupons that I really want to use (not grocery ones, more like Gymboree 20% off, etc)…

  14. Well, this is a timely topic. I haven’t balanced my checkbook in the last . . . year or so. I don’t really know how we’re avoiding bounced checks. Probably luck.I’ve found it doesn’t matter so much what the system is, so long as I have one that I’ll actually use. If I don’t use it, it’s often just a poor fit for me, or my house, or my schedule. So when I moved, and moved the organizational tools, some of them stopped working as well.
    The one tool I have that I haven’t seen mentioned here is a Mom’s Calendar. I like the Sandra Boynton one, especially the stickers. Unfortunately, no one has (yet!) put a spare $100 bill in the pocket.

  15. I’m currently in the process of setting up a desk near the front door to catch the mail and various papers that come in. I plan to use a magazine holder to sit different file folders in, each labeled for different things such as Papers to File, Papers to Respond to, Bills, etc. I plan to use a coupon holder (a pretty, multicolored one with dividers by letters) for coupons and one for receipts (I have two of these coupon holders and have used them for receipts with great sucess in the past). My husband bought a medium-sized, clear plastic bin for the pre-schooler’s artwork–I hope to go through this at the end of the year to seperate keeps and throw aways, putting the keeps in a bin for our storage room. We are going to use a 3-ring binder to put in the What We Did Today sheets and the specific How My Day Was sheets we get daily from the school. I think we’ll need a white board and bulletin board over the desk, but I haven’t figured out if we need a paper calendar or a white board one. Probably paper. We like to save things as keepsakes. Thankfully, we have a big storage room.Thanks to those who said you can synch the Outlook with the google calendars. Maybe I can reinact the google calendar for our family, now that I can tell my husband that we can synch our work calendars with it.
    I’m loving everyone’s ideas and can’t wait to incorporate some of them into my own plan!

  16. Oh, and I’m planning to move a two-drawer filing cabinet and a paper shredder to be next to the desk. I always go through stacks of papers and set aside things to file or shred, and then never get around to filing or shredding them. I’m thinking if it’s all right in one area–the area where we typically dump everything when we walk in the door–I might actually do it!

  17. After my son’s first year at kinder ( they go for 3 years here starting at age 3) where I held on to every last work of art he came home with, I have learnt to let go of most of what he brings home. In fact ( and I don’t know if this is an Italian kindergarten peculiarity or they do it all over)the class teachers keep a scrap book for each child of his/her projects and best pieces of work. At the end of his first year I go a beautiful file of my son’s work and could see the progress made over the year. That made it easier to throw away the everyday drawings and doodles he came home with.As for other stuff, hubby thinks of everything. Honestly if he didn’t come home one day I wouldn’t know where to look for stuff. And there is a hell of a lot of beaurocracy in this wonderful country I live in (see @MrsHaley, trying to be less down on the place!!)

  18. @paola, I can smell your positivity from all the way across the ocean! (or is that the pesto?!) Seriously, though, I just didn’t want you to think I found you ungrateful because ‘jogging through the Italian countryside,’ as marvelous as it is, probably doesn’t overshadow all the inconveniences. Every place has its ++ and –. I hear gas is expensive on Maui.Anyway, TOPIC!
    As a SAHM of very young kids, I don’t have the problem of school-work-home calendars, yet. I carry a midsize weekly calendar (1 week each double page spread) and have a paper monthly calendar at home. I use mine for dates & details and the monthly one is for DH’s reference for Dr. appts., vacation days, special events and my evenings out.
    I am lucky that my finance-major husband does all the money management and bill-paying, so I couldn’t even tell you how his system works. All I do is look at the Quicken spreadsheet.
    As far as mail, I throw most of it out (see my comment from yesterday). Bills go on a pile for DH and he deals with them every day when he gets home from work.
    I also use a Household Management Notebook for my dinner menu calendars(I plan dinners by the month), my daily/weekly/monthly housework checklists and all the rest of the paperwork that goes in to running a house — coupons, papers from church & activities, notes & reminders from the doctor, etc.
    If managing a household is your full-time job, I highly recommend this method. It’s an excellent way to be organized, on-task and accountable. There are lots of online resources for Household Management templates & printables. I’m constantly tweaking mine.

  19. We have one central calendar and have finally learned to never, ever schedule anything unless you are actually standing in front of the calendar looking at it! And writing it down as you make the commitment! Also milestones, first words, dates of lost teeth, etc all on this calendar. I keep the calendars – have a stack in the garage.Our preschool is fabulous in many ways, but one of the best things is that at school, art is about the process, not the result. Therefore almost no art comes home – only 2 or 3 fabulous bits a year, so we don’t have that struggle. I keep these bits as well as the journal the teachers keep for the kids.
    The elementary school stuff all comes home – we shove everything into one of the 12″x12″ Ikea bins. At the end of the school year, I shove it all into a paper bag and put the bag into the garage. A year later I pull it out and sort thru everything. A year later, very little of it says “keep me” so I don’t mind tossing tons of stuff that it would be too hard to toss right at the end of the school year. I end up keeping 3 or 4 sheets permanently.
    Bills and all the other papers that are foundation of 21st century living – these I stack up on my desk until dealt with. But, I have a very small desk, so the sheer hassle factor of working around the stack means that I tend to work by way thru the stack every 10 days or so.
    A few major things we did to reduce mail overload:
    use catalog choice (check it out online) to unsubscribe from every catalog that arrives at the house (the previous owner was getting 100s).
    For any junk mail that arrives (including some stubborn catalogs), I tear off the address label with all the senders codes and mail it back to them with a note asking to be taken off their list. I used to work in direct mail and know that that don;t want to pay to mail to people that don’t want to be mailed to!
    Go to the DMA (Direct Mail Association) website, and download, fill out and send in the ‘Do Not Mail’ form. They have an industry-wide Do Not Mail list kind of like the Do Not Call list for telemarketers.
    Write the three credit reporting agencies and tell them not to release your information to anyone without your written permission. This means you can longer receive all those prescreen offers for credit cards. You can still apply for credit and loans no problem because your signature on the app gives them permission.
    You have to really stay on top of it for 3 months – that is how long the mailing list refresh cycle is, but then I guarantee you will no longer receive ANY JUNK MAIL AT ALL except the stuff addressed to “Occupant” I haven’t figured out how to get rid of that yet.
    Sorry for long post!

  20. I use the wall file holders, too. One for the nursery school; one for dance/Suzuki; one for church etc. And just to the side is a bulletin board where I can tack things up too. It works well for us…

  21. The good things we do are:1) A color-coded Google calendar for my husband and me to access online from work with the whole family’s schedules on it
    2) A color-coded dry erase calendar on the fridge at home that shows the upcoming week – we enter things the kids need to remember (library on Tuesday, soccer on Wed, etc) so they can see it too.
    3) Junk mail and catalogs are tossed/recycled immediately or canceled.
    4) Most of our bills are paid automatically, so I only have to remember the cable bill and the mortgage; I use the online banking site and don’t balance a paper checkbook since we barely write any anymore.
    5) Forms and stuff for school go back immediately – this year both kids have a 3-ring binder from the teacher that goes back & forth every day, with special pockets for stuff that needs to go back and stuff that can stay at home. Those binders stay in their backpacks so we always know where they are.
    What we really stink at:
    1) Filing everything we keep once it gets taken upstairs to the office. I have an overflowing bookcase of papers and bills and drawings and old homework. I need a new system other than “toss it on a shelf.” But I’d also need about a week to implement it, and that’s not gonna happen anytime soon! It’s pathetic. And probably a fire hazard.

  22. I don’t know if there is a comparable US system, but here in canada, I subscribe to epost.ca. I registered most of my bills and they come to me electronically – that prevents a good deal of the paper pile-up.My daughter’s daycare also does a scrapbook of the paper art (and sometimes accompanying photos of her doing the art – which I LOVE!) so we don’t get much coming home from there.
    I don’t subscribe to newspapers or magazines, but otherwise, I can’t think of any original way I keep track of paper stuff. there were lots of good ideas in the other comments.

  23. I’m old school on the calendar (which is weird, since we’re a two computer geek family- current count is 4 computers for 2 adults). I keep my work and home calendars mostly separate, and move things between them by hand if necessary (for instance, doctor’s appointments). I set up a Google calendar for home, but we don’t really use it. We use an old-fashioned paper calendar, and when I say “we” I mean “I”, because Hubby just tells me when he has something on and I write it on the calendar. I fought for awhile to teach him to do it himself, but eventually decided that it was a lost cause and that the fact that he does a lot of the cleaning and all of the yard work balances this out.Anyway… we do make extensive use of Google Docs for to do lists. We have a running master to do list there that we share. And we keep a list of “tradesman needs” (e.g., small things for a plumber to do that don’t really warrant a call of their own). I also keep my Christmas cards list there, and we keep a list of gift ideas there. I also have a “parenting idea” list, populated mostly with ideas from people on this site.
    We do most bills electronically through our bank. I have a special spot for paper bills, and Hubby has even learned to use it. We pay bills twice a month, and I keep a printed list of what bills are due each time, along with a list of when yearly bills (like property tax and insurance) are due. That list is on the bulletin board by the desk with the computer we use for our finances.
    Can you tell that I love lists?

  24. re magazine racks: could the folks who use them post a picture or a link? i am having a hard time picturing what these would look like. but they sound like a fantastic idea for our halway

  25. I do a few things that are working well for us:1. Go through book bag folders immediately and pitch everything not needed into the recycling. Same things with mail.
    2. For school papers that are pretty important (lunch menus, calendars, emergency contact information sheet) I have this thing I bought at the big home store BBB 2-3 years ago. I tried to find an online pic or link but couldn’t, but if you ever see one I highly recommend it. It is basically a 3-ring binder that sticks to your fridge. The spine is a big magnet and the pages are plastic page covers and you can stick about 12 sheets of paper in it and flip through them at a glance.
    3. I try and rsvp to anything or return anything to school immediately, whether or not it says you should. I have never gotten in trouble by sending something back in early, and I know I will miss deadlines or lose something if I don’t.
    4. Invites have a special spot on our fridge near the calendar. When the event is over, they get pitched.
    5. We have a big family paper calendar on the fridge. I am religious about writing on it. And checking it. I may be the only one in the house, but it does help me to have a physical reminder, and my 6 yr old is starting to realize she can look at it to see what’s going on too.
    6. My husband and I use outlook for work, and for very important events (like one of us is out of town or the school play at 10am that otherwise he would miss) I use the outlook “invite” feature to invite him to the play. I also schedule outlook appointments for myself for important things like dr appointments that I need to leave work for, and I have a standing appointment to pick up each of my children at the right time each day. I work alone in my house most of time, so it is really easy for me to lose track of time and I need the alarm feature. You can make these appointments private if you share your calendar with coworkers.
    7. I bring bills down to a special area of my desk as soon as I open them. They stay there till I pay them (which I do weekly during a boring conference call–one of the perks of a home office) then they get filed immediately after payment during that call too.
    8. Kid-related papers like handbooks or school directories that I may need at some point go in a slot in a desk-style standing organizer basket I have in my kitchen.
    9. Kid papers/general that fall into none of these categories or that I just haven’t had time to deal with yet have a special pile on my kitchen counter, next to said organizer basket and where we charge our gadgets.
    10. I make it a point to clear through that random pile in the kitchen several times a week. I try to do it every morning when I go to check my emails on my BB. It doesn’t always happen, but I do it often enough that that it doesn’t get too crazy over there, and if I can’t find some paper, there is a 95% chance that is where it will be.

  26. I use outlook at work and sync it to a gmail calendar. The gmail calendar also has my husband’s schedule, and comparing the two has saved us many, many arguments.We’re still working on the paper management issue. Husband tends to pile stuff in one pile and then go through it every few weeks and keep only what we need by filing in to a filing cabinet. I think we tend to loose things that way, or we’ll need to find a paper about X the night before it’s due and then have to go through the entire pile in a panic. What works best is when we go through the school paper pile each night, usually around the time for dishes, have the keep-or-toss discussion, and place only what’s needed in our “to-do” box, which is where we keep the incoming bills etc. for the month.

  27. We take digital pics of our dd’s artwork. They get stored on our family website. We (and grandparents) can see them whenever, and we get to toss the paper. DD knows this, and she is OK with it since she can look at them online whenever too.

  28. I started reading Getting Things Done, and have an iPhone app that helps with that. I also use a paper shredder, I have it near my desk and am routinely shredding so they don’t get stocked pile. Those are two ways I’m getting and staying organized.

  29. Wow! BoB. Well, I did assume the strong possibility that Drew watched an internet copy of the movie. I did not accuse, but I did sort of imply that just to be concise. I have a tendency to say too much and preamble too much. I could have said “If you mean “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”…” and “If you are a human being…” and “If you live in the United States…”. Or, I could have asked these questions first and waited and then commented. But I was trying to keep it to a short informative comment, so I made a few assumptions.If you notice, I did not comment on the quality of the movie. The special effects issue is fairly common knowledge, but not known by all. I was just trying to inform others, and maybe Drew, about that problem. I guess that’ll teach me to try and contribute.

  30. Write the three credit reporting agencies and tell them not to release your information to anyone without your written permission. This means you can longer receive all those prescreen offers for credit cards.