5 Best Practices for Mastering Google Calendar

A lot of people keep a calendar for work appointments, personal items, or for projects that need completed. And many struggle with combining calendars, or knowing what’s on someone else’s calendar, like your partner’s or coworker’s.

Google Calendar solves all of these problems easily, allowing you to have multiple calendars layered on top of each other, shared calendars, and so on. However, there are some tweaks that will make your calendar experience even better, and here I share five of my favorites.

Explore the settings

Most people miss a lot about the tools they use every day. I can’t tell you how many I’ve met who aren’t sure what an email filter is, or how to color coordinate folders in Google Drive. Oftentimes, we don’t take the time to look at and play with the settings. Well, do!

Google Calendar offers a tremendous value out of the box, but it’s worth really diving into the settings by clicking on the gear wheel icon in the top right hand corner and perusing the particulars.

For starters, make sure you’re playing in the right time zone. If not, it makes getting to appointments on time a real chore. Likewise, if you’re working somewhere else, or out of state for a while, why not adjust accordingly?

Fig 1. – Why not try Speedy meetings to get more done? And while you’re at it, make them stand-up meetings, too, and no one will stay past the first hour!

Next, check time format and set when the week starts for you. I grew up in Europe, so “military time”, or what I call “real time”, is crucial for me, as is Monday as the starting day of the week. (It’s called a week“end” for a reason!)

Play with the Custom View, too. I like 3 weeks – that gives me what I need at a glance, and I can quickly check upcoming projects, or scan for arriving deadlines. You’ll want to decide how your calendar handles invites, too, especially if managing meetings using invites is SOP for your organization.

Play with colors

I mentioned colored folders in Google Drive earlier, and the same is true for Calendar. Each calendar can have it’s own color – just click the drop down arrow next to the calendar name, and set a color for the calendar. This is especially handy for shared calendars or project calendars. Note that an appointment can still have its own color, which I use all the time to mark important meetings, or appointments where my presence has been requested.

Fig 2. – You can pick whatever colors you want, and change at any time. I try to associate a color with either importance, or type of project.

Hide the clutter

Sharing calendars within Google Calendar is great, but sometimes you’re stuck with a bunch of leftover project calendars, or calendars from coworkers that you never reference. So just hide them! Click the drop down arrow to the right of the calendar name, then select Hide this Calendar. You can still access, or re-enable the viewing of the calendar from the overall settings. But remember, sometimes less is more — if you don’t absolutely need to see the calendar, maybe it’s best left out of view. It’s also a great way not to become a pesky micro-manager!

Share responsibly

Sharing a calendar with someone, anyone, is a snap. However, make sure you check the settings for each person you share with, and give them the rights you intend to. Especially if you’re operating within a Google Apps domain, some of your share settings may be overruled by the domain settings, in which case you may wish to not share at all. Likewise, make sure your stuff isn’t shared by default.

Also of note, any Super Admin on an Apps Domain has full access to any of your calendars, regardless of what settings you enable, so play by the rules at all times and keep your personal stuff, well, personal. It’s not hard to manage your personal life from your work account through some creative sharing with yourself.

Get your calendar on the go

Having access to your calendar on the go (that is, on your mobile device) is a must. Most devices interface very well with Google Calendar, so take some time to set it up right, and test to make sure appointments load, get deleted correctly, etc.

Fig 3. – Google Sync – Making sure your device and online calendar talk to each other, and speak the same language, is crucial for appointment management, and to ensure you’re on time for the party!

I find the Google Sync process helpful where I get to decide which calendars I want synced on my device in the first place. There’s nothing more irritating than getting alerts for a coworker’s calendar during dinner, only to find out they’re meeting with the boss about the promotion, and not you…

Pencil that in

Don’t forget to use Google Calendar for things you couldn’t do in that other calendar program. Go ahead, create a new calendar for household maintenance tasks, your daughter’s ballet lessons, or your son’s Little League events. There’s no need to cram it all on one single calendar, and the ability to color code each calendar to match, and to quickly toggle on and off from view, makes management easy. Why not add that date night calendar your partner’s been asking about?