Saturday, September 10, 2011

Google Calendar keeps me sane

I used to spend a lot of time staring at my daily planner.  Now I spend a lot of time staring at my Google Calendar.  If you're feeling overwhelmed with your fall schedule, give this thing a try.  I still make to-do lists, because I usually make them on the bus and it's easier to do in pen than try to type on my little ipod Touch, but scheduled events always end up on my calendar and get uploaded to my Touch so I can see them from anywhere.  It also used to sync with my Outlook email at work. 

I highly recommend the week or month view.  I also recommend using the tasks.  It feels so good to check them off.  I usually save the tasks for out of the ordinary tasks that I might forget about.  For example, I have 23 things to do this weekend, there's no way I was going to type that up.  I wouldn't put down, "Make copies" because I do that every day.  You can also set alarms so you don't forget to show up for something.  Overall, this helps me to picture my week and more long term, my semester.  This week, I have something huge due on Tuesday, then social events every night until Sunday.  That means no last-minute work allowed, I need to make sure I'm on top of things!  (And yet here I sit blogging, but I swear it only took 15 minutes to write.)  Give it a try.  Macs have their own ical that is equally as useful and easier to enter events into.
Next week's schedule.  The names of classes and friends have been removed to protect the innocent.  Click to enlarge.

In addition, after thinking more about this, much of my organization for each class gets done in an excel spread sheet.  I create schedules for each of my courses.  Here's a sample for an intro course I have taught a gazillion times.  Students get a copy of this and I update it, if needed, on our webpage.  Each "subject" has a PowerPoint that goes with it, each homework has a word doc, a pdf for posting, and keys, each exam has a word doc and key, and each activity has a word doc as well.  Due to the complexity of this, having proper course folders and sub folders on my computer is key to staying organized.  I also name each thing I create for a course with the call number for that course so I don't open up homework 1 for another course accidentally.  This semester I shared materials with four new professors and they really appreciated my organized course materials.  I also sync all of these folders between my laptop at school and my laptop at home using Dropbox.  Some of my other courses have more columns, like, what lab we are doing, or what additional reading is due.  I have all of these schedules posted in my office and copies in my "Take Home" folder so I can look at them on the bus and mentally prepare.   
Any tips you have for staying organized?


Anonymous said...

I'm have a laugh whenever I see the Google Cal of the prof I'm TAing for. It is so full, I wonder if it is of any help. Sometimes during lectures, his Google Cal would bring up popup messages saying that he needs to pay his bill or give mom a call.

I personally keep my life as simple as possible where I don't need a calendar to keep track of things. Just a TODO list (never more than 10 items per day) on my fridge does the job.

YellowBunnies said...

This brings up a great point: always close your google calendar (and your gmail) before connecting to the projector. We don't need the students seeing calendar reminders, email subject lines, or obnoxious chats during lecture.

I think one of the challenges of teaching 4 different classes, serving on committees, and attending professional development workshops, is just keeping myself from getting confused. What chapter am I covering today? What homework is due? What's on my pile to correct? Which lab do I need to copy and set up? What webpage needs updating? What lecture needs editing? I will admit that aside from my google calendar, I have four excel spreadsheets that tell me what I'm doing in each of my courses that day, when exams are, and when homework is due. I hang these up in my office and have copies with me for when I'm on the bus and need to reference them to make my to-do list.

This juggling act is pretty fun after it stops being overwhelming. It makes my weeks fly by.