How to Guide: Using Calendar for your iPhone

How to Guide: Using Calendar for your iPhone

Since days gone by, calendars have been an integral part of our lives. Marking the passage of time or anticipating future events is the way in which we make sense of the world. Think about it. How do you measure your life? Success? Failures? It’s a little bit trippy, right?

Calendars allow me to keep my focus on things and people that matter most rather than on the daily minutiae.

Chances are, you already have a calendar in your life be it a traditional paper one, digital (on your phone and/or computer) or otherwise. I used to find the process of writing out a paper calendar onerous and avoided it at all costs. These days, I’m finding that a little advance planning by jotting down my tasks and appointments for the week/month/year has a way of helping me keep track of it all and make the appropriate amount of space for it. I am not always the most diligent at checking in with my calendar however, so having the digital component is a necessity. Those annoying little reminders have saved my tush on more than one occasion.

Alerts are annoying but indispensable because they make sure you don’t forget the items you’ve painstakingly collected on your calendar.

Without a calendar, it’s next to impossible to be productive. Scheduling time for tasks, appointments, learning, self-care, family is an important part of keeping you healthy and happy. I prefer NOT to live by the clock, it creates an intense sense of urgency that I find overwhelming. Some people can keep a ton of information in their heads and not miss a thing. I could if I had to, but I’d rather spend that energy elsewhere. Having a good system for adding, updating and reminding me of important tasks and appointment allows me to keep my focus on things and people that matter most rather than on the daily minutiae.

Much like Reminders this is an integral part of my daily routine though I largely check it once (if that) and ignore it throughout the day unless a reminder pops up. Here’s how it all comes together…


This can get a little complex so bear with me. I’m going to assume we’re starting from day 1 though you likely are already a few steps in.

  1. Check your Mail Settings: This likely sounds counter intuitive however, if you sync your mail accounts (Gmail, outlook, iCloud etc.) to your iPhone, you’ll need to make sure your Calendar is or is NOT being synced. If you want to keep items separated and available via your Google or Outlook calendar, then you may want to enable these to sync. If you’d prefer to access your calendar only on your phone/mac/iCloud account then I’d suggest you do NOT enable any calendar syncing. However, if you sync a work email and people often send you appointment requests via your work email…please sync. Settings > Mail > Accounts > (click on each account to enable/disable)
  2. Check your visible Calendars & Customize: Open the Calendar app and at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see “Calendars”. Tap this to view your viewable calendars. From here, you can see your iCloud calendars (native to your phone) and any additional calendars you’ve enabled down below. Make sure to customize this list so it works for you, color code as applicable. I tend to have a calendar for each family member, work etc., but you may also consider Events, Appointments, Health (gym, running, Doc) and others depending on your lifestyle. You may even color code based on the types of work you are doing like writing, social media, graphics, networking, mastermind, etc.) Don’t be afraid to experiment and it’s pretty simple to change at a later date if you wish to.
  3. Add your “Events”: This can be time consuming, but it gets easier as you move forward. Take a bit of time to add any important events coming up this week/month. If you’ve got time, keep adding for the next few months until you run out of things to add. Sometimes it helps to break up the importing process so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming but I often get into the flow and want to keep going!
  4. Choose your View: You’ve got a few options as to how you SEE your events. On the top left corner you can toggle from the year view (overview of just the months/dates), to the month view (you can also tap the details view to see a list of tasks/events for the selected day including color codes) and the day view which shows you the hours of the day with the events spaced accordingly (using your color codes!). When in the day view, you can also tap the list view to see a list of all tasks/events in a list for easy scrolling.
  5. Review your schedule: Now that you’ve got everything set up, you want to determine how you’ll use your calendar. Do you want to view it each morning and throughout the day? Do you work better with a paper planner and take time each week to transfer any pertinent information and strategize your day/week? The trick is to try a few methods and figure out what works best for your brain. Then, set the habit. Make a commitment to yourself that you’ll use this system (tweaking as necessary) for at least 30 days. Once you get past day 22, you’re good to go.
  6. Be sure to set alerts: If you’re anything like me, alerts will be your saving grace. Any time I add a calendar event, I make sure an alert is also set. Alerts are the little windows that pop up and annoy you right when you’re watching a funny video or sending that last work email. Yet, they’re indispensable because they make sure you don’t forget the items you’ve painstakingly collected on your calendar. Make sure your alerts are appropriate. Reminding yourself about a Dr. appointment 5 minutes before when it’s a 30-minute drive won’t be effective.
  7. Break down tasks: It’s easy to forget about a task once you’ve put it on your calendar. So make sure you add sub-tasks as necessary too. If you’ve got a kids birthday party this weekend, maybe add a sub-task for earlier in the week to buy the gift. Just like your todo list, you need to be sure you set yourself up for success rather than being frustrated by perceived failure. If the system isn’t working, reevaluate and find the flaw.

Common phrases for my favorite assistant
Siri is great with calendars but the lingo can be a bit confusing at times. Be sure to replace the information in brackets and the dates/times with your own.

  • Schedule a [meeting with Joe] tomorrow at 3 pm. The basics follow this syntax: Schedule a [title you want to appear for event] [date] at [time] in [location]. If you add a location, Siri will also set up an alert when it’s “time to leave” based on Maps with estimated traffic. Pretty handy at times.
  • Move (or Reschedule) my 10 am meeting tomorrow. Siri will then ask when you want to reschedule it, nice huh?
  • Cancel my dentist appointment on Thursday. Siri will confirm before deleting the appointment.
  • What’s on my calendar for [date]. Handy if you’re not sure which appointment needs to be moved/canceled or for getting a quick synopsis of your day’s events.
  • Schedule my workout every Monday at 6 am at [Gym Name]. Set recurring events!

Don’t sweat it if you don’t get the hang of it right away, Siri is pretty great once you get used to her but there’s a definite learning curve. She will also prompt for missing information if some of your command made sense, so just keep at it until you get it right. There’s no one way to tell her what you want, so find the syntax that feels natural to you and you’ll make it work.

How To Guide: Using Reminders for your iPhone

How To Guide: Using Reminders for your iPhone

I’m the Queen of downloading new apps just to see what they can do, hoping they’ll solve my endless dilemma of keeping organized. Despite the number of apps I download, I always fall back on the simple apps that come with my iPhone because they JUST WORK. That, and they use my favorite virtual assistant ….Siri. She and I aren’t always on the best of terms, let’s just say we misunderstand each other frequently. However, when your hands are full and you’re juggling kids, diapers, homework, library books, dinner menus, grocery runs and a million other things, you take what you can get.

I always fall back on the simple apps that come with my iPhone because they JUST WORK.

Hands down, there is no app I use more on my phone than Reminders. That seems insane, but it’s true. Driving to daycare and realize I need to remember something for work? I get Siri on the line and make a reminder for later that day. Making dinner and realize we just used the last of the apple cider vinegar? (Yes, that’s happened.) Siri to the rescue again. The beauty of it is, once I get Siri on the case…I can forget about it until the reminder pops up again. The danger is, we live in a somewhat rural area so cell/wifi service can be spotty at times. There have been occasions when I try to make a reminder via Siri and it won’t work due to reception issues. My brain is so trained to “forget” the reminder once I’ve spoken the words that sometimes…I cannot for the life of me recall whatever it is I was trying to set a reminder about! Perhaps it’s just my mom brain kicking in…but man, is it ever annoying.



  1. When you first open reminders, you’ll see a list aptly named….”Reminders”. Swipe down until you see the search bar at the top and a plus sign on the right.
  2. Use the plus sign to add new Lists. Some suggestions: Groceries, Home, Work, Clients, Kids, Family, Events, etc. Think simple and you can always add on as you go. Using simple list names makes it easier to interact with Siri.
  3. Tap each list to see the tasks contained within.

  4. Color code. Take a minute to color code your lists or make sure the default colors catch your eye. Tap the edit button and choose your colors.
  5. Choose ones that catch your eye.

  6. Sharing is caring. If you have a spouse, kids or a colleague who should have access to a list, make sure to share so you can both view and add to it. Tap the edit button and “Add person”.
  7. Share your reminder list with a spouse or other person you might collaborate with.

  8. Set your default list. This will be the list you most often use for deadlines (mine is work). You can always edit a reminder once added, but I like to know most of them are going to a list I check often so that I can reassign as necessary. Settings > General > Reminders > Default List

My Most used Siri phrases
Replace the words in brackets and the list names with the ones you created.

  • Add to my Grocery List
  • Remind me to when I get home.
  • Remind me to call back at 7 pm tonight.
  • Add to my Family List.
  • Remind me to every Tuesday at 7:30 pm.
  • When I get to work, remind me to create a todo list.
  • Remind me to every two weeks on Sunday at 9 am.
  • What’s on my Grocery list? (displays the list for you!)
  • What are today’s reminders? (displays anything with today as a due date)
  • Remind me about this. (when using an Apple app you can get a reminder added to your list that bookmarks the app you were viewing and what you were looking at, to be revisited later.)
  • Little known feature! From an Apple app, ask Siri to remind you to “respond to a text, read an article” and much more.

Using To Do Lists and Calendars like a Boss

Using To Do Lists and Calendars like a Boss

I love me a good todo list app. I frequently download one and load in all my upcoming items, convinced this is the next big thing in keeping myself accountable. I’ll move my shiny new icon onto my phone’s home screen and be totally jazzed to jump feet first into my new app. A few weeks will go by and I’ll find myself slacking off (again) or resorting to an old system. Before I know it, the shiny new app has lost its luster and I’ll move it off my home screen and relegate it to a folder where it collects dust until I finally delete it.

There are two factors at play here.

  1. If you’re really going to commit to a new app or system for your todo list, you have to stick it out for more than 3 weeks. Twenty one days makes a habit and if you can last a month, you likely have a chance of making it stick.
  2. Not all apps are created equal. More often than not, they address one particular problem and don’t necessarily integrate all aspects of your life. We’re busy people and we have more going on that just work or family or kids. For an app to do it all, it has to be pretty darn amazing. That or be entirely customizable, which would require huge upfront time on your part to set it up just so, and who has time for that?!

Despite my tendency to download all the latest and greatest productivity apps out there, I keep coming back to the same native iPhone apps time after time (sorry Android users, but I’m sure you have equivalents!). You can’t beat their simplicity and yet, they have amazing functionality. The bells and whistles of other apps are great, and I get pulled in by their shiny features all the time. However, for hard core utility (and voice control), I just keep coming back to these two apps.

For hard core utility (and voice control), I just keep coming back to the same two apps. Reminders & Calendar.

I use Calendar to record all my actual real time events. Things like work meetings, doctor appointments, school holidays, my husband’s work events outside normal hours, kid parties and family events. Sometimes I’ll even throw in something that needs a due date so when I’m checking on my upcoming week I’ll get a visual reminder.

Reminders are more for the little things that take up unnecessary brain space if I don’t get them out of my head. Remember to feed the neighbor’s cat, submit that weekly report on time, check out a new resource I heard about on a podcast or just adding items to my grocery list for my next trip to the store. These are small but essential things that are easily forgotten.

It’s not just picking the tools, it’s creating a system you can stick with so the tools do their jobs.

Once you establish where you keep these kinds of items and lists, the trick is to create your system so that you don’t forget. If you’re transitioning from a paper based system of crumbled post-its and torn of shreds of legal paper….you may need to set a reminder for yourself to brain dump once or twice a day until it becomes a natural tendency. This system can work really well with a paper-based system as well. Rather than having a jumble of different information on various lists, it is fairly easy to keep future events organized via Calendar, smaller items organized via Reminders and then have a paper based notebook for the current day/week. The beauty of paper is that the act of writing something down often helps it to stick. There’s science behind that, I swear.

Features I’ve just got to have (I often compare these to any app functionality if I’m feeling tempted).

Calendar: A relatively basic feature on any smartphone, key functionality being:

  • Add upcoming events (dates and time)
  • Recurring events (set events to recur daily, weekly, monthly, yearly etc.)
  • Alerts (lets you know an event is imminent, I usually set at least 2 for important ones)
  • Multiple calendars (color code based on family member, work, holidays, groceries, what have you)
  • Shared calendars (share to other people so colleagues or family members get updates or alerts as well if they need to know about a specific event)
  • Voice control (you do your best thinking in the car, on your daily run or when cooking dinner, inevitably you need to get it out of your head before you forget…”Hey Siri…make an appointment for tomorrow at 10 am to write guest post”)

Reminders: Think lists! With some great added features like:

  • Scheduling (set a date/time for it to be “due”)
  • Multiple Lists (I have one for work, family, groceries, home and the handy “Scheduled” list that shows everything with a specific due date)
  • Shared lists (so I can create my honey-do list and check up on the progress.)
  • Voice control (because, hands free is so very necessary…”Hey Siri, add eggs to my grocery list.” or “Hey Siri, remind me to call Marvin the Martian when I get to work.”)

More to come in detailed “How To” Guides!”

Dont Overcomplicate your To Do List: Getting Stuff Done

Dont Overcomplicate your To Do List: Getting Stuff Done

If only you could conquer your to-do list, you’d be insanely organized and successful! That’s the goal right? Unfortunately, the reality is anything but. It’ so easy to get caught up in the writing and doing the tasks or downloading a new app that WILL finally make the process easier. As with all things, there is no magic bullet or foolproof method that will get you motivated and keep you on track. Don’t shoot the messenger!

Find your system, stick with it and trust your gut.

If you can set up some good habits in dealing with your goals and to-dos, you’ll be far better served in the long run. This might sound a little lofty and woo-woo, but trust me. I’m a gadget girl, I love new apps and have an addiction to all things shiny. Yet, the more I try…the more I get frustrated because I can’t find that ONE perfect system for me. The fact is, everyone has little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make it impossible to copy their exact system with any success. It’s all about the tweaks and adaptations that YOU need to make your system perfect for you. That being said, there are certainly some good rules to live by.

Here’s where you can begin:

What’s in your pocket? Most of us carry our phone around 24/7. You may be trying to cut back on your phone addiction, but when you use something every day that’s typically the best place to store your important to-dos. From a pure convenience standpoint, it just makes sense. If you want to add a secondary system for tracking long-term projects and goals, that’s great! Just make sure you have a quick and easy way to jot down tasks when you’re on the go, up to your ears in groceries or blinking owlishly at your ceiling when trying to fall asleep. If your go-to pocket item is a notebook, then the same theories apply. The simple answer is usually the best one!

The simple answer is usually the best one!

Create a ritual. Some sort of consistent reminder or trigger to plan your day/week/month is huge. It could be a reminder on your phone or just a habit you cultivate before bed/when you get up each day. You know what will work best and what you won’t let yourself slide on. Just make sure you create some space to brain dump and organize your thoughts each and every day. Once you have the system in place, it’ll become second nature.

Set your goals. It’s so easy to get caught up in grinding through the daily to-dos. Some big picture goals and aspirations help to ground you. When you hear that alarm going off in your brain about this “thing” that MUST be addressed…think about your goals. Does it push your goal forward? Does it add value to your home and family life? If you answer no to either of these, then why are you letting it stress you out? Table it and move on, if it comes back around then maybe you need to consider it again…but for now, move along.

Adapt as you go. We’re human and we’re very very fallible. We like to change our minds just because. This isn’t a terrible thing, change makes life interesting. If your current system isn’t working, make a slight pivot and keep on pushing forward. Keep things interesting and keep your brain engaged, provided you keep your goals in your sites…you’re golden.

As humans, we always try to distill meaning or don’t trust our own selves because we’re sure there’s someone out there funnier, smarter, better and more knowledgeable than we are. There sure could be. Yet, that doesn’t make YOU any less valid. The hard part is knowing when to tell your brain to shut up and just keep reaching for the stars. Find your system, stick with it and trust your gut.

The hard part is knowing when to tell your brain to shut up and just keep reaching for the stars.

Stay tuned for my next article on some of my favorite tools and the tricks I use to keep myself sane and on task.

Crazy Simple Keyboard shortcuts that save piles of time

Crazy Simple Keyboard shortcuts that save piles of time

I’m typically a patient person. Really, I am. But if I find myself repeating the same task or action over and over and over again, I get very frustrated.

One of the biggest timesavers I’ve come to rely upon are keyboard shortcuts. Fortunately for me, most operating systems have made it much easier to locate the shortcuts and often list them right in the menu. This makes it amazingly simple to find and use the commands you use the most. That said, there are a few shortcuts that I’ve used across many businesses almost universally.

(Note: Ctrl is for PC users, Cmd for Mac users. For the purposes of this article, I’ll use the PC keys. I’m a Mac girl, really I am.)

A few that I can’t live without:

Alt + Tab = Switching between windows
Seriously. I use this about a million times a day. I’m always jumping back and forth between different programs (though I should probably try to limit this behavior). Bonus points if you hold down the Alt button and hit the Tab just once (while still holding Alt), you get a nice little snapshot view of your open programs and can quickly navigate (using Tab) to the one you want next.

2. Ctrl + C/V = Copy/paste
If I don’t have to touch my mouse, let alone right-click, I’m a happy girl. Using the mouse can be a huge time suck for me (I get made fun of often for how quickly I type). Ctrl (for PC) or Cmd (for Mac) + C works for copying your selection and Ctrl/Cmd V is to paste. Amazing.

3. Ctrl + T = New browser tab
How often do you find yourself replying to an email or putting some information together in your browser when you suddenly remember a certain site or article you read that you want to refer to. For the life of you, you can’t remember the name! Rather than saving your work and having to come back to it or trying to find that teeny tiny “new tab” button, you easily open a new browser tab with this shortcut!

4. Ctrl + (numbers 1 – 9) = Switch between browser tabs
After you’ve opened up all those new browser tabs, you need a way to move between quickly! This shortcut is my new best friend. I could definitely see myself creating some structure around the way I order my tabs so I can quickly navigate to the ones I use most without having to read each tab. Milliseconds will be saved, I’m sure of it.

5. Ctrl + Shift + (arrow keys) = Select text
How many times have you attempted to highlight a few words or lines and had to repeat the process three times until you got the exact highlight you wanted? Be honest now, we’re all friends here. This little shortcut can be a life saver, especially when you want to hurl your mouse at the wall.

6. Ctrl + Z = Undo (and Y to Redo)
If you’re anything like me, your brain is about five steps ahead of your fingers at times. When you find yourself wondering how your credit card number got dropped into your latest blog article draft, Ctrl Z can quickly remove it again.

Mac Only: (for PC I use the Snipping Tool)
7. Cmd + Shift + 4 = Screenshot a section of your screen
I tend to find myself trying to explain something to someone (or want to make a reference for later) and just want to screenshot a small portion of my screen. Hit these three keys and your mouse becomes a set of crosshairs. You can then click and drag to select the area you want and it saves directly to your desktop. So handy! (You can replicate this on PC using Ctrl + Print Scrn, however you need to already have the snipping tool open.)

There are many more keyboard shortcuts that can make your life immeasurably easier. Many online tools and programs have their own, so if you find yourself repeating certain actions over and over…it may be time to pause and see if you can find a shortcut.

Family Organization when you can barely remember what day it is

Family Organization when you can barely remember what day it is

Parenting frustration is real and it’s here to stay. We can only work on how we cope with it. How many times have you gotten crazy frustrated with your kids lately? Have they asked the same question incessantly? Have they pushed your buttons one too many times? Are they poking and prodding endlessly about the same topic? Do you wonder how they forgot your instructions from 30 seconds before?

It’s a common story and a huge point of frustration in parenting, especially of small children. You are not alone! We love our kids, even at their most annoying. We are incredibly busy with work and home lives and just trying to get through the day unscathed can seem like a monumental task.

Putting all that aside for a moment, take a little journey with me. I’d say “close your eyes” but that would be problematic. Imagine for a few minutes, that you’re on vacation in a totally unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language. You somehow got separated from the people you’re traveling with and find yourself in a part of the city you’ve never been before. It is amazing and beautiful and you are completely enamored. Walking onward, you try to keep your eyes open for something familiar as you explore, hoping to spot a restaurant or store where you could ask for a phone. Everything from the customs, the food, the clothing, the buildings are completely unfamiliar and you don’t even know where to begin. Hunger begins to make itself known as you walk onward, night is falling. Do you have that anxious feeling creeping into your belly? A stranger approaches and starts speaking rapidly to you, seemingly alarmed and anxious, gesticulating in an incomprehensible fashion. Looking around for assistance, you see only disapproving and unfriendly stares. You attempt to speak calmly and mime that you are lost and need help. But your every effort is met with more disapproval and confusion. You attempt all familiar ways to communicate but are rebuffed at every turn. Clearly, your efforts to be appeasing are only adding to the stranger’s negative view of you. That anxious feeling is quickly mounting into panic as the stranger begins to get angry and moves toward you. How do you feel now? Are you thinking clearly?

“If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience.”Tweet This!

Ok, I get that this is an extreme example but is it so different from how young children see the world? They are bombarded from all sides with new information, rules, experiences, and sensations that they are attempting to process. Even when they begin to find understanding, inevitably, the circumstances change or a new element forces them back to the beginning. As they grow and learn, we are imposing new layers of rules and expectations upon them. We are by nature, contrary and inconsistent. It stands to reason that we don’t always correct, encourage or guide our children in the exact same way every time. There are also hugely varied circumstances that can affect our interactions with our children, yet we often expect them to read between the lines or understand us to an exacting degree. The cues and expressions we rely upon as adults to assess a situation are completely foreign to our children. They haven’t yet built up their knowledge bank of clues that they can draw upon.

Can you think of a time when you were in unfamiliar territory and suddenly grasped something that made sense? What was your first instinct? Most likely, it was to repeat that action over and over and over again until something new clicked. Then we repeat the next action ad nauseum until we find something else that works. This should some incredibly familiar if you think about it in relation to your children’s actions.

There is no miracle method or proven strategy for moving this process along and creating better listeners who don’t annoy us so often. What we are witnessing is a miracle of self discovery and self worth. We are instrumental in shaping their view of this world and while completely overwhelming, that’s an awesome responsibility. I mean awesome in its true sense, not the overused off-hand way we usually apply it. These kids are getting up every day with a huge sense of optimism, hope, love and energy that they are just aching to send into the world. They fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times. Their capacity for learning is incredible and they are using every second of their existence to make an impression on their surrounding and the people around them.

“Children fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times.” Tweet This!

So while parents are frustrated and exhausted by the world in all its mundanity, I challenge you to try to walk a minute in your child’s shoes. Take even a few seconds to look at the world in wonder and awe. Remember that they’re still developing their bearings on EVERYTHING and while they are certainly learning to manipulate us, it doesn’t often come from a place of deliberate disobedience. More often than not, they’re simply looking for love, reassurance and structure. They want to know the rules to this game we’re all playing and they want to excel at it! I realize this is an idealistic expectation, but even if we can put this in action once in a day that’s a huge accomplishment! More often than not, we’ll still find ourselves in that place of frustration but it is worth the effort to invest in ourselves and in our children.

If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience. Modern life has this way of pushing us along at a furious pace and our gut reaction is to race along without question. But what are we rushing toward? I see people all around me from various walks of life, varying ages and backgrounds. Is any one group happier than the next? Does any one person have all the answers? The more I learn and understand, the more I am certain that what matters most is today. THIS moment in time. THIS experience. I have friends of all income brackets with the exact same insecurities everyone else has. I see baby boomers FINALLY getting to retire and then wondering, what now? Their health isn’t the best or they’re so stuck in “work” mode that they can’t or won’t relearn how to just live and enjoy being present.

This is nothing new or revolutionary. Many others have explained this more eloquently and more powerfully than I can. Yet, I think it too important to not repeat from my own perspective in hopes that it might strike a chord with someone. Even one person. Our children are embracing this very concept even as they race ahead into the school years, the teen years and soon adulthood. If we can’t enjoy life as much as possible in the now, then what’s the point?

“Find joy in the details.”Tweet This!

Life is made to be lived, in all its mundane and boring detail. Find joy in the details.