Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WotW: Stay Organized and Strengthen Your Relationship in 2013

It's a new year and a new opportunity to set some goals. I'm sure you have a solid list of resolutions you're already working on, but may I add one more? The goal I would suggest to you is to strengthen your relationship with your spouse and/or children by staying organized.

You heard me: strengthen your relationship by being better organized. You're probably thinking I'm crazy, but hear me out.

About two months ago, my wife and I began an organization scheme that has benefited our relationship tremendously. The secret? Two simple online tools: Google Calendar and a relative newcomer called Catch.

Before our experiment, I used to get insanely frustrated when my wife would surprise me with an event happening that night and it was the first time I had heard of it (actually, she probably told me before and I wasn't listening). Then we shared our Google Calendars.

My wife put her events on her calendar and shared them with me. That way I knew, well in advance, what she had coming and could plan for it. I did the same for her. Suddenly, frustrations over scheduling were a thing of the past. We knew exactly what was going on in each others lives and could work to help each other meet obligations and goals.

If you're not familiar with calendar sharing, let's go over it. First, access your Google Calendar by going to On the left side of the screen, look toward the bottom. There you will see your calendars. Below that is a space for Other calendars.

To share calendars with someone, you need to invite them by typing their email address in the "Add a friend's calendar" field. This sends an email to the person and they can choose whether or not to share their calendar with you.
 As you can see, I share calendars with my wife. And the weather, but that relationship goes way back. Now, my wife's calendar events appear on my calendar in the color I selected (you change the calendar colors to whatever you want).

Now let's say I wanted to create a new calendar event and share it with my wife. I start this exactly like any other calender event by clicking the Create button in the top-left corner of the page.

After filling out the date, time, location and description, I can add guests (in this case, my wife). This is done on the right side of the form in the add guests field. I simply type in her e-mail address and her name appears below. I can add other guests the same way.

Next, I need to make sure this appointment isn't conflicting with anything on my wife's calendar. I do this by clicking the Find a Time tab next to the Event Details tab. Here I see the two calendars right next to one another and can quickly see conflicting appointments.

Once all the details are finalized, save the event. A warning will appear asking you if you want to send invitations to the guests you included. Press Send. This sends your guests an email and a calendar invite.

On the receiving end of things, you'll see the event on your calendar. By clicking on the event, you have the option of selecting whether or not you will attend by pressing: "Yes", "No" or "Maybe." If you press "No," it won't appear on your calendar anymore. This is not helpful when sharing with your spouse or other family members because then you don't remember what's happening. So it's best to press "Yes" or "Maybe" so it stays on your calendar.
 If you have a smartphone, a new calendar event invitation will pop up with an alert, giving you a chance to see events as they are scheduled.

This simple task has made organizing our busy lives so much easier. It's fast and efficient, especially since we both have smartphones and actively use them. This is also great for use with teenagers. It helps them be in the loop and is a great opportunity to teach them how to plan ahead and be responsible.


The other great organization tool that has benefited my relationship with my wife is Catch. This is both an app and a website, though the real power behind it is the app, which is free for both iOS and Android devices.

Catch is like an online notebook, only in Catch they're called Spaces. You can create up to 6 spaces for free (more with a paid account). I've created spaces for the various aspects of my life: work, church and family. When you create a new space, you have the option of making it private or shared, and you can select with whom you share it. I've created a space called Family and I share it with my wife. That way she can see anything I put into this space, and vice versa.

So what can you put in your space? By pressing the plus button at the bottom of the app, your creation options appear (from left to right): appointments, picture upload, note, audio recording or checklist.

When you create anything new, you can put it in one or more spaces, such as your shared space. So, if you want  to remind your spouse to take out the trash, simply create a reminder and put it in the shared space.
This is helpful for me since I'm so scatter brained at times. I can add a response or comments by clicking on the little plus sign inside the conversation cloud icon below the reminder.

One of my favorite things is the checklist. This is perfect for shopping lists, honey-do lists or anything else. Anybody in the shared space can contribute to the list, which increases responsibility and the likelihood of something being done. Somehow, I don't resent the honey-do list as much when it appears in digital form. I said: as much. Don't get too excited.

Between Google Calendar and Catch, my wife and I are able to more effectively communicate and share what's going on in our lives. You may be thinking, "Why don't you just talk about it?" And we do. The nice thing is we get the invites and notes first and have time to think about them before having a conversation, which makes for a better conversation without resentment or frustration because new things are being sprung on one another.

Give it a try. Everyone could benefit from a little more organization, and your relationship will improve as well.
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