I knew I had a problem when I showed up five minutes early for a 10 AM meeting… that actually started at 9 AM. Mortifying.
Because my day is fluid, malleable, and ever changing, I need my calendar to have the same flexibility. Over the past few months, I’ve begged, pleaded, and got my way around getting my digital calendar (Microsoft Exchange) onto my iPhone’s native Calendar and Mail apps. Since then, it has helped me tremendously to do my job. I haven’t been this excited since I found the auxillory port on the company vehicle to plug in my iPhone.
The Dark Times That Was Mobile Exchange
Prior to having Exchange on my phone, the three-step process to get into my Outlook was to:
- Launch Safari
- Plug in the Mobile Outlook URL (or navigate to it’s place in my Favorites)
- Plug in my username/password
- Pinch, zoom, and meticulously navigate to the email I want to read or to select my calendar.
Forget about composing an email on Mobile Outlook… That’s a nightmare I want to forget.
I find that being this disconnected with my scheduling tool is disempowering.
Throw The Paper Calendar Into The Trash
One less thing to carry around. Having my calendar on my iPhone saves me from having another book weigh down my bag. It’s simple, unobtrusive, and functional.
I can quickly access my calendar. If there is anything I need to look up on my schedule, two taps and I’m in. I want to know what’s coming, where I will need to be at, and what’s next. I also need to be able to change everything on a whim, as sometimes, a big fat monkey wrench gets thrown into my day. I also need to document my time to make sure I log it. I like that I am able to account for my day, should any question arise as to what I was doing.
My paper calendar distresses me. Writing in an appointment in pen locks me in to a deep commitment that can only be undone with more ink (i.e. crossing out the appointment) or white out. Alternatively, writing in an appointment in pencil makes me feel like I’m not fully committed.
Throw The Paper Calendar Into The Trash… and burn it
I need a calendar that I can quickly add appointments to. Every week, I find a day in which I am in case management hell, but to help me get out of it, I am able to look back on my calendar and figure out what needs documentation, what 30 minute task for one client needs to be lumped in to the note about the 2 hour meeting I had with them earlier in the day.
I need a calendar that empowers me to quickly serve my clients. When I am out in the field, I am quickly able to add appointments for present- and past-tense unscheduled appointments that I need to document later, e.g. phone calls, crises, home visits. While in one field venue, I was referred a client, who I quickly found space for and added to my calendar. Boo ya.
I need a dynamic calendar. The problem with a paper calendar is that it is not maleable and you run out of real estate when you try to cram details into your entry. On my iPhone, I can put quick notes about my appointment, URLs that can be launched, phone numbers that can launched with a quick tap, or even an address where I can link to my maps app and get directions to where I need to be.
I need a fluid calendar. With my iPhone calendar, I can hold down an appointment, and the appointment can literally be lifted and dropped into another spot in my calendar. No mess, no nothing. I can quickly boot an appointment to the following week or with a few taps and dragging, extend or shorten an appointment’s time.
Exchange Email on my iPhone is a Blessing.
The benefits to having email on my phone are that I can do my job efficiently and professionally.
I can respond to email right away. I hate waiting on other people when I have one or two tasks dependent on them so that I can move forward and I don’t want to be that guy that keeps another person waiting. I don’t like to keep people hanging and I don’t like it when others keep me hanging.
I get updates pushed right away. While breaking news travels at the speed of tweet, I would rather know immediately about a change to my client, day, etc. than go about my day, get to my desktop computer, and find out about the change. Knowing right away means I can use my time efficiently to navigate around that change or readjust my priorities. Email is pushed over right away and changes, e.g. reading an email or filing it away into it’s respective folders, is reflected right away.
Composing an email is pretty awesome, too. While I do not have all of my contacts in my address book, if I type in the first few letters of my contact’s last name and wait a few seconds while my phone contacts the server. A few seconds later, options will populate as to which “Rodriguez” I can send my email to.
I get things done more efficiently. Having recently started my job (and having wrangled with Microsoft Exchange since the Bush Administration), I have developed a work-flow that incorporates an “Inbox Zero” approach. Anything in my inbox that hasn’t been archived is not completed and I am hellbent to get rid of it (by completing the task) as soon as possible (so that I can archive it).
It’s rather easy to turn off my work calendar and email. Toggle off email. Toggle off calendar. Done.
I preface what follows by stating that this is what works for me at this moment of my career and not intended to be a model for how to be professional; one has to figure out what they works for them and this is what works for me.
As a person that likes to be up to date, Exchange tends to stay on all day and night. In the field, it’s been said that it drains the iPhone’s battery, but being ever-prepared – I always have a power source nearby. That said, there have been times where I have been off and I have responded to email. My job is important to me, thus, if something important comes my way, I will take action, to the best of my ability or inform my colleague about my limited availabity and offer alternatives. As mentioned in a previous post, I do not like keeping others waiting on a response from me about a task.
I’m in a point in my career where I don’t have anything else going on. I don’t have to budget my time for children or school, but if I had either obligation, Exchange would be toggled off as soon as I got home.
How do you use your mobile device with work?
My paper diary never fails! It never runs out of battery, never fails to sync, never gets completely lost when my phone or sim dies. Plus it gives me something to lean on to write, tuck pieces of paper into and to carry business cards.
The only problem is that there is only one copy and sometimes it is good for others to know what my plans are in terms of safety or needing to cancel clients when I am ill. In that respect electronic is certainly the way we are heading so thanks for the article.
I use my iPhone / iPad / MacBookPro all the time for calendaring and email. My iPhone is generally the main way that I process both. After years of carrying around a day runner, I was so happy to move to being completely digital.
For me, I use the Apple Calendar most often for **viewing events and accepting calendar invitations.** Working for the school district as a social worker, all of my team meetings are sent as Exchange meeting requests, and exchange works perfectly on all three platforms. I like the basic calendar system because it has my favorite interface for for seeing what my day looks like. I’m probably a bit of an edge case, but I have four calendaring apps on my iPhone.
**For quick entry of appointments** I use Fantastical on all three platforms — [Fantastical 2 for iPhone](https://flexibits.com/fantastical-iphone) | [Fantastical 2 for iPad](https://flexibits.com/fantastical-ipad) | [Fantastical for Mac](https://flexibits.com/fantastical). It lets me write in natural language (i.e. “Team Meeting for XX tomorrow at 11am for 1.5 hours at McLoughlin Middle School”) and parses it to a calendar event with the title, time, date, duration, location (and more information if you want) into the correct parts of the calendar event. I can add new calendar appointments so amazingly quickly. Often times I just dictate it or enter it in [drafts](http://agiletortoise.com/drafts/) and can send it to fantastical.
**For use in the today view center widget** I use [Calendars5](https://readdle.com/products/calendars5). It is a great app. It also does the natural language support. It also looks beautiful, but I prefer the general iOS app / fantastical respectively for those aspects. I keep Calendars5 on my iPhone because of their today view center widget. The built in iOS calendar also has a widget, but it takes up too much space. Fantastical also has a widget, but it shows a month view. The Calendars5 app has a very compact agenda view of my calendar events so I can quickly see what is coming up next with a flick of my thumb, no need to even open an app.
**For reminders of when to leave** I use [Mynd](http://mynd.me/). I don’t know if I would recommend it for other people, the subscription is semi-expensive. When I originally purchased the app, I got grandfathered into being given access to their system that calculates drive time. If you purchase it today, you have to pay for a monthly subscription for that. It has a host of other features, which I don’t use much, but if I did, the subscription might be worth it. It also doesn’t have an iPad / Mac app which loses points for me. In my job, I work for the entire district, along with other jobs that I do on the side. I’m in my car all the time. Mynd looks takes the address for my appointments when they start, and calculates drive time using my location and sends me a notification saying (you need to leave in 5 minutes to get to xx event). Then it sends another notification if I am running late, telling me how late I am running. It is absolutely amazing, and I find that I am not ever late anymore, I always know when to leave. It doesn’t seem to chew through my battery either, so I love having it on my phone.
For email, I tend to use just the iOS email app (and mail.app on the mac). It has the best integration of Exchange that I’ve seen. One side note, is I have set up VIPs for my supervisors / others that I need to respond to more quickly. Otherwise, I have not sound / vibration for my other emails. It shows up on the lock screen, and puts a badge on the app… but I’m not ever interrupted by my email going off and having to check it. But, the next time I pick up my phone (which is probably too often), I see that I have email I’ve received. Then I decide if it is something I need to respond to right now, or just do a quick swipe to mark it as read and follow up with later. Very easy to process, and follow up on email, which I get way too much of.
Great post. I must say that I use my iPhone / iPad a lot for my work in a lot of different ways. It has become a very useful tool for me to get things done faster and more efficiently.
I am totally digital and paperless as a social worker. This process has taken some time but doable unless someone needs a signature then I need to dust of my pen:) I use fantastical as my go to calendar up, it’s set up and natural language input really makes it easy to input my day to day stuff. I use Apple’s reminders geo-location all the time!!! A life saver and very easy to use. I use siri a lot as well for reminders and inputting my calendar entries when on the road. As a supervisor it is invaluable to have my team on my calendar and messaging , has made life much easier to communicate and keep appointments on time.
It’s nice to put your contacts in outlook too. I use a google voice number for my work cell. By putting my colleagues and clients into my outlook contacts rather than into my phone, I can easily hide them from my phone book during off time. Not seeing client’s names when scrolling through my contacts helps me to separate work life from home life when the same phone is used for both.
I am starting to learn the joys and wonders of putting contacts onto my Outlook Contacts. I’ve been doing that with pharmacies and other programs I don’t necessarily want living in my personal contacts, but I may start putting in professional contacts I may need to reach, but don’t need when I’m not at work… thank goodness for those switches, eh?
As far as contacts go, (AND DON’T QUOTE ME ON THIS), but the only identifier I use is their client number. That’s the only way I would feel comfortable putting their contact info into my Outlook contacts. At least this would correlate with their entry on my calendar, should I need to contact my client. I haven’t done that yet, as I need to consult with someone more fluent in HIPAA compliance.
Pro-Tip: In most parts of the US, dialing *67 before the number will block your own number from appearing in the other person’s caller ID.
I use Google Docs for all of my stuff including calendars, spreadsheets, there is a drive for me to save stuff, and also a word document to write up reports. There are many tools available right at my fingertips. But all options mentioned above seem to work great as well.
Thank you for chiming in with the tech tools you use. It’s so awesome when tools just WORK! 🙂
Very helpful info – thanks for sharing! Have just started as a Youth and Family Caseworker (steep learning curve but love it) and am so pleased I stumbled across your site!
Thank you for checking me out! I hope you enjoy the content I post 🙂