Your watch shakes, your phone alarm rings, and your browser displays an alert. All of this to remind you of the next appointment on your Google Calendar. But reminders are only useful if they occur at the correct time. For that to happen, the time zone settings need to be correct on both your device and your Google Calendar.
Your phone receives date-and-time signals from your carrier's network, so your phone's date and time is likely to be very accurate. (Not sure? Check the date-and-time settings for your Android or iOS device.) WiFi-only devices, such as many Mac, Windows, and Chrome OS devices, often depend on system settings. Check your Google Calendar time zone, too.
If all of your meetings take place with people in a single time zone, you're set. But if you work with people around the world and travel, scheduling becomes more complicated. Here are six tips for working with multiple time zones in Google Calendar.
1. Show two time zones
You're in one time zone but work closely with people in another time zone. Google Calendar can show the time in both time zones, side-by-side, in your browser (Figure A).
Go to your Google Calendar in your browser, select the sprocket in the upper right, then click Settings and adjust the settings under "Your current time zone."
Display two time-zones, side-by-side, in your browser.
2. Show the current time in multiple time zones
If you work with people in multiple time zones, you can see the current time for multiple places with the help of a World Clock. The clock displays in your browser to the right of your Google Calendar (Figure B).
Go to your Google Calendar in your browser, select the sprocket in the upper right, then click Labs. Enable the World Clock lab, then select Save. Follow the Settings link below the World Clock to select the time zones to display. (Google Apps users: if you don't see Labs, check with your Administrator.)
Show the current time for places around the world next to Google Calendar on the web.
3. Create a new calendar for a different time zone
If you regularly move between offices to work for extended periods, you can create a Google Calendar for each office. Since you can display multiple calendars, you can see your entire schedule at once, with activity in each office on a dedicated calendar. Each Google Calendar you create can be assigned to a time zone of your choosing (Figure C).
Choose a time zone for each Google Calendar you create.
4. Create a multi-time zone event
When you fly from Kansas City to Detroit, your flight starts in one time zone and ends in another. You can enter the flight departure and arrival times correctly for each time zone from Google Calendar in your browser (Figure D).
Create a new Google Calendar event, then select the "Time zone" link to the right of the event end time. Check the "Use separate start and end time zones" box, then choose the time zones. Finally, enter the start and end times.
Schedule a multi-time zone event, such as a flight, from your browser.
5. Add an event with your voice
If you use Google Now and talk to your phone, you can use your voice to create a new appointment (Figure E). For example, say "Ok, Google, add a meeting on Thursday at 8 am." The meeting will be placed on your main calendar. (As of April 2015, Google Now doesn't yet understand time zones; events are created in the time zone of your primary calendar.) You may refer to 24-hour clock times, such as 16:00 for 4 pm and 22:00 for 10 pm, which Google understands and converts to reflect your clock settings.
Speak to create an event on your primary calendar with Google Now.
6. Schedule an event for a different time zone on your phone
If you travel, you can schedule an event for the correct time in another time zone from your phone. That way, when you move to another time zone, events in that time zone will display at the proper time (Figure F).
Install the Google Calendar app for Android or iOS and connect it to your Calendar account. When you create a new event, tap "more options," which appears just below the event end time. Next, tap the time zone that displays, and add the time zone where your event occurs.
Add a time zone to an event from the Google Calendar app on Android or Apple devices.
Each of the above Google Calendar tools helps coordinate your schedule and manage travel as you move between time zones. Use the settings properly, and your events will display at the correct time, regardless of your location. Ignore the settings, and you might miss a meeting. Google can't help with that.... yet. Google Calendar helps you manage time zone challenges, not time travel.
How do you manage multiple time zones? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
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Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.