be free, lance / using google calendar

I’ve recently made the switch from Teux Deux to Google Calendar. And because several of you have asked me what I’m doing differently, I thought I’d talk a little bit about project management : specifically on how I utilize Google Cal, my new BFFL. Please keep in mind that this is what works for me. Perhaps you’ll find some handy tips & tricks within here, but feel free to make it your own, too!

THE LOGISTICS When it comes to scheduling my day, I’m a VERY visual person who needs total organization. I literally take things one day at a time and faithfully stick to my list for the 24 hours I’m currently in. I try my best not to focus on the coming days ( when I don’t need to ), simply because that kind of thinking tends to overwhelm anyone quite quickly. Here enters Google Calendar ( GC ) — What I have decided to do is divide my days into three color coded sections, which you can do in each individual calendar’s settings. Blue means blog. Yellow means personal. And finally, grey encompasses all things client related. These three colors have literally saved me on the daily and allows me to easily glance at my list and know what’s up.

THE PROS One of the biggest reasons I chose to use GC was for it’s “sharing” factor. I create a new calendar for each client I have and color it in my “grey” scheme, as pictured above, so I know it’s a part of my work load. Because each client has their own calendar, I can easily turn their project “on” or “off” as well as email them the schedule if needed. It’s very simple to do all of this in GC’s settings! To further my organization, I like to put each client’s project name FIRST in each space so that I know exactly who the “to do” is for. You see, I tried having a new colored background for EACH client, but it was scary to look at in my opinion. So although all of my clients utilize a grey background, their name up front tells me who is who straight away. Another pro is syncing. Not only can I see my calendar on my computer ( and I have it up all day ), but I can literally see it wherever I am. On my phone, on somebody else’s computer, etc. You get the picture!

THE CONS Of course, nothing is 100% perfect — at least not yet. The one thing I absolutely loved about Teux Deux was that I could cross things off when I finished them. You can’t do that with Google Calendar, really. But because I’m so in love with all of the other features ( + rely on them ), I created a work around. Whenever I finish an item on my list, I click on it and add a simple “x” before the description. See the above image for an example of how I do this! Because the “x” is left aligned, it’s very simple to see what you have left to do. Now, my favorite part of the day is seeing a bunch of x’s run down the screen. Feels so so good.

So there you have it! The app that guides my days, in and out. I’m sure someday I’ll find a new app that does all of this and more, but I tend to prefer simplicity and ease of use, so this is what’s working smoothly for me now. As always, I love how this Be Free, Lance column opens up discussion. Feel free to describe what you use, personally, in the comments section below. I know others would love to read about it!

  1. I use GC but am always looking for new tips and tricks, thanks for sharing!

    X Kenzie

  2. […] Google Calender Squarespace Note Is your boringness affecting your […]

  3. Kory says:

    I absolutely love this! I would definitely benefit from trying to make a schedule for my clients – with school it’s so hard to keep up sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, girl! :)

  4. Great post! I’m obsessed with keeping organized!! I keep trying different methods of scheduling but I haven’t found one that quite works for me yet. I’ll have to try Google Calender.

    I’d love to see a future blog post on how you personally create website wireframes for web design clients. I’ve always sketched them and then created them in Photoshop, but I don’t like creating wireframes in Photoshop. Would love to see how other designers handle this. :)

    Nesha xo

    • breanna says:

      I actually DON’T create websites in photoshop, I just can’t do it. I know in some places, that is the “norm,” but I’ve always thought of PS as a photo editing program. I find it much much easier to create website designs in illustrator. I don’t even know if I could do it in PS?? But anyway, I’ve found that most developers are okay with AI, so no problems so far!

    • Leah says:

      I use Pencil to develop my wireframes and then switch over to Photoshop to develop the mock-up.

    • Nesha says:

      Haha, See, I’m the opposite, I don’t think I could design a website in Illustrator, it just wouldn’t come naturally to me. I guess we all have our ways!

    • alicia says:

      I totally can’t handle mock-ups on Photoshop either. It makes my brain hurt. I think type is the main reason I don’t use photoshop, it’s just 10 billions times easier in Illustrator.
      A few weeks ago I was working with a developer who insisted on photoshop files so I did everything in illustrator first and then dragged it into photoshop. It was surprisingly easy but still annoying.

  5. Shivani says:

    Thanks for this! I use gcal for all of my classes and meetings and such (one color for classes, one color for other activities, one for all other meetings and lunch dates), but I’ve been using teux deux as well and was trying to figure out a way to combine the two. The x’s in front are a great idea!

  6. Leah says:

    Thanks for the post on organizational strategies! I’m just starting my free lance career, on the side, and love the Be Free, Lance column. While looking around GC, I noticed there is a task list than can be used to cross off to-do items. This may help with the Con!

    • breanna says:

      Yup, that’s right! I know about that one, but don’t like that it’s a general check list and doesn’t apply to my specific colors and goes into a new section. Hopefully someday it can!

  7. This is a very timely post for me! I’ve just switched from using a daily ‘to do’ list to actually scheduling blocks of time for each item – and I’m looking for a way to make it work. At the moment I’m using the low-tech method of writing out a schedule in my notebook and highlighting tasks once they’re done… but I’m not sure that’s very sustainable! I already use Google Calendar for other things, so perhaps I’ll have a play.

    Thanks Breanna!

  8. Thanks for your tips on keeping organized! I like your approach of tackling one day at a time. My (several) to do lists always seem to span multiple pages in my notebooks and can be incredibly daunting/stress me out. I will have to give this a try (and actually use google calender..)!

  9. Angel Y. says:

    I’ve been using GC for the past few years and it’s so great. While I don’t use it for project manager (I’ve just switched to Asana – LOVE IT and it integrates into GC), GC has been a life saver in planning my projects, social life, volunteer life, and vacations. I color code everything, each category has its own calendar, and it integrates onto my phone so I never forget anything. This also helps so my husband can see where I am in case I’m not where he thinks I’m supposed to be. Great post Breanna!

  10. Bethany says:

    I just started using Gcal as well (though I’m switching from the old fashioned planner method) so I’m glad you shared your tips! I do miss being able to cross things off when I was done in my planner. Seeing everything marked off felt so good! With Gcal I generally just delete it or move it so when I look back and see a clean date, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I also really like Trello, as well, something I use for my daytime job. It’s really interactive and has a lot of options for customizing the way you work. Thanks for the tips!

  11. vv says:

    i use google calendar very similarly, keeping separate colors for personal events, to dos, music, personal work, & client work. i had the same quandary as you — how to cross off the completed tasks for client work? without wanting to delete it from the record, i created a SEPARATE calendar for completed client work (which i leave turned off from view). then whenever i finish a task, i just edit the calendar that the task belongs to, so it’s saved but no longer staring back at me. maybe that could be useful for you as well!

    i very much appreciate the tips you share, always. such good nuggets of knowledge & helpfulness!


    • breanna says:

      OH, that’s a REALLY interesting way to cross things off!! Thank you for sharing — I’ll definitely have to consider that one and perhaps try + see how it works. :)

  12. Sarah says:

    A friend forwarded this blog to me because she knows I have just given up teuxdeux and am struggling to come up with a system I like — currently using Google calendar. Funny! And I do freelance design to boot. Thanks for the GC tips (both in your post and all the great ideas people are giving in the comments).

  13. Amanda Ingle says:

    Illustrator? Really?? That is interesting. Yeah I could only do it in photoshop as well! I do like the idea that VV uses. Thanks for sharing! Love this.

  14. Ann says:

    Great post, as usual! I too have recently made the switch from Teux Deux to Google Cal. I loved the look of Teux Deux, but in the end I found the functionality of Google Cal better for me and definitely more visual in respects to seeing it all in one place. It’s pretty great and looks like many agree!

  15. kate says:

    As a very visual person who tends to take on a lot, I so appreciate these organizational tips. I’m going to try out your method – especially like having a new calendar for each client!

  16. Noor says:

    I will have to try this out bc as I looked through apps for a to do app that I liked I just did not see any that felt like a fit and I did not want to pay monthly for anything since I have so many bills as it is. I always end up using a pen and paper but I will give this a try since I utilize Good in every other way possible.

    Its interesting to see what everyone uses for work PS is definitely made for Photos (hence the name) but I guess some people just got used to it.

    • breanna says:

      Agreed about PS. I always wondered why some people use it for layouts when it’s purpose is for photos. But I agree – I think some people just got used to it as it’s often the first ADOBE program people have. :)

    • Noor says:

      I mean google not good but I am guessing you caught that lol. Yes, I think most people who did not go to school for design just hear others talk about working in PS and think that is what you should do then learn it themselves. But hey If your a good designer you can use anything and make it look good, right?

    • Zoe says:

      Part of the reason for doing web work in Photoshop is that it handles pixels in a way that is closer to how the web handles them. Vector shapes can get really messy in terms of allowing you to end up with sub-pixel dimensions. Also for my purposes some of the processes of preparing files for web are easier/ more efficient in Photoshop just due to some of the UI features. That said, if a designer knows a program well, understands designing for web, etc., then I think either can work well as you’ve all mentioned :) But for people less familiar, in my experience I get more stuff that is just a mess done in Illustrator than in Photoshop.

    • Noor says:

      Thanks Zoe you rock!

  17. Jasmine says:

    Awesome post! I’m inspired to get my google calendar together! I also scrolled down the comments and saw what you said about using illustrator for creating websites. I do the same! I have tried doing them in PS, but I just get irritated! lol. I slice in PS though.

  18. Kate Goldsby says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m trying to juggle day-job, study and free lance work and finding it hard to find something to manage it all. I never thought of GC, but will definitely explore.

    P.s. love the blog xx

  19. I used to be a full-time photographer. Although I have AI, I hardly touch it. So it’s sooooooo much easier to create layouts in PS, as I’m pretty familiar with it -although its true magic happens in photos!

  20. Beth says:

    AGREED ON PHOTOSHOP FOR WEB DESIGN!!! I have tried and I just can’t understand how people can deal in there. Text is a nightmare. Everything all on different layers. Ack. Illustrator just keeps everything all tidy and organized.

    I used to feel like I was doing something wrong by working in illustrator for web design. But whatever works for you is what works.

  21. Lauren says:

    I’ve only just started using GC myself. While they don’t have a cross off option (and your process is very handy, I’m going to begin using it myself), they do have a ‘Task’ column where you can list events and tick them off when they are done. It could run a little more smoothly though – as you need to re-enter the details instead of copying what is already in the calendar, but hopefully they keep upgrading and making GC more friendly.

  22. PJ says:

    I love reading about how other people stay organized! How do you Google Calendar on your phone? Is there an app that I can’t find?! Also, do you use Google Cal instead of your iPhone Calendar — or does it sync?

    Would love to know how you stay organized with email!

  23. Michelle says:

    I’m a big fan of Google for all your reasons. Quick question — as I know you mentioned using Basecamp — do you transfer your Basecamp “deadlines & events” to Google Calendar? Or do you just use Basecamp to manage projects – for to-do lists/ tasks, etc? I’m learning Basecamp, but feel there’s a lot of work involved. What’s your take?

  24. I have tried GC about a million times.
    But to be honest… the interface doesn’t inspire me at all. Sure it’s nice to colour code, but I just find it a bit ‘clunky’. I’d also really like to be able to quick edit more of the event. But alas! There’s not much out there that fits my bill. So at the moment I’m working from GC.

    But I really like Todoist for my little sub-todo’s, mainly because it’s clean and I can match the colours and projects to GC. Also… there’s the added sexiness of crossing off!

  25. […] Rose on using Google Calendar to your […]

  26. Kate says:

    I use the color-coordinating deal and turn my “past events” to grey when they are finished.

  27. Sally says:

    such a helpful post again breanna, thanks! the comments are useful too! i had been useing teux deux for my design work, and life in general but after reading this i might give GC a try, it sounds really good!

  28. trina says:

    love this idea. i never really thought of using the calendar for my to do’s. and…of course i love how you simplified the color coding. i think i’ve got too many colors going on … you’ve totally convinced me to take it down!

    xo . t

  29. KAIT says:

    terrific ideas! i use google calendar religiously as well, but for blog related stuff i usually stick to the editorial calendar plug-in so i can quickly add notes to post ideas and they are saved in wordpress.

  30. Meaghan says:

    Love reading how everyone stays organized! I think the way you use google cal is clever. I never thought to use it that way, though I have been using a similar system with todoist. You should check it out if you want to cross things off and like looking at a weekly view as opposed to monthly. I’ve been obsessed and it’s been super helpful. Haven’t touched my paper planner in weeks.

  31. Angela says:

    I love the idea of using one color for all client related stuff! I think I may need to use four colors total though (Personal, Blog, Products, Clients). As of right now I am just barely keeping my head above water as far as organization but combining all client work into one color is going to absolutely help me avoid seizures when I look at my gcal. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Nicole says:

    Bre, have you ever tried Todoist? It lets you assign colors / do multiple to-do lists…it keeps me from overwhelm on a daily basis! Google Cal is great though too — I’m addicted.

  33. […] few weeks later, I spotted a post from blogger Breanna Rose onĀ using Google Calendar to schedule work tasks. After the initial success of my handwritten schedules, I knew that digitising the process was […]

  34. candace says:

    You can totally cross off!

    If you use the TO DO list and then set a to do date by editing the task, it will add this task to your calendar. You can then cross it off by checking the box!!! I discovered this not long ago and I too made the switch from TeuxDeux.

  35. […] Are you a fan of Google Calendar? I got inspired to try it this week after reading this post from designer Breanna […]

  36. I just discovered your blog via friend. It is such a resource! I’m going to try your idea for scheduling client work. I really like the idea of being able to share the calendar. Thanks

  37. I COMPLETELY agree with this! I have been using it for my personal and family schedule for YEARS! I color code each thing based on the category (church, family, medical, etc) and set all kinds of reminders for myself (including bill payments). I just recently suggested & started it in the office for some uses and color coded each of those separate calendars as well. I love the check on/off feature, so you can see EVERYTHING, SOME things, or just ONE thing! Plus, so many electronic event invitations have the add to calendar option now, so you can just click, edit, and add.

  38. I’ve wanted to comment on this post for a very long time, but mostly to ask questions! Now I’ve got my own business (sort of?), I have my own way of organizing things. Here is how I manage projects!

    I love native apps, and as an iMac/iPhone/iPad user, I’m in love with the fact that I can get everything to sync “out of the box.” I use Mail for mail, because dates, meetings, timelines, and more can usually be added to my calendar very easily from Mail without opening iCal. iCal is great for a few reasons: 1) It is a native app that I don’t have to pay extra to buy or spend extra time trying to figure out; 2) I still have the ability to share the calendar in read-only mode with clients who can then (usually) add it to their own default calendar app/program. But I only use iCal for important dates, times, meetings, deadlines, etc – Using it as a check-list would be very hard to manage, and it isn’t for check-lists, anyway. I save my check-lists for two apps: Reminders (native, yay!) & Wunderlist. Reminders is great for my own personal stuff, like family / cleaning / grocery lists type things. Unfortunately, it isn’t very good for sharing to-do lists with clients because it requires them to have an iCloud account. I feel that that is the biggest flaw with iCloud – that one thing hangs the all-native app using zen I’d tried to create. Wunderlist keeps me sane, though! Anyone can signup and use the free version. This is how I share my to-do lists with clients, the due dates, and it allows you to add subtasks (to break down the biggies) and notes so your client can understand what each to-do is for and what you are doing / expect. Finally, notes are where I jot down my own random ideas, but sometimes I use it to work through a strategy or logistics plan for a client, and I can easily see it on my iMac and other devices. If I come up with a good idea, there is an “email” option that allows me to email my note to someone else. This is great for creating an email or sketching out a strategy because it can work offline, syncs with everything, and allows me to keep my “draft” box empty!

    Other than that, a zero inbox policy keeps me sane, and working with a client is super easy as long as I keep within those apps.

    Thanks for sharing your strategy about Google Calendar – this would have been very useful to me when I was using it! Well, if I go back to using it, I’ll have a better idea of how to manage my time :D

  39. Lauren says:

    This is so, so helpful. I have just discovered my newest project management rule! Thank you.

  40. kimber lee says:

    Adding the x before the item is helpful. Thanks!

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