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Let’s review the basics: Events go on your calendar. Tasks go on your to-do list. These two tools are the Batman and Boy Wonder of nitty-gritty productivity, but what about the long view?

Visualizing the Big Picture

In the world of publishing, we divide each year into three seasons: Winter (January through April), Spring/Summer (May through August), and Fall (September through December). A standard assortment of events occurs in every season, from the meetings when we “launch” that season’s books until the day they’re each published.

As an editor, I want to see in advance that our Fall sales conference occurs so many months before a particular book is published, that certain blurbs should come in before a particular marketing meeting, and so on. This is Big Picture information for me. We’re not talking about events or tasks so much as large guideposts that affect a wide variety of events, projects, and tasks throughout the year. These meta-events are the dark matter that keeps my galaxy spinning in lockstep. (Ding: I just won today’s “Geekiest Sentence of the Day” award.)

Whatever field you’re in, there’s almost always a call for this kind of long-term planning and strategy. Putting events on a calendar that you can only view a month at a time simply doesn’t cut it for this kind of thinking. And hardcore project management tools like Gantt charts are just overkill for individual use.

See Your Year Anywhere

Up until recently, I visualized my year using a giant corkboard on the wall of my office, with sheets of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper tacked on it to represent months. I would stick mini Post-it Notes here and there to mark particular meta-events. Prior to that, I used index cards held in place with thumb tacks. But those solutions were awkward to deal with and only accessible from my office. Enter Netvibes.

Netvibes seemed like a good place to start for me because I’d already used it as my Web dashboard, and when it comes to productivity you want to use as few tools as possible. Having tried several of its competitors, including iGoogle and Pageflakes, I’d found Netvibes to be the most responsive and reliable of the bunch.

Just Like Your Desk, Except for the Clicky Metal Balls

Netvibes is where I lay out stuff that I need at a glance, whether that’s webnotes with procedures I use often, or my most critical bookmarks. Google Docs, which I also rely on, is a wonderful tool for storing and editing documents, but things tend to get buried there unless I know what I’m looking for. If Google Docs is a filing cabinet, Netvibes is a desk, a place where I can lay everything out and let my eyes quickly pick out what I need.

That’s what makes Netvibes perfect as a planning calendar. Here’s how to set up 2008:

  1. Click New Tab. Name it 2008.
  2. Click Add Content.
  3. Click Basic widgets.
  4. Click Webnote.
  5. When the webnote opens, click Add to my page.
  6. Repeat eleven times.
  7. Close the Add Content window.
  8. Click Edit on the first Webnote. Change the name of the Webnote to January. Click Save.
  9. If you’re feeling creative, give your month a custom color or font. Then click Close Edit.
  10. Repeat.
  11. Arrange your months in three columns and you’re good to go.
Now it’s time to do a little planning. Have any milestones, like conferences or presentations, that call for various smaller projects in the months prior? Trying out for your brown belt in June? Do your students need to be ready for a state exam in May? Any large event that calls for extensive preparation and multiple projects should show up on this calendar. Just type them into the appropriate month’s webnote. Now that tab will offer a quick bird’s-eye view of your year. Review it at least during your weekly review to keep the future in mind.

Better get started. January’s closer than you think.

Any other interesting uses of Netvibes? Share them in the comments.

UPDATE: To clarify, here’s a blank calendar: screenshot

Photo by oxtopus.


  • felix

    gravatarDec 10, 2007
    12:18 pm

    sounds interesting. can you share a screen grab?

  • conan

    gravatarDec 10, 2007
    12:46 pm

    Yes. Please share a screen shot. Or better yet, a Jing.

  • David Moldawer

    gravatarDec 10, 2007
    12:47 pm

    Just added the screenshot:


  • DWarrior

    gravatarDec 14, 2007
    4:27 pm

    For those of us using iGoogle, you can create the same thing.

    Click “Add a tab” on the upper left. Title it whatever you want (mine’s titled “08 Map” until I actually start adding something and think of something). The default is a 3-column layout, but you can easily change that if you wish. Click on the arrow next to the new tab and hit “Edit Tab”, you’ll see various options come up. I think a 4-column layout may be good to correspond to Quarterly Reviews.

    Next go and add sticky notes: http://www.google.com/ig/directory?q=note&hl=en&root=%2Fig&igtab=08&dpos=top&url=http://www.google.com/ig/modules/sticky.xml

    Add these 12 times by clicking “Add it now” and then refreshing the page to be able to add again. Arrange them however you wish and then rename each one (hit the arrow for each note, go to Edit Settings, and change the title) to individual months.

    You can also change the colors to either correspond with different quarters, seasons, or to highlight important months.

    You can also add images to individual months by adding custom gadgets: http://www.google.com/ig/gmchoices

    Use Framed Photo for larger images and Free Form for smaller images.

    Here’s a sample iGoogle clone of David’s Netvibes version: http://img210.imageshack.us/img210/1743/samplemapxn5.gif

  • David Moldawer

    gravatarDec 16, 2007
    10:23 pm

    Thanks for filling in the iGoogle part of the equation, DWarrior. Much appreciated!