Whether it’s on the web, on Android, or on iOS, Google Calendar has become indispensable to many of us. A lot of that is down to the clean, intuitive user interface that Google’s put together over the years, but if you dig a little deeper under the surface, you’ll find some very useful features to take advantage of. Here we’ll guide you straight to them.
1. Adapt to new time zones
If you spend a lot of time traveling, then you already know that Google Calendar doesn’t adjust scheduled events based on time zones—unless you ask it to. So, a meeting scheduled for 2 PM at home still appears as “2 PM” if you move to the other side of the world.
That might be the way you prefer it. But you can also have Google Calendar’s times adjust themselves as you move around the planet, so that 2 PM meeting at home will appear in your calendar at 4 PM when you’re two time zones away. This can be helpful if, for example, you need to remember an important phone call between you and someone in another time zone, or you want to keep track of an event at home as it occurs. The feature also tracks the time zone you were in when you created that event, so a new appointment will appear at the correct time when you return to your local time zone.
The option to switch is available in the Google Calendar apps for both iOS and Android. Open Settings, tap General, then switch on the option labeled Use device’s time zone.
2. Check your schedule from the Google search bar
You don’t need to visit the Google Calendar site to call up your schedule and even create new events. You can do it from the Google homepage, as long as you’re signed in with the correct Google account. All these commands work in the search box on Android too.
Try typing, “Show my schedule” into Google to see the appointments and events you’ve got coming up, for instance. A query along the lines of, “When’s my next dentist appointment?” works too.
You can also write, “Create a meeting with Dan at 2pm tomorrow,” to do just that. In the case of events you’re creating, you’ll get the option to confirm these details before they’re added.
Other commands you can type into the Google search box include “my flights,” “my trips,” and “my events,” though the data for these is usually pulled from the contents of your Gmail inbox rather than Google Calendar.
Don’t panic: Because you need to be signed into your Google account to access this feature, no one else can sneak a look at your agenda. That said, you might want to think twice about staying signed into Google on computers you share with other people.
3. Set goals
Google recently added the option to set goals as well as events in the Calendar mobile app. This will let the calendar send you recurring reminders to do an activity. Tap the big red Add button, pick Goal, and it will take you through the process of setting one up.
You get to choose the type of goal, the frequency, and a time for it. A goal could help you exercise regularly, or establish a good habit, or spend time learning a new language. It could even be about making some “me time” for yourself or carving out time to hang out with friends and family.
The smart part is, you suggest a time of day (like morning or evening), and Google Calendar will find free slots in your schedule. As you tick off or miss sessions, Calendar will adjust the timing to give you a better chance of completing your sessions.
4. Add Gmail events
It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that Google makes an awful lot of apps—and as a result, knows a lot about you. That includes places you’re going and meetings you’re attending based on the messages in your Gmail inbox.
You can, if you want, have these events piped into your Google Calendar automatically. Open up the Settings page for Google Calendar on iOS or Android, tap Events from Gmail, and switch on the option. Then emails about flight bookings, restaurant reservations, and so on will automatically get added to your mail calendar.
This feature won’t suit everyone, but it does mean less time manually entering all of the fun (or not-so-fun) stuff you’re up to. Any of the imported events can be edited and deleted just like standard entries in your calendar.
5. Pick meeting times that work for everyone
If you’re struggling to find time to catch up with someone, or need to choose a meeting time when several work colleagues will be available, then Google Calendar can help. Create an event inside Google Calendar on the web, add one or more guests, and then open the Find a time tab or click the link labelled Suggested times. You can find free slots across everyone’s agenda yourself, or have Google Calendar identify some for you.
This trick does rely on all your event guests having Google Calendar and keeping it updated. But if they do, and their calendars are shared with you, this feature can save you a lot of back-and-forth emailing.
A similar Find a time option appears when you create an event with multiple guests inside the Calendar app for Android. In this case, you need to have a Google account registered with your school or business. If you do, then again, it’s a real time-saver.