I consider myself pretty technologically savvy. I’m the one who sets the DVR, makes wireless connections, fixes frozen computers, prints and edits digital photos, and downloads apps. But I have been struggling to convert from my old-school datebook to an electronic calendar for about two years now, and it just won’t stick.
When it comes to schedules, I am a visual person. I like to see what’s coming, not just the day or even a full week. I need my monthly grid. I have an emotional response to its combination of cluttered and empty boxes, the anticipation of approaching events, and the planning possibilities for the days ahead. I want to be able to assess what mood I will be in before scheduling something, like a new client (need a clear head), doctor appointment (need extra time for waiting), or sleepover (nothing else on the calendar for two days).
So I have always used monthly datebooks to track my life. But as my life has expanded to include a husband and two kids, I have found it harder to keep our schedules together. Plans are made while on the computer in our home office, or on the kitchen phone, or out at school meetings, so I ended up having calendars hanging at home in the kitchen and office and another carried along in my purse. Each one held a portion of our plans but none had them all. And any attempt at color-coding by person was quickly dropped. So I figured an electronic calendar would solve this problem. After all, I almost always had my phone on me.
But it’s not the same to see a month on a screen with a dot on every day that has an entry, each dot requiring a followup click on the day to see exactly what is there. I know I can print out a paper copy of my electronic month, but that’s yet another step, and one that must be repeated after every change (and you all know how often things change). Besides, a typed chronological list centered in each day’s box does not satisfy my need for the visual cues of listing morning appointments up high and night events down low.
Then, there is the time required to keep my electronic calendar updated. Some may think a typed entry is much sleeker than the tiny scrawls crowding my daily squares, but there is no doubt it is faster to scribble in an appointment than to open an app, choose the affected calendar(s), type in a subject and location, choose a date, choose a start time, choose an end time, note if it a repeating event, and set up alerts. Plus, I usually have to go back to complete whichever of these aforementioned steps I forgot about the first time through, and then again to make a change. In my paper system, a change involves just the swish of an eraser (or scratch of a pen) and another scribble — done.
Some may think the electronic alert system is a benefit paper calendars cannot provide, but the alert system on my smartphone is truly flawed. It may remind me that it’s your birthday, but if I’m not shopping at that moment, there’s a good chance the alert will be glanced at, deleted, and forgotten within minutes, along with your birthday card.
My calendar only allows two alerts leading up to an event, but sometimes I need a steady nag — like an electronic mom. Seeing an important date circled with loopy red pen marks for weeks ahead does that for me.
I have found my electronic calendar also opens me up to some privacy issues. When playing games on my devices, my son has access to the calendar app, so sometimes I find entries like “Go poopy” or “Take me to Friendly’s” on various days. I don’t believe he has erased anything yet (though I’m sorry if I stood you up), but it is just a matter of time before he will figure out how to eliminate a parent-teacher meeting or cancel an unwanted activity.
“Syncing” devices means that some things are shared that I don’t want to be shared. Like when a popup reminder on the iPad interrupts my daughter’s Dora game just when her tantrum has been soothed, or I have to explain to my son what an “OBGYN appt” is, or confirmation of my lunchdate with the girls pops up on my husband’s phone just when I have convinced him that I have no free time.
I’m sure there are high-tech ways to battle these concerns, but I can’t seem to find a block of time to figure it all out. I guess I will just have to write, type, and pencil that in.
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, author, and mother of two.
She works with individuals, couples, and families, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.