This whole thing started because we got engaged a couple weekends ago. (Which I’m super excited about. I had sort of seen it coming, but it was charming and adorable, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with such an amazing guy!) The one thing I didn’t realize about getting engaged, but probably should have, was that you become a LOT busier. Not even with wedding planning, just with seeing friends and family! Our engagement also came around the time of Canada Day and patios finally opening up again from their COVID-19 closures, so before I knew it, my entire weekend was booked in the blink of an eye. As was the weekend after. And the one after that.
Now, I’m quite a busy person on a normal day. I don’t necessarily plan my time out to the hour, but I always have a rough estimation of how much of my weekend is spent on client work and whether or not I can go out and enjoy some fresh air and barbecue. And all that comes after a busy week of my full-time job, evening client meetings, dance lessons, harp practice, and my harp lesson on Fridays. I remember about a year ago I got so busy that if Mik had anyone over on the weekend it would completely throw off my schedule. Granted, our apartment was pretty small and didn’t give me a room to hide in. I could have always hid in the master bedroom, but if I needed a snack or the bathroom I would have to walk by everyone hanging out sitting in the living room, which would have been awkward and embarrassing. So I couldn’t really do that.
But now that we’re in the house, there’s a few more things to keep track of. Meal kit deliveries, which week is garbage week and which is recycling week, when are people coming over… the fun never stops!
We needed more than just a Google Calendar
In the past, Mik and I have tried using just a plain old Google Calendar to keep each other up to date, but he never really got into it so it sort of tanked. I’ve realized that if I want an organized household, I have to set everything up myself and make it as easy as possible for him to work with. That isn’t a jab at him or anything, his brain just works a different way and he’s super busy too with his full time job and studying for his professional exams. Dude’s got a lot on his plate, too!
Everything sort of clicked into place this past week though when we were trying to book in time with both of our families. His parents wanted us to come have lunch with them at the cottage, and my parents were driving through town on their way back from their house up in Northern Ontario to their condo in Montreal and wanted to see us on their way. Usually this amount of scheduling isn’t a problem since we only see my parents a few times a year, but between that, a birthday party, a client meeting, and a whole bunch of work to get done before that client meeting, and I needed a solution to keep everything straight… fast!
I’ve often heard it said that running a household is like running a business, and I don’t for a second doubt it. Anyone who says that being a housewife is taking the easy way out is just kidding themselves, because it’s a full-time job hands down.
The search for a family management app
So with my goal of finding an app or something to help us manage our schedule and not forget anything (as two busy career people are apt to do), I took to the internet with disappointing results. If I were an app developer I would’ve been all over this market, because there was nothing that completely suited my needs. I wanted something that I could access from desktop or mobile since I hate having to type a lot on my phone. If this is something I was going to actually use, it had to be keyboard-friendly. I also wanted something that could connect to our calendars and make it easy to remind both of us when we had things to do, or events coming up. Finally, I wanted something with a task manager option for grocery lists, chores, and other “honey-do” items. All in all, it doesn’t seem like a massively large request, but most of the apps that I found were only on mobile, heavily focused on getting kids to do chores, or otherwise didn’t meet my needs.
After doing my quick research into “family management software” (not “family planning apps” – that’s a COMPLETELY different category), I almost gave up, but I knew there had to be a solution that I wasn’t thinking of. I thought about my full-time job and my business. What did I use in those circumstances to manage conversations, tasks, and calendars? After all, if running a household was like running a business, there should be some overlap in use cases. Once I had that epiphany, finding the right tools was easy.
Managing conversations with Slack
For a conversation manager, Slack was the ideal option. It’s free plan would meet all of our needs (although I’m not opposed to paying for something more robust if needed), and is available for desktop, browser, and mobile devices. Mik has a lot of in-person client meetings during the day and doesn’t usually have the chance to respond to things right away, so by utilizing the channel feature to segment our conversations into topics, I’m able to send him memes and articles I think he’d like while not disturbing him, but I know I also have an emergency or important channel if I need him to respond right away.
Managing calendars with Google Calendar + Slack
I use Google Calendar at both of my jobs, so it made sense to keep it to programs I knew how to use. I also knew going into this since I set it up for my company that Slack has a Google Calendar integration, so you can create and edit events from within Slack. This seemed like a good option for the Google Calendar-averse fiancé.
There’s also a Google Calendar for Team Events app I installed to our Slack and synced to the “shared” calendar. This app, unlike the regular Google Calendar app, allows you to automatically update a channel every day or week with the events of the day or week. I set it to run every morning at 8AM for the day’s events, and every Monday at 8AM for the week’s events. This way, Mik gets an overview look of everything that’s going on without being intrusive or obstructive.
Managing tasks with Slack
Originally, I had Asana in mind for task management since it has an integration with Slack as well, but after looking into it a bit more I don’t think that the functionality is right in this case for right now. In the spirit of trying to make it as easy as possible for Mik to use (which in essence is what every marketer wants to do to get people to fill out forms, convert on pages, and download apps), I wanted to keep everything within one program or piece of software. I knew that if he had to bounce around between multiple apps I would lose him and the system wouldn’t work anymore. Instead for the meantime until I find something better, I’m using channels and reactions to manage grocery lists, home to-do items, and other shopping lists. If someone realizes we’re out of an ingredient, it gets added to the #grocery-list channel. When one of us does a shop and picks it up, we add an emoji reaction to the chat so we know that it’s been picked up, and the other person deletes it. Not the smoothest method, but it’s better than having to sift through a thousand text messages trying to find if we needed eggs or milk.
My plans for this makeshift family management app are to find a better solution for grocery lists and task management that’s more sustainable. As we start really getting into wedding planning or our lives evolve in some way I can imagine our current method getting hard to manage, fast. Right now I’m thinking of probably using Evernote – a tool we’d considered briefly but never actually put into action to manage important documents, receipts for work done on the house, tax forms, and things like that. After looking at the Evernote integration for Slack, I think that it could do the job as it connects well, however I want to wait to add it in until I’ve gotten Mik used to chatting and communicating through Slack first. Baby steps, of course.
I’m also planning on adding in a custom bot for wedding RSVPs. I do a similar thing for Something Blue when someone downloads one of our freebies or takes our quiz, and I think it would be useful to have that information available in Slack rather than inundating either of our emails. Just a quick little “hey! So-and-so RSVPed YES to your wedding. Requested chicken. Bringing +1, who requested vegetarian”. I find the Slack notifications I set up for Something Blue to be the perfect mix of keeping up to date and not being information overloaded. They live in their own separate channel, which can be muted if too many of them come in. If you’re interested, I went over the process briefly at the end of this tutorial on making a quiz using WordPress, Ninja Forms, ConvertKit, and Slack. This would pretty much be the same thing, only a wedding RSVP form instead of a marketing quiz, and no ConvertKit.
Another thing I think would also be great to add is repeating tasks and schedules. Right now I have a repeating calendar invite every Wednesday to remind us to take out garbage/recycling/compost, however as more of these pile up it won’t be sustainable because the calendar will get too busy, lessening the impact of having unique events on the calendar. When I look into Evernote I’ll see if that’s an option (it’s been a hot second since I used Evernote in any capacity, I think the last time was in high school?).
To be honest, as I was writing this article I couldn’t get this one thought out of my head. That statistic (I can’t remember the exact number) that showed that women do WAY more emotional labour than men do, and how it usually goes unrecognized as women are “expected” to manage the house and family, but men get a pat on the back if they “babysit” for a night. Which, by the way, isn’t babysitting, but taking care of your dang kids. So it got me thinking about the amount of emotional labour I was doing to set everything up for Mik and I so we could have better communication. While we’re still in the early stages of using Slack to manage everything, I hope that it will help even out the emotional labour gap by making it easy to keep each other up to date on our plans, remind the other to pick up groceries or mow the lawn, and have a system where we can communicate but don’t feel overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done.