Welcome to 2014! Brand new year, brand new calendar. Time to wipe clean the proverbial slate and over-commit and under-deliver on all those resolutions we seem to pile on as the year turns. There was a time when I did not care about calendars. Early in my career, I was able to simply commit to memory every appointment, deadline and reminder that came my way. I never, ever used a calendar or agenda. I recall that everyone else who I engaged in business with carried an agenda, but never me. Those were the glorious days of full memory recall nothing escaped my neurons. But, Father Time kept on ticking, and my grey matter slowly let many appointments, deadlines and important dates slip through, like grains of sands in an hourglass.
This story is one where technology may have actually pushed me into forgetfulness. You see, for many years I had the hypotheses that as long as I never wrote down any appointments on a calendar, I was always going to be able to remember them; and I did! Then I had to go and buy my first PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). The early versions of what we now call smartphones were called PDAs, and the Palm Pilots made by Palm quickly ruled the techie world in the mid-1990s. I was an early adopter and have been holding a mobile computer in my hand ever since.
These PDAs were very limited in the number of apps they ran, but calendar apps were the anchor feature they offered from day one. Soon, I changed my ways and decided to log my appointments, reminders and to-dos on my Palm Pilot. To my utter surprise, my memory started to give way, and no sooner than me jotting down an appointment would I erase it from my memory. It was a dramatic change, and one to this that day I still struggle with. Did I lose my ability to remember all my appointments from memory because I actually wrote them down, or did I just grow older? Not sure I’ll ever find out, but one thing is for sure I have been a digital calendar junkie ever since.
These days I keep several calendars, not only to track down my work commitments, but for all events related to family and friends. Now friends don’t call me if they want to go out for a beer they send me a calendar invite instead. My kids’ social calendar is oh-so-busy (I don’t ever recall being that busy at their age); they, too, send me invites to their parties and sports events, just so that I remember they need me that day (or more so, they need me to give them a ride to their event!) Not sure I could keep up with their social calendar without having the ability to share their events digitally on my smartphone.
What amazes even a techie guy like me is how well digital calendars interact and sync with each other. I have become so addicted to calendars and the ease by which they connect to each other that I now use several calendar apps to manage my day-to-day flow; but, my go-to apps currently are Google Calendar on the Web and Fantastical on my smartphone.
This is my central depository for all appointments and reminders. I love the way you can parse an appointment on Google Calendar by simply entering phrases like “dinner with vendor tomorrow 6pm.” Google will turn that into the proper calendar entry, on the correct day and the right time. Google further manages time zones for me; this is great, for I live in the little-known Atlantic Time Zone, but often engage with folks on the Eastern seaboard. Invites also flow flawlessly to and from Google Calendar, making it an essential tool for managing our hectic schedules, especially when collaborating with others.
The original Fantastical mobile app for iOS was the first app that allowed you to parse calendar events in straight, naturally-written language like Google did on the Web. This was a killer feature for a calendar app on an iPhone. Now updated to version 2, the app is currently my favorite calendar app. The interface is clean, and the ability to parse events in natural language is awesome (especially when combined with iOS Siri dictation). It seamlessly integrates your iOS reminders into the right dates. Events can be viewed in daily, weekly or monthly formats, or they can be viewed as a list in chronological order (my favorite way to see what’s next in a quick glimpse). Ease-of-use has made this app a staple on my ever-changing home screen.
Gone are the days of committing everything to memory. Time seems to move faster in business and life today; thankfully we can all carry personal digital assistants in our hands to remind us of what’s next. Managing time is key, and just like the famed Pink Floyd song says, “The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.”