Many of us use Google Calendar for reminders about appointments and endless Zoom calls, but there's so much more you can do with the app. And because it’s free, everyone from beginners to seasoned organizational pros can use it to streamline their schedules.
1. Create a New Calendar
Work tasks, personal meetings, and other day-to-day errands can really clutter up your schedule. Luckily, you can create separate, color-coded calendars for each aspect of your schedule. No need to look at a wall of blue boxes.
To add more calendars, click the plus (+) icon next to Other calendars on the lower-left side, then choose Create New Calendar. Name and color-code the new calendar however you want. When finished, you can check or uncheck the box next to the calendar name to show or hide its tasks on your main calendar so you only see what’s important.
Sometimes it’s useful to share your calendar with others so everyone can keep track of important events. People you share your Google Calendar with can see it in their calendar view and choose to hide it if they want. You can also customize and restrict what they see.
Find the calendar you want to share from the list under My Calendars. Click the three-dot menu next to the calendar and select Setting and sharing. In the settings menu, click Share with specific people > Add people.
Type in the email addresses of everyone you’d like to give access and customize their permissions to let people see as much, or as little, of that calendar as you think appropriate.
3. Use the Hot-Key Shortcuts
In Google Calendar, hot-key shortcuts let you do everything from change the calendar view (hit t to view today, for instance) to add a new event (hit c to create an event).First, check that keyboard shortcuts are turned on; click the gear icon on the top right, select Settings, scroll down to Keyboard shortcuts and make sure the box next to Enable keyboard shortcuts is checked. Then, refer to Google's list of calendar shortcuts, or hit Command + / (or Control + /) from a browser to bring up an easy-to-read list of shortcuts.
4. Customize Your Notifications
If you’ve got an important meeting or appointment you can’t miss, set up multiple alerts for it. Calendar lets you program notifications for certain time intervals before an event, so you can get a ping sent to your phone one day, one hour, or 15 minutes before your event. Mobile users have several preset options but can also create custom intervals for notifications. You can also set up reminder emails.
To set up custom notifications, click the three-dot menu icon next to the calendar with the relevant event. Click Settings and sharing, then choose Event notifications to customize the default notification settings for every event on that calendar. On mobile, open the hamburger menu, then choose Settings and select the calendar.
If you want to leave the default setting alone and only customize reminders for a single event, click on the event, select Edit, and change the notification settings for that event.
5. Create Events From Gmail
We’ve probably all had meetings that could have been an email, but what about an email thread that should be a meeting? Use Gmail to create an event in Google Calendar and resolve that extra-long discussion with a video call instead.
When viewing the email thread, click the three-dot menu in the top right-hand corner, then click Create event. A new event will automatically be added to Google Calendar, populated with the details from your email thread. The subject line will be the event title and messages from the email thread appear in the event description.
6. Create Notes From Group Events
Need to keep everyone on the same page? Use Google Calendar to make a Google Doc of meeting notes for your events with multiple attendees. All you have to do is select the event on the calendar, then click Take meeting notes in the event description. The resulting document is then attached to the event invite, allowing all guests to access the notes.
7. Set Up Daily Agenda Emails
Want to get an automatic daily rundown of your schedule every morning without opening Google Calendar? Google can send a list of the day’s tasks right to your inbox. To set it up, go to your list of calendars in the left-hand sidebar and click the three-dot menu next to the one you want to use to send daily agenda emails. Click Settings and sharing > Other notifications, and make sure the drop-down menu next to Daily Agenda says Email. You will now get a daily email with to-dos from that specific calendar until you shut them off, which you can do by going through the same process and changing the drop-down menu box to “none.”
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8. Add and Customize Time Zones
In the days of remote work, it’s not uncommon for companies to have teams distributed across multiple time zones. By adding additional time zones to Google Calendar, you can schedule that next meeting at a time that works for everyone. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner, then click Settings. Click Time zone on the left sidebar, then check the box that says Display secondary time zone. Click the drop-down menu and select the time zone you need. Once finished, that time zone will show up on your calendar view next to local time.
9. Edit Multiple Days at Once
Sometimes you only need to view a few days of your calendar at a time. That's why Google Calendar has built-in Day, Week, Month, Year, Schedule, and 6 Days views available from the drop-down menu at the top of the screen. Mobile users can open the hamburger men to choose from Schedule, Day, 3 days, Week, and Month view.
If you need to edit or view a different selection of days—say, Wednesday through Saturday—you can do that from the web app. Click on the first day in the small calendar in the left-hand sidebar, then drag the cursor over the days you need. This will change your large calendar view to show just those days.
10. Customize Your Colors and Background
Google Calendar does provide color options for coding events and tasks, but you may want more than the defaults. Luckily, there are multiple Chrome extensions that let you easily add new colors to Google Calendar, and even set a background image for your main view. The More Colors For Calendar! extension lets you add new colors by hex value and save them for later use. And you can add a custom background with the Custom Calendar Background extension.
11. Advanced Calendar Search
Need to edit an event, but don’t remember exactly when it’s supposed to happen? Click the magnifying glass at the top of the screen (or just hit the / key) to conduct a quick calendar search. If you want to get super-specific, click the little drop-down arrow in the search bar for more advanced options that let you search by criteria like event participants, location, and date, in addition to your keywords.
12. Get Access to Your Calendar Offline
If you’re travelling a lot and know you won’t always have the best internet coverage, you may want to enable offline access to Google Calendar. Click the gear icon and choose Settings > Offline, then check the box next to Turn on offline calendar. Google then then informs you to reload the page. For more information, check out Google's step-by-step guide of the process. One caveat: you’ll be able to access and modify your calendar even when you don't have an internet connection, but it won’t update across your other devices until you’re back online.
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