Show me an organization filled with people that manage their calendars effectively, and I'll show you a successful enterprise.
Your calendar contains your commitments. Each event represents a commitment to do a specific task, at a specific time — often in a specific place. Manage your calendar effectively, and you'll become known for keeping your commitments.
A business meeting on a calendar represents a commitment of two or more people to discuss, decide, then act. At effective organizations, people focus on substantial issues for discussion, decision, and action during meetings. A meeting on your calendar should represent a commitment to engage fully in the exercise.
You may already know some Google Calendar basics: how to create a calendar event, how to share your calendar with other people, or how to sync your Google Calendar with your mobile devices (or legacy installed apps).
Google continues to add and improve Google Calendar features. It's easier than ever to create calendar items, add meeting support details, and meet online. Follow the six tips below to manage your Google Calendar more efficiently.
1. Create an event
...With your voice
You can create a Google Calendar event by speaking. In Google's search app or the Chrome browser on any platform, tap (or click) the microphone icon, then say:
"Create a meeting Thursday at 2 pm with Sarah."
Variations of the phrase may also work: "Create a calendar event," "Schedule a meeting," etc.
A draft of the calendar item will appear at the top of your search results. Select Create event — or, in some cases, Create in Calendar. Then edit the event details, if needed. (Learn more about other Voice Action commands.)
...From an email
You may also create a new calendar event from Gmail in your browser. This is especially handy when the email contains event details. While viewing the email, select the More drop-down menu, and then choose Create event (Figure A).
A new calendar event will opens. The event name is drawn from the email's subject, and the event description is filled with the email's content.
Create new Google Calendar events with your voice or from Gmail.
2. Add location
Add location details to make it easier to navigate to meetings. This can be especially helpful if you've invited guests. Auto-complete makes this easy: start typing and Google will suggest locations. As of February 2014, this works on the desktop and the Android Google Calendar app.
Once you've added an address, a map to the location is just a tap (or click) away. On the desktop, open the event, then select Map to open the location on a Google Map. On Android, open the event, then tap the address to open the location in your default map app.
Google's Waze navigation app can access Calendar information, as well. Upcoming calendar events will display in the list of options when you tap Navigate in Waze (Figure B). This feature currently works in Android and is expected soon for iOS. (To enable this feature on Android: open Waze, tap the Waze icon in the lower left corner, tap the sprocket to open Settings, tap Advanced, then select the slider to Allow access to calendar.)
Add an address for efficient navigation.
3. Invite people
If your organization uses Google Apps, stop sending emails to schedule meetings; send a calendar invitation instead. When someone accepts a calendar invitation, the event automatically gets added to their Google Calendar. This saves them the step of adding the event manually.
Open the calendar event to edit details, then add the email addresses of invitees. You can add individuals or invite all members of a Google Group (e.g., email@example.com). Thanks to a recent update, events will automatically update as Google Group membership changes.
4. Share meeting materials
If you have a desktop or laptop, you can attach support documents to a meeting, but you'll need to enable a Google Labs feature first. (To do this: Open Google Calendar in your desktop browser. Click the Sprocket in the upper right corner, choose Labs, then select the checkbox next to the Event attachments feature.)
When enabled, you can attach files to calendar events. Invitees will receive a link to native Google Drive files (i.e., Docs, Sheets, and Slides) and will receive other files as attachments (e.g., PDFs).
Important: As of February 2014, this feature has limited use on mobile devices. Recipients can access the files only from a link in the invitation email. The attachments aren't visible to either the event creator or invitees in mobile Calendar apps.
5. Meet online
Another option for desktops and laptops is to Add video call to a calendar event. When your meeting starts, click on the link to join a Google+ Hangout with other meeting invitees. Of course, you'll need a Hangouts-enabled Google+ account. Use this feature to make sure people can participate in meetings (Figure C), even when they're not in the room!
Invite guests, add attachments, and meet online.
6. New committee? New (shared) calendar.
If you have a new committee, consider creating a new shared calendar for the group. A shared calendar lets team members schedule meetings, coordinate activities, and track deadlines from any connected device.
To create a new shared calendar, open Google Calendar on your desktop/laptop. Then, click the small triangle to the right of My Calendar. Choose Create new calendar, name the calendar, and choose your sharing options (Figure D).
And, if you also create a Google Group for the committee, you'll have a single group email address. Share documents, email updates, and invite the group to calendar events with that address. See my earlier post, "How to send email to groups efficiently with Google Groups," for details.
A shared calendar may be the only project management tool a committee needs.
Manage your calendar to manage commitments
Google's improvements to Calendar make it much easier to create, locate, and conduct meetings. The tips above should help you use your Google Calendar more efficiently.
However, you still have to decide which events go on your calendar. You — and the people you work with — must choose to manage your calendars effectively. How do you make the best use of your calendars? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.