How Office Live Workspace saved my holiday -- and my sanity

olwFamily holidays can try even the most patient temperament. Over the last few years, I've noticed a few common problems with ours.

Firstly, we can never finalise the meal rota because at least one individual changes their plans at the last minute; they then try and swap with someone else, who has already swapped with another night and the simple idea of taking an evening each to cook descends into chaos.


  • Someone (usually my sister's family) always gets lost. This is usually because she leaves the directions at work.
  • A vital piece of equipment is always forgotten (because everyone thought someone else was bringing it...)
  • Five calls and 17 emails are needed to try and get my brother to confirm if he's joining us.
  • Another eight calls are needed with my mother who is a bit random on email and usually replies to the oldest version of a thread.
  • There are numerous squabbles about who was meant to get which room.

As much as I love catching up with my family, every year I come away swearing "never again".

olw-listsBut this year was remarkably different... thanks to, of all things, Office Live Workspace.

Setting up the workspace took about 3 minutes. Then I loaded in the PDF map of our accommodation, created an Excel spreadsheet containing the draft meal schedule (to be revised and revised...), wrote a really simple list of shared "equipment" (DVDs, guide books, initial groceries, etc), created a contact list of who was invited (with columns to confirm attendance and allocate rooms) and shared it with the family.

Everyone got an email inviting them to the workspace and then were able to view and edit all the details whenever they wanted. My mother only ever saw the latest version of the plan (so no confusion there), for the first time ever nothing was left behind and I allocated the rooms based on the order of confirmation (which certainly encouraged my brother to sort himself out!) and everyone could see who was staying where.

I dread to think what the holiday would have been like "the old way" because the week before we left a project at work went a bit mad and I barely had time to pack for myself, let alone sort out the usual chaos.

Some things of course never change...

olw-activityThe meal schedule did get revised (about a dozen times according to the activity tracker) but we didn't end up with two people cooking on one night and no-one cooking on another...

And my sister did leave the directions at work, again. But she was able to login to the workspace from home and print off a second set of directions. (And for good measure she printed the contact list so she was able to call us to tell us she was running late...)

I might -- just might -- holiday with my family again!