You’re in the middle of one of a thousand significant things you do each day – changing the laundry loads, prepping dinner, writing that piece that’s due tomorrow, finally having a chance to get to the bathroom – and someone interrupts with a quick question.
What are we doing Thursday? Your mind goes blank as you try and remember everyone’s schedules and plans. Nothing pops to mind, so you say nothing only to discover on Thursday that you double booked. Oops! You did it. Again!
Maybe it’s time for you to use a family calendar app.
Where to start?
Google “family calendar app” and you will find a ton of options. It can be overwhelming! Finding a simple effective solution can be hard to do with this shot gun method. You find an app that is promising so you download it and just as quickly abandon it because it’s not quite what you thought it would be. Somedays it feels like it would be faster and easier to design your own app! How hard can it be to track a family calendar?
Why do so many apps fall short?
- Not intuitive. You find an app full of promise. It says it will do everything that you want it to do. These apps, while well-designed by engineers, stop short of having simple and intuitive design that is natural for the average person to figure out. You end up spending too much time trying to figure out how to use it so you just stop trying.
- Too basic. Some apps strive for simplicity and do so at the cost of usefulness. I remember downloading an app and it didn’t allow for an event to be repeated. I contacted them to see what I was missing and they suggested that if I needed to do something each week – like attend a regularly scheduled meeting – that I should just manually enter it each week. By trying to keep things simple, they made it more difficult.
- Too many things. And then you have the Swiss Army knives of apps that promise to do it all! Calendar, task list, chore tracker, meal planner, shopping list, budget tracker, weight loss tracker, etc. They do it all, and they often do it all poorly. Rarely do these provide the help we’re looking for.
So what is the solution?
Choose apps that do one thing very well instead of looking for one to do everything. At the end of the day, using a handful of excellent apps will prove more efficient than using one mediocre app.
And for our family calendar app I use Cozi.
What is Cozi?
Cozi is a cloud-based calendar app that allows for multiple individual calendars to be maintained and viewed at the same time. It is a free app with the option to upgrade to a Gold subscription which unlocks some additional features.
Where Cozi shines as a family calendar app…
- Easy to add all your family members.
Each family member is assigned his or her own name and color. Each person essentially has their own calendar under the umbrella of the family account. This means that you can schedule a commitment and tag all the family members who need to be aware and it is automatically added to their personal calendar.
Bonus: if you upgrade to a gold account you can have family members notified when something they need to be aware of is added or rescheduled. No more needing to remember to tell them about something (which means no more comlaining that they were never told).
Additionally, if your spouse or kids want to know what is going on, they are able to see for themselves. Cozi takes the idea of the central family calendar and removes the bottleneck of the calendar having limited access – often because we hang them in the kitchen — to only being available if you happen to be home. You will now answer those questions with “What does it say on Cozi?”
- Easy to put in most recurring events.
Isn’t it frustrating when there is something that happens regularly and people forget because it wasn’t on their calendar? Setting up a recurring appointment is very easy and makes sure that it is on the calendar.
Junior has speech every Monday at 3:00 – it shows up every Monday at 3:00. Committee meeting the first Tuesday of the month? It’s already there.
You can set recurring events to have an end date (useful for school year events) or let it go indefinately.
- Both app based and web based.
This is a strength for sure. Your calendar data is stored in the cloud, so anyone in your family group can see it updated on their phone app or logged into via a web browser. This means hubby can check the family calendar from his desk at work and you can check while out running errands. Everyone can be on the same page all the time.
Where Cozi falls short as a family calendar app…
- You can’t copy an existing event. This means that you have to re-enter it manually. Examples where this is nice would be leaving the dentist and scheduling your next cleaning. It would be great to simply tap on that days appointment and copy it over into a new appointment without needing to re-enter all the other details.
- It doesn’t adapt to your time zone. If you are traveling and had previously scheduled a phone call for 9 am Eastern, a trip to the west coast will not adjust this time to 6 am Pacific but will still show 9 am. So if you forget to mentally account for the time change you’ll either be late or miss it altogether.
- While you can filter to see only one persons calendar, it doesn’t allow you to filter to include more than one specific calendar (or exclude specific calendars). Because some families have students at college, this is a feature that many would benefit from having available.
- Printing is super basic and very limited. It would be nice to have more options for layout and size. There are times when it is nice to be able to print out the schedule for the week and the options to do this well just aren’t there.
Strong non-calendar features
- Family Journal
This is an absolutely amazing feature. As our family has grown (both in age and size) it has been harder and harder to connect with friends and family who don’t live nearby. Add to that mix that many older relatives aren’t on social media and it can be very challenging to keep everyone current on what is going on.
Enter the family journal.
Here you can add a picture and/or text to share things that happened that day. It could be something you did, a picture of real life, or a sweet story about the kids. You can have one entry per day or many entries. When you add your photo, you pick the date which means that it is very easy to add several days worth at one time. Personally, it is my goal to add something each day, but I find that I often do this once a week while watching we’re watching tv as a family.
Decide who you want included on this monthly email and add their email addresses. (The people you choose have the option to unsbuscribe without you being alerted, so you don’t have to worry about spamming someone.) Then, early in the morning on the first of each month those people will receive an email with the pictures and stories from the previous month.
We’ve be doing this for well over a year now and each month I receive email responses thanking me for the pictures and stories. The family journal is something that our older relatives really look forward to each month.
- Birthday Calendar
Different than simply showing a name on a date, the birthday calendar gives you the option to set reminders about upcoming birthdays. This can be particularly useful for birthdays that creep up on you because they are early in the month or follow a major event.
Weak non-calendar features
- To-do or task list
This is simply a short list of things to do. It doesn’t allow for a task to recur or be duplicated, be assigned a due date, or have notes of explanation added to it. This would be a great place to assign family members weekly chores but without those capabilities it’s not practical. This feature is simply too basic to be of much practical use.
- Shopping List
Similar to the to-do or task list, this is just that. A basic list. It would be great to have the option for staples or things which are purchased regularly. A good application for this spot would be to keep a running list of things that you are on the look-out to purchase. Things like winter boots for next season or a basket of a particular size to be used in a specific space.
If you are just looking for a place to write down the menu, this could work. However, if you are looking for something to help you streamline your meal planning, shopping, and cooking, this is not it.