What to know about using Google Calendar’s Time Insights feature
Look into the past and the future.
In today’s data-heavy world, there seems to be no shortage of tools that collect and display information about our lives, ripe for whatever level of analysis you’d like. Google Calendar is no different, with an easy-to-miss feature called Time Insights.
Introduced at the end of August, this analytical tool rests within the left-hand sidebar when viewing GCal on a computer—you won’t see it in the app. It takes up a mere five lines (one if you’ve somehow minimized it), so it’s possible to overlook if you’re not constantly poring over your schedule or only work out of the Android or iOS app. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, understanding how it works may help you better structure your day.
How to see and use Time Insights
When not minimized, Time Insights displays the same chunk of time visible on the main calendar page (perhaps a day, week, month, or year), how much of that is filled by meetings, and how that compares to your average total meeting time across the three previous equivalent periods. For example, if you’re looking at the week of Dec. 19 to 25, it may say you have five hours of scheduled meetings after averaging 1.9 hours over the past three weeks.
Google also displays this information with a multi-colored bar that’s divided into chunks for “focus time,” meetings, and meetings you have yet to respond to. Hover your cursor over the graphic and you’ll see the total and average times for each category.
From there, you can click More insights to view, well, more time insights. If you’ve minimized the tool, you can click the More insights icon (a rising line graph festooned with sparkles). Doing so will bring up a new sidebar on the right side of your screen. Only you and anyone who can edit your calendar can see this information.
The prime feature here is the time breakdown ring, which is broken into separate colors for focus time, one-on-ones, meetings with three or more guests, requests you haven’t responded to, and—if enabled—how many remaining work hours you have in the day, week, or whatever time period you’re looking at.
Hover your cursor over a color and it’ll dim all events on your calendar except ones that match the type you’re on, putting a shadow under those so you can see them easier among everything else on your calendar.
The top entry on this ring is Focus time, a feature Google introduced in late October. The company said in a blog post that it hopes this will help people schedule time for individual work, and it will show up alongside the standard “out of office” and “event” tags when you create a calendar entry. Focus time is only available for people with work or school Google accounts.
To set it up from Time Insights, click Schedule focus time. This will bring up a standard calendar event dialog box, where you can customize the entry’s name, time, color, and other attributes. To truly focus, check the box next to Automatically decline meetings.
To include all your working hours on the time breakdown ring, click either Set working hours or Adjust working hours, depending on if you’ve enabled this function or not. This will take you to the main Calendar settings page, where you’ll need to find the Working hours & location heading and make sure you’ve checked the box next to Enable working hours. You can then enter or adjust your working hours. If you have these set and someone tries to schedule a meeting with you outside of your workday, Google will let them know you’re unavailable.
Time in meetings
Under the time breakdown ring, there’s a Time in meetings heading. This shows you which day you tend to have the most meetings, your daily average of time spent in meetings over the past three weeks, and colored bars detailing your current calendar view, the next time period of the same length, and the two prior equivalent chunks of time. These have separate colors for recurring and one-time meetings, and if you hover your cursor over a block you’re currently in, GCal will highlight all meetings of that type.
People you meet with
The last heading on the Time Insights sidebar is People you meet with. This shows who you have the most meetings with in the selected time period, and you can pin up to 10 people to always see your shared meeting time. You’ll also see colored bars that indicate whether these meetings are one-on-one or in a group of up to 15 people—mouse over them to highlight them on the main calendar. If you don’t have a meeting with a pinned person within the chosen time period, this section will also tell you when your next meeting with them is.