Use Google Calendar to organize your life

I admit that I’m not the greatest at time management; considering that I often find myself “distracted by shiny objects” – usually at the worst time, but one thing that I’ve always loved using are online calendars. In fact, I started to use a computer-based calendar back around 2000, using Microsoft Outlook to list the various activities that I was in.

Even when I was in college, I’d kept using Outlook to keep track of where I was and what I was going to be doing during the day. I even had a Palm Pilot (which disappeared one day on me, unfortunately) where I’d sync the contents of my Outlook calendar with the organizer. However, I went away from using Outlook’s calendar when I left college and fell into the routine workday habit.

Now, I’ve rediscovered using calendars, and have started to use Google’s calendar, aptly named Google Calendar. If you haven’t used it before, there isn’t a lot to learn to get to use it like a pro. You can have your own private calendar, make a calendar that you can share with your friends, have any variety of public calendars listed, and even make a public calendar for yourself.

Obviously, when you start to use it, you will be asked to give some basic information – your name (just put in whatever you want; it’s what’s used for the name of your main calendar), location, and timezone (if you want to use a timezone without changing your country, simply check the display all timezones box). Click Continue to proceed.

The first thing that you will see is this week’s calendar, with each day split into its 24 hours. You have a variety of views that you can choose from – Today, This Week, This Month, the Next x Days (you can change this in the settings), and the Agenda. At the left, you have this month’s calendar laid out for you to have a glance at – if you have an event on a certain day, it will be marked in bold. However, since we’ve not made any events (in this calendar, at least), you won’t see any dates in bold.

Creating events couldn’t be any easier than Google have made it – to make an all day event, simply click in the gray bar below the date, or if you are in month view, click on that day. When you’re in Day, Week or Next x Days mode, you can also click and drag to make an event that has a set time. Just as an example, I’m going to make an event for Tuesday 9th October from 6.30-10.30AM. I simply click and drag from 6.30 to 10.30, and up pops up this little bubble -

If you want to add details to the event right away, you can simply click edit event details ยป and you can add information about the item like location, a description, and have control over the guest list; however, more on that later. When you make an event in the calendar view, if you words such as “at” or “in”, the calendar will recognize the next portion of your entry as the location. Since I’m not creative in any sort, I’m just going to use Google’s example of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and click Create Event to book the event, which makes it pop up in the calendar, like this -

Has the event changed dates or times? All you need to do is, instead of manually changing the date and time, just drag the box to the new time, or if the event got longer or shorter, just drag the bottom of the event’s box up or down to change the length of the event.

Calendar Settings

There are a number of settings you can change with regards to your calendar. From the front page, you can change the color of the calendar’s display, and have access to the full settings for that calendar. All you have to do is click the little down-arrow next to your calendar’s name, which brings up this menu -

In the Calendar Settings page, you can change a number of settings for your calendar, including making a description, changing its name, setting a location and customizing the timezone. At the bottom are two sets of addresses which you can use in order to view your calendar in another program that accepts xml or ical calendars, or view your calendar in html.

The other page I will cover right here is the Notifications page. Here you can adjust the settings for how you want to be notified about events, or remove default reminders. You can also set notifications for invitations you send or receive, and if you wish to be notified on your mobile, have the notifications sent directly to you. It’s all fairly straightforward, and here is what it looks like -

There are also the overall settings that you can change by clicking on the Settings link in the upper right. Here, you have options to change the look of your calendars, set the formats of times, dates, and the week. There are a couple of interesting items on this page – first is the Location field – that doesn’t set your location in your calendar, but allows you to view the weather for your area. This is only available if you are in the US.

The Calendars tab allows you to change calendars that you have, and calendars that you are viewing, along with being able to add public calendars to your view. The Mobile Setup tab is where you can input your phone details if you wish to have notifications sent to you via SMS; normal rates apply. Click here for a list of supported carriers.

Sharing Calendars

If you want to share your calendar with a friend, it’s down right simple. All you have to is click on Share this Calendar in the drop down on the front page, which takes you to the Share this calendar page.

All you have to do to share the calendar with a friend is put in their email address under person, set their permission and then Add them. They’ll receive an email inviting them to add your calendar to theirs. Here you can also set the public sharing options. If you share your calendar publicly, then it can be searched out by all people and visible by anyone out there.

Adding Public Calendars

While sharing your calendar might be an unwise move, there are a lot of useful calendars that you can add to your calendar for reminders of TV Shows, Holidays, sport schedules, just search for it and you’ll likely find it. Google have put together a list of some of the most common calendars, and you can access them by clicking on the Add link on the left hand side and clicking on Add a public calendar, which brings up the “top pick” calendars:

Of course, there are quicker ways to do things than just clicking. ;)

Keyboard Shortcuts

Like most Google products, calendar has its own set of keyboard shortcuts that make the service easier to navigate. Here is a handy table for you cut out and keep (note that there is no help key to make a list appear)

Key Function
c Create Event
q Quick Add
d Daily View
w Weekly View
m Monthy View
x Custom View
a Agenda View
p or j Go to Previous Timeframe
n or k Go to Next Timeframe
t Go to Today (in current view)
s Calendar Settings
/ Search

Alternatives

If you’re not one for Google knowing your agenda, would like to have your calendar available offline (through Google’s syncing options), or prefer to simply do all of your calendar management offline, there are a couple of programs that you can use for your calendar.

The first one is the one I mentioned at the start – Microsoft Outlook. I’ll only recommend this option if you already have Office installed on your system; there’s no point in buying the full suite of applications when you only want to use a portion of the functionality that is available to you. Also, Outlook is definitely harder to use than Google Calendar.

If you would like to use your Google Calendar both online and offline, you can pick up a free piece of software from SourceForge called GCALDaemon. Download it here (you will have to have the Java Runtime Environment installed). The folks at Lifehacker have also put together a how-to for the software.

Another option available for both Windows and Linux users is Rainlendar – it is a simple calendar that sits on your desktop, always available for you. They also have a pro version which includes support for Google Calendar. You can find out more information about the product here.

The last option is for those of us who like using Mozilla products like Firefox and Thunderbird – Sunbird & Lightning. If you already use Thunderbird, you can download the Lightning Add-on (or extension) and integrate all the features of Sunbird into Thunderbird. If you don’t have Thunderbird or your Thunderbird is already pretty chock-a-block with extensions and accounts, there is Sunbird, which is a standalone program.

Like the two previous options, you can integrate your Google Calendar into the program through the use of another extension called Google Calendar Provider. Click here for more information on these options.

Further Reading
In the companion post to this, Snoskred will talk about time management and she has some great tips that you really should follow. :)

Her post should be up sometime in the next few hours; I’ll have a link to it when it’s up.

It is now up. You can read her tips on Time Management – Tuesday Think Tank

Tips and Tricks for Google Calendar
Rock Your Google Reader in 18 Ways
Stopdesign | Google Calendar tips
Geek to Live: Black belt scheduling with Google Calendar

Previously in the Tuesday Think Tank
21st August: RSS
14 Reasons Readers Unsubscribe From Your Blog
Tuesday Think Tank: All About RSS

28th August: Blog Templates
Blog Design – Open Your Eyes.
Demystifying Blogger Template Editing

4th September: Nofollow
Spam, Spiders And Do Follow, Oh My!
Say No! to Nofollow

11th September: Site Meters
Do NOT Rely On Your Site Meter.
Track Your Visitors with Google Analytics

18th September: Technorati
Technorati – Sending Out An SOS
The Ups (and Downs) of Technorati

25th September: Google Reader
Google Reader Can Make Your Life Easier – Here’s How.
Improving your Google Reader Experience

2nd October: HTML
Basic HTML for Bloggers.
Some HTML Tips & Tricks

Over to you
Do you use a computer-based calendar for your organization? If so, which one do you use?

Also, do you have some tips that would make using any of these calendars easier?

Of course, if you have something that you’d like for Snoskred and myself to discuss, we are definitely open for suggestions. You can leave a comment or send an email to me, or contact Snos via her contact page

If you’ve liked what you’ve read, you can stumble the post using your toolbar or the link below.

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3 Comments

  1. Christoffa said,

    October 10, 2007 @ 7.54 am

    You can get your calendar on your PDA/phone for free using http://www.goosync.com

    Try it out
    Chris(GooSync)

  2. Sephyroth said,

    October 11, 2007 @ 11.46 am

    Chris – Thanks for stopping by and mentioning your product. It certainly looks interesting. :)

  3. This was the Week that Was, Vol. 18 | Sephy's Platzish said,

    October 22, 2007 @ 3.33 pm

    [...] – how to use google calendar – sign up there and then read my post on it most haunted live eastern time – sometime on last Friday; I saw it while flipping channels.. google [...]

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