Episode 7: Using Your Phone to Streamline Your Life

Mar 27, 2023
Digital Organization Iphone Tricks Tips

Hello everyone and welcome back!  Today’s episode is called use your phone to streamline your life.  Another one of my favorite things to talk about, organization, streamlining, saving our precious time so we can use it for things that we truly love.

I am always thinking to myself- "How can I make this easier? How can I minimize this process? How can I be more efficient with my time and resources?"

So a lot of answers to these questions are found in …. My smart phone. Phones are full of distractions and do get a bad rap sometimes, but we can make them work FOR us. I have several ideas for you guys to save and optimize our time using our phones to our advantage. I want to note here that I have an iPhone. I really am not familiar with the other types of smart phones, but I think the things we discuss today can surely be applied in a very similar way no matter what type of smart phone you have.


The first thing I can tell you guys about is a shared calendar. Man, I honestly would say this has significantly impacted my marriage for the better. The shared calendar. If you don’t know about this or haven’t tried it yet, I am so happy to tell you about this. When you open the calendar app on your phone, at the bottom in the middle you can click the word calendar. Then on the bottom left click add calendar and click add calendar again. Then you type out whatever you want to name your shared calendar. We use our last name as the calendar name. I leave the account on iCloud which automatically pops up, and just pick any color and click done. Then you will see the name of the calendar you just created under the iCloud category and you can click that little red i to the right to open the information about that calendar. Then you see where it says shared with- add person. Click that and add your spouse. And make sure it says view and edit.


Now, you have a shared calendar and you can each see what the other person sees and it will notify you within that app when the other person adds something to the shared calendar. If you already use your calendar app for work or something and don’t want to always see the family stuff, when you open the calendar app and click that word calendar at the bottom, you can select or deselect certain calendars and that will determine which calendars show up when you view the calendar app. Essentially you can keep the calendars going and choose to see one, some, or all of them at the same time. So for example, my husband is in grad school full time and he created a shared calendar that only shows his school schedule and shared that calendar with me. I don’t necessarily need to always see his school schedule so I can deselect that calendar, but then if I’m curious what time his class gets out or something, I can go select that calendar and see his schedule pop up.


But this makes it SO much easier when you’re trying to plan something with someone and you’re like well let me check with my spouse I can’t remember if we have plans or not, you can literally just look at the calendar right then and know. My husband and I still ask each other when we make plans and stuff like that, but we have both found it so much easier to know the family’s schedule through our shared calendar.

So to add an event to the shared calendar, you can go to the calendar app, click the plus sign in the top right to add an event like normal, and then about halfway down after you enter the time and all of that, it says calendar. And you select whatever you titled your shared calendar. If you want to make this really easy for yourself or if you are setting this up for your spouse you can set the shared calendar as the “default” calendar through your phone settings, then click calendar, then click default calendar.

And I mean we put everything in the shared calendar. We kind of joke if something comes up and something wasn’t put in the calendar we are like well it isn’t a real commitment if we didn’t put it in the calendar. We both try to add something to the calendar right when we commit to something.

You can even add events and click “all day” instead of picking a time, and those events stay at the top of your calendar for that day. So sometimes I’ll do that with things that are more so reminders than events. Like if the kids have spirit week at school I’ll add an event to each day that week that says like Crazy hair day as the title and then I’ll put “all day” in for the time and it just shows up on the top of that day. Or if its something that really my husband doesn’t need clogging up his calendar, like maybe even those kids dress up days that he really isn’t in charge of, I can just click a different calendar besides our shared calendar so it will show up on only my phone and not the shared calendar which shows up on his phone too.

I have mentioned on a previous episode that I have an acrylic wall calendar that I absolutely love and I keep it in our laundry room. And each month I go use my phone calendar and write out everything using chalk markers on that acrylic calendar and I do like to see it all written out too. But its more practical for me to keep all the details in my phone which I have with me at all times.


Another way we use the shared calendar is if you regularly have a family member watching your kids, or a regular babysitter or something. We used to do this with my mother in law when she babysat my kids more regularly. When we would ask her and she would commit to something, we would put it on the shared calendar so we could all see it and confirm we had arranged it.


So next topic I want to talk about is our friends and contacts’ home addresses. If you are listening to this in real time, it’s almost Christmas and a lot of people I know send old school paper-in-the-mailbox Christmas cards. I personally love this tradition. But for those of us who do send Christmas cards, we need to know people’s physical address. And we could text every person we know every single year and ask them AGAIN for their address, or we could have a system and streamline our efforts. You know I love a system.

Okay there is a free app called “Sheets” and it is a google app kind of like a version of excel for iPhones. I, one time, created a document in sheets called “addresses.” And, like excel, the rows are numbered. So it’s easy for me to open the app each year and eyeball how many Christmas cards I need to buy. Like okay I need to order approximately 100 Christmas cards, because I have approximately 100 names on this list. Or whatever your number is. Accounting to add or remove a few addresses from the previous year. Then it’s easier to just quickly decide on an amount to order. when I first pull out that list each year, I kind of skim it and just delete the address on people who I know have moved that year. So I wont accidentally use their old address, I just leave it blank until I get their new address. As I’m saying all of this I’m hoping its not like old-school already because I got a few texts from people this year using Postable or other similar websites that collect addresses for you and address and send cards for you. But anyway I don’t know how that works. But if you want to have your own list of contacts, maybe my method will help you!


And I like this sheets app because you can also log in to google sheets from any computer or anywhere you are and have instant access to this document you created. If it’s easier, you could even create it on a desktop and reference it from your phone.

But I like having all my addresses in one place on this app.


Secondly, to organize addresses, I save them to the actual contact for that person on my phone. Especially if this is someone that I drive to their house ever. It’s so easy to just pull up their contact, click on their address, and let your map help you get to their house. You can even save “notes” in their contact where I will type out a gate code if I’m regularly visiting someone with a gate code. It’s right there and you don’t have to ask them every time.

So whenever I ask someone for their address and they text it to me, I just right then save it to their contact on my phone. Then the once a year that I go through my Christmas card addresses, or if I’m sending a paper invitation or whatever, I can pull up their updated address from my phone contact.


Another technology hack on the subject of addresses is creating “text replacement” shortcuts on your phone. I have one for my email address and for my real street address. This way, whenever people ask my address, I don’t have to type it out each time. I just go on my iphone to settings, general, keyboard, then text replacement. You can click the plus sign in the top right and type the long form of what you want to save on the top line where it says phrase, and on the second line where it says shortcut you can put whatever your shortcut is that you want to create. So if my email address is [email protected], I could put [email protected] spelled out in the top row, and then the letters PCL as the shortcut. Then when someone asks me for my email address, in the text I literally type out PCL and hit the spaces bar and the long from [email protected] is what shows up in the text. Try it. I realize I am only talking about saving us a few seconds with this trick, but I do love it. This is the kind of thing that just really pumps me up even if its miniscule. Or if my address is 123 Main Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73104. I could just save my shortcut MSO or whatever I want and then when someone asks my address I can type out MSO and  then 123 Main Street, Oklahoma city, ok 73104 fully typed out will pop out in the text. Isn’t that cool? Okay you’re welcome. You can also use this keyboard setting to type in things your phone is always predicting wrong. Like the spelling of someone’s name or something. You can save it on your phone and it will understand that you want that word to be replaced with the word or spelling you're saving.


And back to the subject of our contacts on the iPhone. I save birthdays here too. In their actual contact card on my phone. I do only save the birthdays of people I want to remember their birthdays and see it on my calendar. I do love it because it shows up in my calendar when I save it in their contact. And if someone shares a contact with me and it includes someone’s birthday who I don’t need to know their birthday, I delete it from their contact. I really try to keep my calendar to essentials only and without anything extra that I don’t need to know. But I love that the birthdays saved to my contacts pop up each year and I don’t ever have to remember to add them to my calendar. It even will tell you the age that they are turning if you save their year of their birthday too. So you don’t even have to do math to know how old someone is. I know this might sound a little crazy but I even create contacts for my best friends children and the only thing I save is their name and their birthday but then their little birthdays will also pop up on my phone and I don’t forget to tell them happy birthday too.


Another thing that has been super helpful to me is the “notes” app. I have so many notes on my phone. I love it because you can search them with a search bar too. If you scroll down right when you open the app, a search bar pops up and you can type in like the word zoo if you need your zoo ID # and it takes you right to that note where you saved that word. I know That is such a random example but that’s something I searched for today. But I keep my perpetual to-do list in a note on my phone. I keep notes about songs I hear that I want to remember. like I said in the previous episode I have a note for each of my kids that I keep as their running baby book information keeper and I’ll jot down funny things they’ve said or milestones or anything that I plan to add to their baby books later. Or If I’m brainstorming something for this podcast I’ll jot it down in a note. I have lists of favorite bible verses I like to refer to in a note. I have some confessions/affirmations I read sometimes in a note on my phone. This is probably not recommended so I probably shouldn’t even say this but I have some of my passwords saved in notes on my phone. I kind of like shorthand the words that the passwords go to incase someone really did steal my phone or something its not like typed out exactly like EMAIL PASSWORD but I know how to find it. I have notes of prayers we prayed during each of my pregnancies, prayers me and Jordan decide for each calendar year for our family, stuff like that. If you aren’t using the notes app and just have it all in your brain somewhere and that works for you then wow congratulations and keep doing what you’re doing! But if you are always forgetting things or stressed about keeping track of everything, start some notes! You can even have shared notes, kind of like the shared calendar I mentioned already. You could use this for a running grocery list with your spouse, or a note about all the things needed to pack for your kids before they go to school if you share drop off duty. Or anything like that.

Creating notes is also one of my top tips for combating anxiety and worry and trouble sleeping, people somewhat formally call it a brain dump. Literally just writing something down on a type of a to-do list and getting it out of your brain before you go to bed can help you sleep more easily. If you are one of those people who wakes up several times fretting about something you’re supposed to do the next day that you’re afraid you’ll forget, just get a note on your phone going and brain dump that stuff out of your head before bed!


Another way I use my phone’s technology to my advantage is to keep running grocery lists. I used to do this with, you guessed it, a note on my phone. But now in this season of life where I have 2 toddlers to bring with me to the grocery store, I mostly use grocery pick up or grocery delivery now. My sanity is worth the extra money sometimes. And sometimes I save money by not buying random things I walk by when I actually go to the store. And then I don’t have to say no to my kids on every isle about every grocery item that has a picture of paw patrol on it.

I have found it so much easier to just add something directly to my grocery list on my phone when I realize I’m out of it.


One of the online grocery ordering apps I use the most is the Target app. I frequently use grocery pick up, I do use Shipt sometimes too, but it is also so easy to use grocery pick up because there’s no minimum order amount and you don’t have to tip them because it is just employees shopping for your order.  I can add some things to a pick up order, place the order, and then when I’m out running errands I can pull up to a parking spot and they bring it to my car. It is no extra fee compared to shopping in the store. How amazing is that! My sister and I have noticed that sometimes target prices differ from in store and online, not necessarily that one is more expensive than the other, and they will price match themselves , but it’s just worth noting here. They don’t mark up the prices for shipt or grocery pick up, but the prices could be different, higher or lower, than what’s in store. One other thing I love about using the online ordering for target it is it is so much easier to see what’s on sale. On the item it literally tells you if it is on sale and you can save the cartwheel coupon and it will take that discount off your purchase. I also like it because eyou can plan ahead financially and aren’t like shocked at the price at the register. You can also see ahead of time if the deodorant is on sale buy 3 get one free, you can think about it for a second or check your own counters while you’re at home to see if you need it, and you aren’t having to make spur of the moment decisions with 2 loud toddlers in your cart. Also on the target app, You can even choose “save for later” if like you know you’re low on paper towels but don’t necessarily need it right away but you need to not forget it in the next couple of shopping trips, you can add it to cart as you think of it and then move it to the save for later list and add it back to the cart whenever its time to purchase it. The app also recognizes your usual items so you can just click click click through the things you regularly buy. It really does save me time and I do believe it saves me money and it for sure saves me the effort of a shopping trip!

I also use Instacart and I never used it until my dad and step mom purchased that for me a couple of years ago as my Christmas present. What a great present, right? A gift that keeps on giving. They got me Instacart plus so I don’t have any extra fees or anything and I just do pay a tip each time to the shopper. I use Instacart for Costco and natural grocers and sprouts and there’s even a small local grocery store in my town that is on Instacart too. I do the same thing, just keep a running grocery list and add things as I think about it throughout the week and then just check out whenever I’m ready to buy it all. As a warning, Costco does say they mark up prices on Instacart and I’ve checked before and it’s about $1 more per item in my area. Which sometimes I’m only buying 10 items at Costco and sometimes I feel like it’s worth that $10 for me not having to go there. But if I’m wanting to save money I do just take my kids to the store sometimes too. I realize this is a privelidge to be able to use these services and I know that sometimes money is too tight for that. But for the people who can outsource some of your tasks like that and save some time, it might be worth it if you haven’t looked into it yet! I think I do have an Instacart referral link I’ll post in the show notes so if you aren’t an Instacart user yet and want to use my link I would be so happy! If you sign up through my link you get $20 off your order. By the way I am trying really hard on this platform to only share really great things that I actually use and love. But it does help me when you use my links if it is something I really have told you about, I’d be so happy if you use the link! And this goes against my general recommendation of turning off all notifications. Instacart notifications I leave ON. My step mom uses this app regularly too and she said she never gets these notifications, but I somewhat regularly get notfications of like a flash sale of $30 off my next $150 purchase at Costco. I literlaly have that one available to me right now. So I don’t know how they choose who or when to send these too, but these pop up sales have saved me lots of money in the past year!


I feel like this is a little off topic of this episode but another best use of my phone not necessarily for organization, but for saving time and money, is the Libby library app. I rent so many audiobooks for free from the library app. When I signed up, I really did have to go to a local library and get a library card in person, but that was a few years ago and maybe you can do it all online now. But you can link your library card to the app and rent ebooks and audiobooks and even magazines through the app. It is so cool. I used to use the app overdrive instead of libby and I guess overdrive is converting to libby but the reason I’m saying this is that there used to be a way to request a book if it wasn’t available. This feature was through the overdrive app. And I read somewhere that you can’t do that in libby yet but they will get that feature available soon. So be looking for it. But I’m not kidding you every single book I request gets purchased and available pretty soon after I request it. So if you haven’t tried a library app yet, try it!


And worth mentioning here, like I sort of already said, I believe we can save our brain space by turning off notifications. The constant dots popping up and information popping up just distracts you all day long. You can turn off popup notifications for every app. Unless you really need to see that email right when every sender sends it, don’t let it distract you from your life. You can open your email app 10 times a day if you want, but to me that’s better than letting all 37 emails you got yesterday distract you 37 times from your kids or your work.  And hopefully everyone knows this hack by now, but you can hide alerts from group messages. Usually, checking in when you choose to open your phone and catch up on group messages at that time is just fine to stay caught up. You probably don’t need to be interrupted every time anyone in a group message has a thought for the group. That is pretty much the first thing I do when I get in any type of group messag, click the names at the top and then click Hide alerts. You will see the new messages as alerts when you open your messages, but they don’t pop up each time. Silencing notifications helps us be more present with what or who is right in front of us, which is almost always the most important thing.


So thank you guys for giving me your precious time and I hope this episode is a blessing to you.  

Thanks for being here, friends. Until next time! Let’s elevate motherhood!




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