Mavs’ Tips and Tricks with Google Calendar

Hello everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day!

For today’s post, I want to share with you some of Google Calendar’s tips and tricks that I have found helpful in graduate school. I am now in my third year in my Ph.D. program and I have finished my required classes. I am also working as a research assistant.  That means LOTS OF UNSTRUCTURED TIME! Now, for some people having unstructured time means having a lot of free time… But for me having a lot of unstructured time is dangerous — because there are days when I would rather watch the latest Korean drama than work on my research. So how do I deal with it? Let me show you the ways…

1. Use Google calendar.

I love my Google calendar. I am super dependent on it – I have it on my phone and it is the first thing I access when I get in the office. I have also configured it to send me an e-mail every day at 5 am to inform me about everything I need to do. Here’s a screenshot on how to configure the settings to get it to send you email notifications. (The settings shows up when you click the gear icon near the upper right corner)

2. Have multiple calendars and color code them. 

I have multiple calendars but I make sure that I see all of it in its entirety. Now you may wonder, why multiple calendars? I have calendars I share with research group members for projects and  I would only want to share relevant information ((You wouldn’t want your project members to know that you have a dentist appointment when it doesn’t concern them!)).

Keeping multiple calendars – and a separate one for my personal needs (sleeping, exercise) also ensures that I actually get some shut eye. One of my resolutions this year is to sleep better because it makes me a more functional person, a better grad student and a happier person in general.

Now, what’s with the color coding? Color coding also helps you track your time. I found tracking how much time I spend on projects keeps me accountable and helps me make better-informed decisions on how I spend my time. Supposing, I have 10 hours to spend on Project X, and 5 hours on Project Y and found myself needing more hours on Project Y because Task 1 took much longer, I can readjust my time based on what I may have done in the past.

Here’s a screenshot of what my work week looks like this week.

3. Mark milestones on the calendar. 

This year I wanted to be more strategic on how I spend my time on projects. I am attending multiple conferences and if I am not mindful the deadline just creeps in without me knowing. So I decided to plan my semester. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out NCFDD’s Every Semester Needs a Plan and Aligning Your Priorities webinar. The site requires you to register but the webinars are extremely helpful in helping you break down big goals into smaller tasks and making time for them! I highly recommend them.

Anyway, I mark milestones in my calendar to let me know that by some time period I should have finished Project X’s section three.  You can set it up by adding all-day events. Here’s what it looks like:

I also use the milestone function to inform me of bills, conferences, big events I need to be mindful of.

4. Use the hyperlink to keep track of written documents.

One trick I have found very useful – especially if you use Google Drive to share documents with team members is to use the hyperlinks to inform members of any changes you have made on a written document. I also make a short note to inform them what I have done for that particular time period. It is a great accountability tool and you can see the status of the project.

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

5. Use the task function.

I use the task function for things that do not require more than 15 minutes of my time or things I just need to remember (e.g. Return Yan’s bowl from the dinner party). I also use it to remind me of where I parked my car (I developed a coding scheme to inform me of which floor and which row I parked my car in Grant Street Parking Garage).

6. Have a Friday meeting.

I usually reflect and populate my calendar for the upcoming week before I leave work on Friday.  I spend about 30 minutes going through the process of listing down everything I need to do the following week (readings, writing I need to work on, etc) and then populating my calendar. Having a plan before my new week starts helps me prime myself for the next work week ahead. And oh, I consciously take a day off each week – to run errands, to recuperate, and to rest. Taking a break is good for one’s soul. Because I have a plan made on Friday, by Monday, when I pick up my work I know exactly what I need to do.

7. Be flexible.

One thing I had to wrap my head around is the idea that YOU WILL NEVER finish all the things you want to do and you have to be flexible in how to manage your time. There would be days when I swap one scheduled task for another – that’s okay, if it makes more sense, then why not? You also have to realize that for some tasks you will encounter technical difficulties (e.g., the task you scheduled was dependent on something else, you don’t have the appropriate tools for the scheduled task), psychological blocks (e.g. you find yourself dealing with debilitating anxiety) and external realities (e.g. you need to rush to the emergency room, etc). It’s okay, you don’t need to beat yourself up for it. You acknowledge the challenges and find ways to deal with them. Also, some times you need to be creative with how you use your time… I would walk on the treadmill as I finish my readings – I get my exercise and my reading done.

I hope the things I shared with you helps you somehow… The key is to find what works for you. 🙂



My Thoughts on Running (Or My Love-Hate Relationship with My Calves)

Running in all weather 😉

My “hate” for my calves. I think I have always been genetically predisposed to run. I have really muscular calves. (Thanks Pops!). In elementary school and high school, my calves were a source of great insecurity for me. Let me say this, high school boys can be cruel. I remember vividly how a bunch of 9th-grade boys would loiter by the stairs looking at girls’ legs and I overheard this particular group talking about my muscular calves. Now for an 8th- grader, this was particularly distressing. I put on a brave face and ignored it but I can never forget the fact that my calves were a topic of conversation.

Despite being a source of insecurity,  my legs (calves, included) helped me with my gymnastics. My coach would tell me I had “great legs”.  By great,  he meant that my legs could take me to the nationals. And they did and even won me a silver medal.Yet, for all the “nice things” my legs brought me, I was always insecure about them. I remember freshman year in college, the girls in Silliman University were required to wear — of all things — bloomers. I would run as fast as I can from my dorm to the field and back again so I can spend as little time in public wearing those despicable excuse for shorts. I think I left an impression on my classmates when I would remove my shorts underwater rather than before going into the water for our swimming classes. I was THAT insecure.For the longest time, I think I avoided wearing shorts, skirts or any piece of clothing that would bare my legs. But these days, I now wear a lot of running shorts. Because I rediscovered a love for running.

Running in the Philippines. I think I have always loved to run. In the University of San Carlos where I did my undergrad, I was almost always rushing from one place to the other. However, I was told it was “unladylike” to run. So I stopped. I now regret listening to that advice — because I would realize later on that once our bodies get used to inactivity, it will remain at rest. (Newton’s law, right? LOL). I would run here and there but never really made it a habit.

Running in Texas. This is now an absolutely horrific memory but in TAMU where I did my masters, in the first not-so-fun run I ever joined, I only bested 2 pregnant women and a woman with her baby in a stroller. If that’s not embarrassing, I do not know what is. Those women were running for 2. I wasn’t.

How running helped me overcome depression. In 2012, I hit a really low point in my life. I was depressed. I hit rock bottom. My self-esteem was zilch. I was overweight. I was ugly. Everything in my life was falling apart. I can hardly recognize myself in the mirror. And now, I wish to confess that I had thought of ending it all. But as I was too cowardly (or maybe brave), I sought help. I went to the doctor. I went to group therapy. I sought counselling. I eventually went home to the Philippines to heal myself. And I decided I needed to make changes

When I went back to Texas, I knew I needed to fix my health issues. I started with the small things. I decided to eat healthy. I started to avoid all meat and I started cooking all my meals. I would portion them and made sure I only ate within my caloric allowance. I went to the gym. I tried the treadmill.

My running journey. Running on the treadmill, I would get bored and would focus on the time or distance and when I get tired I just hit that STOP button and workout is over. So one day I decided I was going to run outdoors. Running outdoors forces you to run till a certain point then run back to where you started. Now, at this point, I was really horrifically unfit. I was slow. So I decided I was just going to do timed runs. I got a Couch to 5K app. My first run consisted of a 20-minute run/walk combination. I hated every second of it. I can barely breathe. But I finished it and that gave me a bit of confidence to do it again. So I did. Eventually, I was running 30 minutes a day, then 45 minutes. I got better at it and I would run a minimum of 3 miles on average every day during the work week. I would then run 6 miles on average on Saturdays and/or Sundays. I wasn’t fast or anything. I just kept at it.

Running in Flagstaff. I would eventually move to Flagstaff and I thought I can run as easily as I was able to in Texas. Wrong! At 7500 ft above sea level, I was back to square one. The first time I ran in Flagstaff, I once again felt like my heart was in my throat and that I can hardly breathe at all. I only ran 1 mile that day. Now this put me off from running for a while. I was severely discouraged.

Life then happened, but I was happy. I was happy with my job, with my coworkers, with my students. I felt appreciated and I regained my self-confidence. I was happy once again after a very long time. And winter hit. Now, I can run okay in Texas winters but Flagstaff is a different story. So I took a break.. a really long break.

Let me just say that when summer came, I took out my running shoes again.. and once again went back to square one. I started again. Eventually, in the Fall, I kept running because I had coworkers who were patient with me. They would easily chat while running while I struggled to keep up. Yet they were always patient with me.

I would then join Team Run Flagstaff’s Step Into Running Program. I met some wonderful people there. I felt comfortable running with people from different walks of life and different stages of fitness. I was very impressed and a little bit intimidated at the marathon runners. They were very inspiring. I put in the work and I was happy to have survived a 5k at 7500 ft above sea level. I didn’t care much for my time but I thought I finished strong.

Running in Flagstaff was easy logistically. I miss that about the city I lived in for two years. I can just walk out my apartment and explore some urban trails. I am sad I didn’t run more when I lived there.

Running in Indiana. When I moved to Indiana to attend Purdue University, I was very determined to keep running. My friends thought I was crazy when I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to get a 3-mile or a 6-mile run. That was in the Fall. But Winter was another story. Winters in Indiana are something else. But of course after the winter comes the Spring. I started running again – back to square one, then to being comfortable at 3-miles, then 6-miles and eventually 10-miles. That was the longest I have ran.

I would eventually join Fleet Feet’s running program. Fleet Feet in West Lafayette is awesome. I met amazing people from different walks of life with different running goals. Since I am not fast at all, I ran with the BOP – or the Back-of-the-Pack. We may not be the fastest but we sure did have a lot of fun.

I sought to run a half marathon. And I did! My first half marathon was the Purdue Half 🙂

Running with Fleet Feet friends. My first half marathon. The Purdue Half.

I was super proud of myself after I finished. Training for it was a 12-week commitment and I made it! I would run another half marathon after the Purdue Half in the Spring. I did the Indy Mini. I was super proud of myself.

Indy Mini. My second half marathon!

Injury. I kept running in the summer because I had signed up for another race. But alas, I injured myself, had a couple of health issues and well, life got busy.These days I am trying again.

Why do I run? I run to exercise and feel healthy and strong. I run to enjoy my running music. I run so I can make full use of expensive running gear (On a grad student’s salary – running clothes and shoes are pricy!)

Light on my feet. Literally.

I run to exorcise all my demons. I run to find peace. I run to talk to friend. I run so I don’t have to talk. I run to think. I run to stop thinking. I run so I can forgive others. I run so I can forgive myself. I run to run away from all the stresses that plague me.  I run to fight with my enemies in my head (I sometimes imagine myself as Manny Pacquiao, the boxer).  I run when I have things weighing me down.  I run when I need to make a decision. I may not always get an answer but I always feel much better after a good run.

How do I run? I try to run in good form. I run till the only thing I can focus on is taking my next breath and putting one foot in front of the other. I wonder if my eyes sweat as well or I am actually crying. But I run till all my sadness, all my heartbreak, all my frustrations, all my desperations, all my anger go away. I run until I feel myself becoming whole again. I run like it is a form of meditation or prayer. I run despite my whole body rebelling until it feels right. I run in order to be happy. I run so I can live.

My “love” for my calves. These days, I am really proud of my calves. Because they are strong. Quite strong that even after the killer workout,  I hardly feel any soreness. Because I am vain. I get compliments on how muscular they are. But most of all because I have always had them and they are strong and they are mine and they take me places. Maybe it isn’t even too far-fetched to say that my calves saved my life.

And to celebrate them, here’s a photo of me running away from my insecurities and running towards my happiness.

Happy running! (Photo by Babelyn Cabalar)

Bye for now, gotta run! 😉