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7 Ways to Upgrade Your Google Calendar: quick, simple adjustments that will help keep you organized

I’m a firm believer that we all need four core systems to organize all apects of our life: A Project Management System (I use Microsoft To-Do), a Research Management System (I use Google Docs), an Execution Management System (I use The Daily Page) and last — a Schedule Management System. And for that, I have always used Google Calendar. I’m a bit of a fangirl and love learning new ways to make it even better. Below are seven ways I’ve upgraded my Google Calendar to optimize it for my life + work. Enjoy!

Use Shortcut Keys

I find GoogleCal to be very user-friendly, but knowing just a few keyboard shortcuts can take it to the next level. The ones I use most often are listed below, but you can go here for a complete list. All you need to do is tap the identified key while in GoogleCal.

D – Day View
W – Weekly View
M – Monthly View
A –  Agenda View
C – Create New Event
E – View Event Details
T – View Current Day
G – Jump to a Specific Date

Turn on Week Numbers

I’m an American living in Denmark, and my work is semi-focused on publishing. Therefore, week numbers are part of my life and work. I also love how they help organize the year and kind of offer a new perspective on how quickly 52 weeks pass by. You can make them visible in your Google Calendar, so they display to the far left of each weekly row. Just go to Settings > Scroll down to View Options > Check the box for ‘Show Week Numbers.’

Add Additional Time Zones + World Clock

If your work (or life!) requires you to be aware of multiple time zones, it can be really helpful to have them displayed in Google Calendar. Even if you don’t live internationally, just being aware of the time zones your customers or audience reside in can be handy. There are two different ways to add various time zones in Google Calendar, World Clock and Time Zones. The first step is understanding the difference! This image shows you how they display differently in GoogleCal:

World Clock: You can add various time zones under Settings > World Clock, and these will display on the left side panel when you are in your Calendar. This is great for seeing the time(s) at a glance throughout the day.

Time Zones: You can add various time zones under Settings > Time Zones,  and that will create labeled columns of “time” options when you are creating an event. So if you schedule an event at 12:00 PM CET, you’ll also be able to see that it will be 7:00 PM CST when you are creating the event. I find this side-by-side view really helpful when planning my day. Pro tip: you can control how these columns are labeled at the top. So while I have countries (US/DK) if your team members or family is spread out across time zones, you could customize these to their names.)

Utilize Calendar Layers + Color-Code Them

If you are crowding every aspect of your life onto one calendar, you are using Google Calendar all wrong.

However, I think some “experts” over-prescribe the use of Calendars in a way that can reduce functionality and make your life confusing.

I recommend having one “primary calendar” where the bulk of your events and information lives. This will help make the most of other GoogleCal features (like daily agenda) and reduce the risk of things falling through the cracks or not receiving notifications/events. It also streamlines things if you need to integrate with tools like Zoom or Calendly.

I think of secondary calendars as “layers” that can be overlaid onto your main calendar so that you can more easily see your availability or how your time is being used. For example, in the screenshot below, I’ve created a calendar called “Open Gym,” on which I’ve created recurring events for the hours of the local gym in my neighborhood (Mondays, 9-1, Wednesdays 2-5, Fridays 9-1 PM) and assigned it a unique color. By toggling this “Open Gym” calendar on, I can create an overlay with my other calendars and am able to easily see when I’d be available to attend Open Gym.

To add custom colors to your various calendar “layers,” hover over the calendar name > click on the three dots to the right > choose one of the available colors or click the + to add your own Hex Code. I like to use my brand colors so that my calendar feels more cohesive and organized.

Utilize a Shared Calendar

Having a calendar shared with another person (or persons) can make it much easier to organize anything from childcare to your social life, business, or fitness plans. My partner and I have a shared calendar (we call it “Family”) that we can both view/edit, but we also have “viewing” access to each other’s main calendars. That way, it’s easy for either of us to see our joint availability and make plans for dinner, travel, or date nights.

To share your calendar with someone, hover over the calendar name in the left sidebar > click the three dots that appear to the right > choose Settings and Sharing > Under Share with People or Groups, add the person you’d like to share it with using their email. You can then adjust their permissions using the drop box that appears to the right of their name (as shown above).

In my examples, I’d add my partner to my “Family” calendar (our shared calendar) and give him permission to Make Changes and Manage Sharing. But for my “Dani Bruflodt” calendar (my primary calendar) I’d give him permission to See all event details. That way, he’s able to see my availability but can’t actually add or change anything on my calendar — but has full control to add/edit events on our shared “Family” calendar.

Receive a Daily Agenda Email

Imagine waking up and having a nice little email waiting in your inbox that quickly briefs you on your schedule for the day. Sounds like a dream-personal-assistant situation, right? But you can actually do this through Google Calendar by opting into a Daily Agenda Email that arrives in your inbox at 5 AM sharp each morning. You’ll need to turn it on for each calendar by hovering over the calendar name > clicking on Settings and Sharing > Scroll down to Other Notifications and selecting “email” from the dropdown.

Add Emojis to Your Events

I like to keep my calendar pretty clean, but I do love adding a little pizzazz to fun recurring events or holidays with Emojis. For example, on Tuesday, we make a new cocktail and watch a pre-selected list of TedTalks. We call this TedTalks Tuesday, and I have it set as a recurring weekly event on our Family Calendar. The screenshot below shows a few events where I’ve added emojis to help them stand out on my calendar.

If you aren’t sure how to add Emojis on your desktop computer, try using this little cheat sheet:

Bonus Tip: Use Your Calendar for Time-Specific Obligations Only

The biggest mistake I see people make is using their calendar as a “catch-all” for everything from to-do lists to their thesis research. Through my group and one-on-one consulting, I’ve seen individuals that are truly trying to make miracles happen with GoogleCal. This is a Schedule Management System, folks. It is not meant to organize every aspect of your life.

Do yourself a giant favor and start using your calendar for time-specific events only. That means if it doesn’t have a clearly identifiable deadline or scheduled time, it probably belongs in another system and not on your calendar.

Need help establishing a framework for stronger systems? Join me for my group course, Thyme Transformation, where I’ll break down the four key systems that will organize every aspect of your life. The next session starts soon! You can learn more here.

7 Ways to Upgrade Your Google Calendar

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  1. Marta Musolf says:

    I have 2 work Outlook calendars and one Google Calendar. The work calendars don’t sync with my iPhone so I have been inputing all appts separately into my Google Calendar as it syncs up to my iPhone; which is always with me.
    I would LOVE to color code appts…genius. Is there a way to get my iCal to reflect the color coding from Google Calendar? Or isn’t that a thing? 🙂

    • Dani Bruflodt says:

      Not sure if this was accidental — but based on your comment, you are utilizing three different calendars. Outlook (Microsoft), Google Cal (Google), and iCal (Apple). I’d definitely start by streamlining those, which should make it easier to sync up the color coding. If you are using Outlook for work, I’d recommend syncing those with your primary Google Calendar and then adding the Google Calendar app to your iPhone instead of using iCal. That way, you can remove one service and reduce the risk of error.

      This is what I do, and I actually removed/buried iCal and never use it.

      Then you can control color-coding within Google Calendar (which I assume you use as your primary), and it will be reflected on the mobile app.

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