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//Assistants, Family's, Work and Calendars = Chaos

Assistants, Family's, Work and Calendars = Chaos

Sorting out the chaos of managing multiple calendars, and putting assistants to work

Assumingly I am not alone, when we sit down as a family and talk about our day, and the plan for the next days or the weekend; only to realize that we have some real scheduling issues; because you totally forgot that you would take the children to an event; while your partner had a long-standing appointment with the hairdresser.

Letting this happen once or twice, is forgivable, but happing on a regular basis; is the recipe for a lousy dispute; that we do not need.

Synchronizing Schedules

The solution, of course, is simple, We need to share some visibility of our schedules, and of course be consistent in making sure that we record these events in the calendar in the first place.

The problem is, however, what calendar do we use, and NO; a whiteboard stuck to the fridge or some other silly place is not an option.

This is a digital era, and I need a digital solution; as I can not predict where I might be when I agree with that business trip, or customer call which stomps all over that crucial other thing that I have now entirely forgotten about, and its not possible to run from Oslo to my Fridge door to check!

Environment Survey

First, I need to determine what are the artefacts I am dealing with here;

The Actors

  • My Wife
    • Her Schedule
  • Myself
    • My Work Schedule, including Trips, Workshops and Meetings
    • My MVP Schedule, including Product Calls, Meetups, Conferences, Community Time
  • 2 Children
    • Pre-School, Appointments, etc.
  • Family Unit
    • Outings, Appointments, Events, Games, etc.

The Actions

Now, Let’s consider the unconscious actions we take

  • My Wife
    • iPhone to update her Calender
  • Myself
    • Outlook primarily to manage both Work and MVP schedules
  • Google/Alexa/Siri
    • Shout at these devices to update the Family calendar

The Objective

The vision is simple:

|Situation| Requirements| ||| |For Work | Ensure my calendar, offers a true representation of when I am available. Assist my colleagues and customers to not inadvertently stomp on time which I planned to use for other activities; for example, that dentist appointment. |Personal | Using the digital assistants, phone, watch, etc.; Maintain an up-to-date view of what my day or week truly looks like, including Personal, Family, Work and MVP appointments |Wife | Requires a view of when I might be otherwise busy; so she can plan around me, when and if necessary |Family | Easily setup events, while being aware of any potential conflicts which might arise, and address appropriately.

The approach

Family Calander

Using the shared Family calendar features offered by many of the consumer-focused cloud offerings; leverage these services, so that shared appointments are visible; while managing out own independent personal scheduled.

While both my wife and I are currently iPhone users; there is no guarantee that this will always be the case; especially looking at the inflation on the newest models. Accessing the iCloud Calendars outside the Apple ecosystem is not a fantastic experience.

Combined with the desire to leverage Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant; my current conclusion is that the best-supported Calander for families, for free is Google Calander.

Therefore with existing Gmail accounts, we established a Family relationship and gained the shared family calendar feature.

Additionally, we Invited each other to our personal calendars so we can see the potential conflicts which may arise

My Work Calendars

Others essentially manage my Work and MVP Calendars; as they set meetings, appointments and so on, which I usually am obliged to join. I have kept these two environments independent; mainly due to the NDA’s which I have signed which results in lots of sensitive emails flowing which I am not comfortable being managed by other mail administrators (I wore that hat long enough to understand the potential access available)

Using Microsoft Flow, I created three flows to synchronise these schedules

  1. Sync Work calendar to my Personal Google Calander
  2. Sync MVP calendar to my Personal Google Calander
  3. Sync Family Google Calander appointments to Work Calander [as Time Blockers]
  4. Sync MVP calendar to my Work Calander [as Time Blockers]

The Big Picture

Now with the boundaries defined, and the flows described, let’s visualise this challenge

subgraph Google Calanders
C[<b>My Schedule</b><br><i>My Personal<br>Google Calander</i>]
G[<b>Wifes Schedule</b><br><i>Her Personal<br>Google Calander</i>]
D(<b>Family</b><br><i>Shared Family<br>Google Calander</i>)

subgraph My Calanders
A[<b>MVP Calander</b><br><i>Office 365</i>]
B[<b>Work Calander</b><br><i>Office 365</i>]

E(<b>My Assistants Profile</b><br><i>Google/Alexa/Siri</i>)
F(<b>Wife Assistants Profile</b><br><i>Google/Alexa/Siri</i>)

A -.->|Flow<br><b>MVP Blockers to Work</b>|B
A -->|Flow<br><b>MVP to My Schedule</b>|C
B -->|Flow<br><b>Work to My Schedule</b>|C

C -.- D
D -->|Flow<br><b>Family Blockers to Work</b>| B
E -->|New Bookings<br>Family Calander|D
C -->|Presented Schedule<br>Inc Family Calander| E

G -.- D
F -->|New Bookings<br>Family Calander|D
G -->|Presented Schedule<br>Inc Family Calander| F

Setting Up

Google Calander

Using the existing Google accounts which you may have, establish a Family Relationship

Next, Invite each party in the family to have read access at least to each other’s calendar.

Turn off notifications on these calendars if they are not your primary calendar. In my scenario I already get notifications from Work and MVP; so do not need duplicate notifications from Google also. My Wife, on the other hand, is using Google as her primary, so does still want notifications.

Configuring iPhone

Using the IOS Settings App, the following is how I set up both our iPhones.

  • Settings
    • Passwords & Accounts
      • Add Account
        • Google
          • Authenticate
      • Select Gmail
        • Enable Calander
        • Enable Contacts
    • Calander
      • Default Calendar
        • Family
    • Contacts
      • Default Account
        • Gmail

For my phone, I use the Outlook App as the owner of both MVP and Work Mail and Calendars; As Siri has no access in here, only the Google Calendars are linked at the OS level, exposing the data to the native Calander app, and therefore Siri.

Google Assistant / Alexa

Set up personal profiles, and then Link to your Personal Gmail Account; this should then expose the shared calendars also.


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