Using Mozilla Sunbird To Schedule Infrequent Home Maintenance Tasks – And Other Irregular Tasks

SunbirdA while back, I posted an extensive checklist of monthly home maintenance tasks. There were some items on the list that didn’t need to be done every single month, but most of them are really quite useful to do each month if you want to keep your house in tip-top shape.

There’s one big problem, though – that list is a pain to do all at once. There’s a lot of things on that list and while many of them just take a few moments, tackling everything on that list can devour a whole day. My philosophy is to spread the chores out so you only have to do one or two a day throughout the whole month. That way, you can do the one or two minute tasks on weekdays and maybe a few longer tasks on weekends. This presents a few problems, the biggest of which is coming up with a reminder to do each activity at a certain time during the month.

This is one of the best reasons to start using a scheduling program, and the best one I’ve found for my personal record keeping is Mozilla Sunbird. It’s a free open-source scheduler (download it here) that I use to manage all of my personal and blogging related tasks all in one place. I actually use it in conjunction with Getting Things Done – I use GTD to manage and complete the irregular stuff, but all of the regular things get put into Sunbird.

So let’s take a look at the program. This is the default screen you’ll see when you first fire up the program:

Sunbird 1

Everything in Sunbird is either an event (something that occurs on a particular day and/or at a particular time) or a task (a checklist of things to be done). I almost exclusively use the events in Sunbird, as the “tasks” are more irregular and I have a good system for handling those.

When I want to add a regularly scheduled household chore, I click on the “New Event” button (in the upper left corner of the window) and up pops this window:

Sunbird 2

I fill in the required information (for me, the title, the date (which I put in the “From” box), the category (“Home Maintenance”), and the calendar (“Home” – I have other calendars set up for blogging and other things)) and check the “All Day” and “Repeat” boxes so that it looks something like this:

Sunbird 3

I then click on the “Set Pattern…” button and up pops this window:

Sunbird 4

I set the pattern so that I am always checking the filter on the first Tuesday of each month, then I click OK, then OK on the other box. I go back to the calendar and suddenly there’s the task I created.

Sunbird 5

It actually shows up twice, because the list of events there at the top are the ones for the next thirty one days and the first Tuesday of a month happens twice in that period. I generally use the “Next 7 days” list so I only see the tasks coming up in the next week, unless something has come up and I need to work ahead.

Now, when I’m done with a particular task, I just click on that event in the list and hit the delete button on my keyboard and the task vanishes. Easy as pie.

This system makes sure that I keep up with the regular maintenance on my home, my automobiles, and my health, among other things. I schedule an abundance of things using this tool and it often makes it appear as though I have a ton going on. This tool makes it very easy for me to use less brain space remembering this stuff and more brain space focusing on doing it well. Plus, by doing these regular maintenance tasks, I extend the life of the equipment I use and keep my house in good shape, thus saving me a lot of money and worry over time.

Free software does pay, after all.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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