I want to tell you about how three different services (along with my own PHPMyGTD application) and my phone have changed the way I handle my appointments and reminders.
This (clickable) diagram attempts to show how all of the parts of the system are connected:
(These images are not my property, except the PHPMyGTD screenshot and my photograph. Logo Owners: Please forgive me for using your logos — I’m promoting your services!)
For the sake of clarity, I haven’t drawn “Web Interface” lines from myself to and from the various web services. From a scheduling standpoint, Google Calendar is at the center of the scheme. It’s online, always available and up to date (no synchronization necessary), and can incorporate external calendar feeds. PHPMyGTD exports an iCal feed of items with due dates, Sandy exports an iCal feed of items with dates and times, and jott can be linked directly to Google Calendar to manipulate your main calendar there.
One can obviously add appointments to Google Calendar manually. Items are added to PHPMyGTD using its own web interface. Items are added to jott by calling, SMSing, or emailing jott. I use it almost exclusively by calling in. Finally, items can be added to Sandy using e-mail, SMS, and Sandy’s web interface (I mainly use email), but, it’s also possible to tell Sandy things by calling jott. Once a jott link is established to Sandy, you can answer jott’s voice prompt, “Who do you want to jott?”, with something like “Sandy” or “Assistant Sandy” (for clarity). Whatever you say as your jott will then be passed right along.
As for the arrows coming back toward me from all of these, both jott and Sandy can be configured to send confirmation E-mail or SMS messages after something is added to them. Google Calendar can send SMS and E-mail reminders of events, as can Sandy and Jott. Finally, my schedule is regularly synchronized from my Google Calendar to my Razr2 using ScheduleWorld, a fantastic piece of standards-compliant web glue. I of course use my phone, hence the solid connecting line there.
How does all of this work together in practice? Here are some scenarios to illustrate how the system works as a whole:
- Making Appointments: When I finish my haircut, I usually schedule the next appointment, and then walk back to work. Right after I walk out of the door, I call jott. The conversation goes like this:
- Jott: Who do you want to jott?
- Me: Google Calendar
- Jott: Google Calendar — Is this correct?
- Me: Yes. (jott beeps) Haircut on April seventeenth at two-thirty pm.
- Jott: Got it. To cancel or re-record…
The appointment is added, and I am sent an SMS and an e-mail confirming the new appointment. This gives me a check to make sure it was transcribed correctly. It’s then on my Google Calendar, with no browser necessary. If I set the defaults on Google Calendar appropriately, it will SMS and/or e-mail me before the appointment.
- I need to remember to do something when I get home: I call jott, and this time ask for “Assistant Sandy”. I tell Sandy to “Remind me to put the trash out at seven pm today”. Sandy sends me a text message confirming that she’s added the reminder. At 6:45 PM, I get an SMS and an e-mail reminding me to put out the trash.
- I’ve just checked out library books: I add an item to PHPMyGTD in the “Tickler” category, which is not normally shown on the main page. The item reads: “Return (some book or books) to the Eisenhower Library”, with a due date of “May 2nd”. The on-screen confirmation shows that the event is added for 2008-05-02. It automatically then shows up on my Google Calendar (in the Next Actions calendar) on the due date.
- I have set a meeting with someone for a month from now: Because I don’t trust myself to remember that I have a meeting that’s scheduled so far in advance (and I don’t trust other people more than myself on that matter), in my email to the other party, I copy Sandy. “Sandy, remind us to meet to discuss the results from the pacing experiments on April 15th.” The appointment will show up in my Google Calendar under the Sandy calendar, and both myself and my colleague will get reminder emails before the meeting.
- Any of the above involving jott, but in a noisy environment, or a library or restaurant: Rather than calling jott or Sandy, I can send them SMS messages or emails from my phone that will accomplish the same things.
Ideally, I’d be able to jott to PHPMyGTD and have it send SMS reminders of due things as well. Maybe one day when I have time (HAH) I’ll develop a jott link for it.
Before ending, I should note that both jott and Sandy have a lot more power than what I normally use. Both of them can manage lists for you. Jott allows you to email people from your address book and make blog posts simply by speaking. They are both free and both well worth checking out.
What kinds of web glue do you use to manage your life? What scenarios might not be covered by this scheme?