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September 10, 2005

Air traffic control for the family

Now that school is going again, the challenges of communication regarding schedules is a challenge for our family. With my travel; the scouting involvement of me, my wife, and all the kids; school commitments; sports commitments; and all sorts of other things it can get crazy very quickly.

My wife started something a few years ago that seems to work pretty well for us. FridgecalShe bought two dry-erase calendars that we attach to our refrigerator magnetically. The top one always represents the current month, the bottom one is next month.

At the beginning of each month, we:

  • Move the new month to the top
  • Erase last month's calendar
  • Fill in the dates for next month
  • Fill in any commitments we know about
  • Put next month's calendar at the bottom on the fridge

As we go through the month, we can easily deal with adds, removes, and changes to our schedules.
While not perfect, this has been a very effective means of doing a sort of air traffic control over our busy schedules.
By the way - we have another dry-erase board on the front of the fridge which is a sort of "inbox" for what we need at the grocery store. When you notice we're low on milk, it's your job to write "Milk" on the grocery board.

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A couple of comments from the old site:

by Bren:
It's so weird how alike we are...we've been doing pretty much the same thing for a little over a year. We only use one whiteboard, but the idea is the same. Schedules (ours is only a week out), grocery lists...we also keep a half dozen frequently called phone numbers there, both for us (well, me and my lousy memory) and for babysitters.

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by Rosa Say:
Bren, I was thinking the same thing :-) Dwayne, in our case we use good old fashioned paper calendars with huge blocks to write in, so we can jump months ahead if need be, but also because I like to rip off the pages and keep the record. They're helpful for all sorts of things in estimating future trace dates/recurrences that I should make digital reminders of in Outlook, and at tax time they really help for the mileage stuff I missed ... need every deduction we can get with the absurdity of Hawaii's taxes.
A hui hou, Rosa
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by memorykeeper:
I have a similar system, but not whiteboard based. I work week to week using Mozilla's Calendar application - Sunbird, which color codes entries for each 'user'. Since the events are entered into the calendar, printing out this week and the next week is not a problem.

Any changes are then 'markered' or 'pencilled in'.

Whiteboard scores over my method there.

A great share. Thanks

Memorykeeper

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Air traffic control for the family:

» Coordinate schedules with a whiteboard from Lifehacker
Busy dad Dwayne Melancon says two magnetic whiteboard calendars on the fridge keep his family's schedule coordinated. The top one always represents the current month, the bottom one is next month. At the beginning of each month, we: Move... [Read More]

» Coordinate schedules with whiteboards from Lifehacker
Busy dad Dwayne Melancon says two magnetic whiteboard calendars on the fridge keep his family's schedule coordinated. The top one always represents the current month, the bottom one is next month. At the beginning of each month, we: Move... [Read More]

Comments

When I was at a jobsite recently, I discovered an interesting twist on this regarding in/out boards. The employee entrance was separate from the main lobby, and the in/out board was by that door. For the receptionist to know who was in or out, it wasn't practical to go look at it constantly. Rather than buy an expensive in/out board in software, they took a less complex but somewhat technological approach - they stuck a high-res security camera on the board and put a monitor for that channel on the receptionist's desk.

It seems you could do the same here with a webcam on the current month/week (it wouldn't even need to be realtime, just have it update every few minutes or so, maybe even rig a switch so that it wouldn't accidentally take a picture of the open fridge door.

My wife and I do a similar thing. Being both professionals with distributed teams and regular meetings over a 180 mile radius we forward meeting appointment details to the other when we are not around to collect the kids thus preventing double booking.

We work on a first come first served basis - emailing the appointment as it is pencilled in (and emailing any cancellations accordingly).

Obviously we sanitize the details to avoid problems with our respective companies email policies. But it at least informs your partner that you will be away for two days on the 20th and that she will have to be around to pick up the kids.

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