Calendar, Meeting Scheduling, Productivity

10 ways to rock Google Calendar

Calendar, Meeting Scheduling, Productivity

If you’re like us, your calendar is right up there with email and team chat as one of the most important apps you use. It’s your nerve center, guiding you through each work day, providing order and direction to your time. TL;DR: it’s really important.

But for something so vital, most of us don’t actually give it much thought. Sure, we think about the meetings and events on our calendars. Still, we don’t spare many thoughts for the app that actually keeps the trains running on time. At x.ai, that app is Google Calendar, and we’re always looking for ways to make technology serve us better. So when Google recently announced a brand new design for the Calendar app, we decided to take a closer look at how Calendar works and how we could make it work even better.

Here are ten ways to rock out your Google Calendar. (Note: to activate the new layout, click the blue “Use new Calendar” button in the upper right hand corner of your calendar. Most users should see it, though some G Suite for business users may not have the option yet. You can switch back to classic if you decide the new layout isn’t for you.)

1. View calendars side-by-side (new layout only)

side-by-side

One of the most helpful features of the new Google Calendar layout is the “Day” view, which now separates shared calendars into separate columns. In the classic view, shared calendars were lumped into a single column, causing a mess over overlapping meeting blocks that was difficult to read. The new, side-by-side view makes it easy to keep on top of where your colleagues, your boss, or your direct reports will be throughout the day.

2. Use Schedule / Agenda view

daily-agenda-email

Most people view their calendar in default weekly view (the new layout defaults to the four day view), but for people with packed daily schedules there’s a better way. The Schedule view (called “Agenda” in the classic layout) allows you to see everything coming up in chronological order. It’s a helpful way to see everything on the docket for the day without the risk of meetings getting lost in the sea of colored blocks that define the weekly view.

3. Customize the days/times shown

show-weekends

If you only use your calendar for work, your weekly and monthly views are probably bookended by big empty columns. Why let weekends take up valuable screen real estate if they never have any events? You can toggle weekends off under “View Options” in your calendar Settings. In the new layout, you can also toggle weekends on and off in the calendar view drop down.

Classic layout users can go a step further by activating the “Labs” experiment called “Hide morning and night,” which lets you choose a range of hours to hide from view (e.g., like 10pm-7am).

(Labs is accessible under Settings, but isn’t yet available on the new Google Calendar layout.)

4. Block off deep work time

work-blocks

Many people only use their calendar for events—things that happen at a specific time and usually involve other people. It’s also smart to use Google calendar to block off your focus time to dive deep into tasks whether that’s writing a proposal or putting together a sales deck, especially if you use Amy. Scheduling focus time has a few positive effects: a) it provides a psychological reminder that you should cease any distracting behavior (scanning Slack, watching cat videos) and focus on the task at hand, b) it signals to colleagues with whom you’ve shared your calendar when you’ll be head down, and c) it keeps Amy from scheduling meetings at times when you’d rather be working.

Be careful though: we often see people use all day events to trigger reminders for tasks that aren’t actually all day, which Amy will think means you’re unavailable for meetings the entire day.

5. Add attachments to events

attachment-rich-text

How often does this happen: you get to the conference room for a meeting, you waste five minutes trying in vain to get your screen to show up on the wall monitor, then everyone ends up huddling around your laptop reading a Google spreadsheet. Skip the hassle by attaching materials to the meeting invite so everyone shows up prepared. Click the paperclip icon to attach a file from Google Drive or your computer. The new Calendar interface takes meeting invites to a new level by adding rich formatting, so you can now add easier-to-read agendas and notes directly to the invite.

6. Add an additional time zone

secondary-timezone

If you regularly deal with colleagues or clients in a different time zone, add a secondary zone to your Calendar so you can quickly see when your events occur in another part of the world. When turned on, you’ll see times from your secondary time zone listed on the left side of your calendar along the y-axis.

If you need to know what time it is right now in another time zone, the new calendar layout has a world clock you can turn on and customize in Settings. It will appear below the mini-monthly calendar on the left side of the main calendar view. (World clock is also available in the classic layout via a Labs experiment.)

7. Find suggested meeting times

suggested-times

Booking meetings with a handful of attendees can get complex. Coordinating between calendars is often headache inducing, which is why the oft-overlooked “Suggested Times” button in Google Calendar is helpful. Once you add a guest to your meeting, the button will appear if that person is within your organization or has shared their calendar with you. Click the button and Google will show you times when all attendees are free.

Of course, if your company uses Amy, you’ll never need to worry about finding a time that works for everyone—Amy will do it for you! Plus, Amy will do all the scheduling work (including rescheduling when necessary) and will happily work with people outside your organization.

8. See what’s coming next (classic layout only)

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 2.47.12 PM (2)

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy way to know exactly when your next meeting is coming, what it is, and where it’s happening? Sure, Google sends alerts via email and mobile, but (depending on your settings) those usually show up a few minutes before your next meeting. What if your next meeting is an hour or two away? It sure would be nice to know if you have enough time to grab some lunch or if you need to travel to get to your next engagement.

Classic layout users can head to Labs and enable “Next meeting” to add a widget to the right side of your calendar that counts down to your next meeting and shows you what and where it is.

9. Receive your daily agenda by email

daily-agenda-email

It’s nice to know what’s on your plate at the start of the day so you can adequately prepare and avoid surprises. But for busy people who take a lot of meetings, it’s easy to lose track of what’s on your calendar on a day-to-day basis, especially if you have an AI assistant like Amy booking all your meetings in the background. Fortunately, Google Calendar has an option to automatically send an agenda to your inbox every day at 5am.

The daily email agenda is toggled off by default, but you can turn it on for each of your calendars by visiting the notifications settings. (These settings are controlled at the calendar level, so to find them, go to Settings then click on the calendar you want to edit.)

10. Install Checker Plus (Chrome extension)

If you really want to take your Google Calendar game to a new level, install the Checker Plus Chrome extension. Checker Plus is a third party extension that adds a bunch of calendar functionality directly to your browser. You can view your calendar, add and edit events, manage notifications, and snooze events without ever actually visiting Google Calendar.

(Google offers an official extension, but it is not as feature-rich as Checker Plus and users have recently reported stability issues.)