Productivity Series #2: Google Calendar & my hybrid paper/electronic planning system

Okay, so yesterday you saw my master paper calendar/ planner system. Today I want to move in to another equally important part of my planning and organization system: Google Calendar.

I know some people are very much “Team Paper” or “Team Digital”, but as in most things, I fall somewhere in the middle. 🙂

For me, Google Calendar is NOT my master calendar. I don’t “trust it”, if you know what I mean. (If I’m at the dentist and I need to check my calendar to schedule an appointment, I do not open Google Cal. I pull out my paper planner.)

I only enter things on Google Cal about one week in advance (and my specific time blocks don’t go on until that day). As part of my weekly review on Friday, I open up my paper planner and transfer anything of significance to my Google Calendar (appointments, meetings, kids’ activities, plans). By the end of the day Friday, my upcoming week looks something like this:

More to come on my to do list/ google tasks system tomorrow! (see right hand side)

Yellow = both kids (their school lunch schedule goes here too)
Blue= Ethan
Green= Asher
Salmon= Me

I really don’t track any of Ivan’s stuff on here. He mostly currently just has work and it’s predictable that he’s gone from 8am -6 pm.

Redundant?? I know.

I understand one could argue that transferring things from my paper planner to Google Calendar is redundant. I realize this. But, I like to do this for a few reasons.

* It keeps me very actively engaged/ aware of what is going on.

*I keep Google Calendar open on my desk top all day, so I like having the schedule there each day AND I really like the vertical layout when I glance at it. (I later incorporate my work time blocks here, too, so it is important to have appointments/plans digitally as well.)

*Most important reason: The Google Calendar automatically syncs the Family Calendar to our refrigerator touch screen, so the kids can see at a glance what they have that day.

The Samsung SmartHub series. LOVE IT.

Time Blocking

Once I have my Google Calendar “skeleton” set up on Fridays, it’s pretty much good to go. Like I said, I only work with Google Cal about one week at a time (besides some events I have set to recurring).


This is something I have not always been 100% consistent with, but when I do it, my life and world thanks me profusely. Everything is better when I time block.

Here’s my system:

-Sometime in the morning I pull up my Google Calendar and look at the anchors in my day.

-I then sketch out how I want my day to look, based on what is going on and what seems realistic. I aim for ~5-6 hours of “deep work” time in my workday, broken up in 30 minute chunks of time. During these times, I just WORK. No email, no phone, no Googling, no interruptions ( Clearly, this can get tricky sometimes when the kids are home, but I try very hard to respect these time blocks even when family is home.)

The rest of my workday is then available for email, light prep/ organization work, meetings, talking to co-workers, breaks, etc. I vary when these blocks are based on what else I have going. (If I have a day heavier in meetings/in-services, then I would just schedule a bit less deep work that day.)

Here is how my calendar currently looks. Yesterday’s time blocks are there, today’s haven’t been entered yet:

I don’t block my early morning hours and I pretty rarely specifically time block the evenings (besides listing events). It’s mostly reserved for my work days. I generally do NOT time block weekends, either. Too many unknowns.

As you can see, I schedule in my workout, breaks, etc. with my 30 minute “WORK” blocks taking priority. I keep track of how many deep work blocks I complete in a day on a notepad in my desk, too. If anything unexpected comes up (i.e. repairman shows up at my door), I know I need to “make up” a deep work block another day or on the weekend.

I know from experience that 4 repeat blocks of work (=2 hours) is about the MOST I can do without a decent break.

*This system works very well for my job, because I work highly independently and have very little interaction with others. I’m sure this would be way more complicated for someone dealing with clients/co-workers constantly. I also like it because my job is flexible and I can schedule my work blocks whenever I want, really. If I have a haircut (like this coming Friday), I’ll probably plan to complete 2 deep work time blocks early in the morning instead of at 9 am.

Do you time block?? I’d love to hear about it and what system works for you.

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for people who taught me about using the “suspend” feature on the library holds system!! I just loaded up my list with a ton of books and I’m excited to try this!

8 thoughts on “Productivity Series #2: Google Calendar & my hybrid paper/electronic planning system”

    1. Hi Eric! A bunch of people commented on my recent post about Books vs Library (see post here: Apparently, you can add books to your library holds list and then hit the “suspend” button if you don’t want to receive the book right away. But, while it is suspended, you continue to move up the line (if there’s a long wait). Then when you are ready to read it, assuming you are now at the top of the list, you can just un-suspend it and get your book. One person said that as soon as they hear of a book they want to read, they add it right away to their holds list so they always have books ready to go. I think this will be huge for me, since I used to get so turned off by the long holds lines!


  1. Wow, that fridge is SO COOL! I can definitely see the benefit of using google cal for that reason alone. I wish I could use google calendar as I am a total google person, but it’s blocked at work. Womp womp. Everything is soooo locked down! So I use outlook a lot but not like I would use google if it was an option… My job is not conducive to time blocking. I work closely with sales so I have to be able to respond to them very quickly and respond to urgent needs – Sarah used my answer on a podcast recently about the person who got interrupted all the time and wasn’t sure how to use her planner/get deep work done. I do not use a paper planner for work at all, but I will put reminders on my calendar leading up to deadlines on things and then I have a to do list on the notebook I use for work. I find I have to write everything down right now – I can not be trusted to remember much these days. :/ I do put all of my personal appointments in outlook so I get pop ups/don’t get meetings scheduled over them. So I guess I kind of have 3 systems going – a bullet journal for personal life stuff, outlook and a notebook for work where I take notes on meetings/etc and keep track of to do lists.

    We also have a shutterfly calendar that hangs on our wall and I put things on there that apply to the family – like play dates, doctors appts, etc. My husband is NOT a planner! If he needs to come with me to an appt (very rare these days), I will send him an outlook meeting invite so it’s blocked off but that’s kind of the extent of it. Because of the nature of our jobs, I tend to do nearly all of the appointments and I kind of prefer doing them so I can ask questions/hear straight from the doctor, but if he needs to take Paul to an appt, I sent him an outlook invite. And then remind him leading up to it. 😉 Our joke is me saying, “Could you write this down in your imaginary planner?” 😉


    1. hahaha about your husband and the imaginary planner comment! Mine is the same way. I *think* he kind of uses a work calendar, but that’s about it. Kind of drives me nuts, but whatever. He actually does a surprisingly good job of knowing what is going on in our household considering he doesn’t plan it or record it anywhere!!! LOL.


  2. your refrigerator is sooo cool! i wish we had that so I don’t need to be reminding everyone different activities.
    I tried time booking and it didn’t really work as I need to interact with others quite a lot and sometimes hard to know how long it will take me to do certain things. but I ordered Cal new book on time blocking and will give it a try when I get it.
    i also like to do deep work without interactions of any sort, but I only do that when I really need to focus, otherwise I kind of need to be on the email most of the working hours.


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