Using Google Calendar to Make Your New Year Brightly Organized, Part 1

Google Calendar is easy to use, free and portable across devices.

But it is capable of so much more than putting in annual birthdays and repeating appointments. There are some basic features that many people don’t know about or don’t know how to utilize. I will cover those basics in this post and also tell you how I use them beyond the normal functionality where applicable.

Did you know that you can make multiple calendars that fall underneath your calendar? For my work email that I created under Gmail, by default, Google puts in the following typical calendars: one for the e-mail account (in this case GelPress Marketing). A Birthday Calendar and a Reminders calendar.

Many people have NO IDEA how to utilize just those defaults! Let’s dive in!

My calendars

First things first – you can change the overall color of these sub-calendars to something that helps you identify them better.

  1. Mouse over the calendar whose color you want to change and click the arrow next to its name Down arrow.
  2. A color picker will appear to the right at the bottom of the menu box.
  3. Select a color and all entries in that calendar will default to that color on your calendar.

To see/hide those entries from your calendar, click on the colored box next to the name of the calendar. It will ‘grey out’ when they are hidden from view; and show their color when they are shown.

Birthdays

This feature is automated. It is derived automatically from your Google Contacts and also from Google+. If you want to add a birthday or delete it from your calendar, you must edit the contact entry to do so. This can be useful, because your Contacts database has their physical and email address listed in it – so it makes sense to keep that information all in one place.

Other Calendars

  1. On the left, click the arrow next to Other calendars Down arrow.
  2. Select Browse Interesting Calendars.
  3. To find and add your favorite sports team, click Sports.
  4. You can choose your sport, team, etc. and with the skill above, change the color to reflect your team as well.

And of course add the NCAAB Kansas Jayhawks to your subscribed list, with that lovely royal blue color…

Look through all those interesting calendar choices! You can add the weather, the phases of the moon, the day of the year, etc. So many customizations are available.

Search Features

Being Google-centric, of course the calendar is searchable! But if you take a lesson from Twitter and Instagram you can make it even more useful by using HASHTAGS in the descriptive fields. What is a hashtag? It’s any word, or phase, without spaces that is preceded by a # sign.

The search function turns your calendar into a database. Using hashtags in your calendar’s entries helps in searching and tracking specific items over time. You can use a unique hashtag for each project you work on, or for each schedule that you manage, or just for categorizing. Then you can search and have an at-a-glance view of everything you do that corresponds with that hashtag.

#birthdaycake will bring up entries ONLY that contain the hashtag and birthdaycake – so if you were working on a birthday party, you could search and find all the tasks, calendar entries, etc. that have to do with that cake, in a moment’s time! It won’t just find the word birthday or cake – if we were searching for that, we would get every single birthday entry in your calendar – or things that don’t have to do with the cake. Give it a try – the search feature is of course, very powerful. Hashtags are the key to making it more useful.

Reminders and Tasks

You can only see Reminders OR Tasks at one time – so you have to decide which type of functionality works best for you. I don’t know why they break it up – but I don’t want to have to set a task to look at my Reminders. But you may find one or the other more useful so let’s review and see how to get the most out of these features.

Reminders

Reminders are useful because they carry over to the next day until you mark them as done. Pesky little things. But helpful! I’ve often seen people setup a calendar entry to repeat every day – but that really clutters up your calendar.  Instead, use Reminders!

To create a reminder, click on any open day and select Reminder as the entry type. Add your entry and it shows up on the calendar with a little reminder icon next to the entry. You can set them to all day, which puts it at the top of your daily list; or put a time on them, for things like school bus arrivals, etc.

Tasks

When you switch to the Task view, a window appears on the right-hand side of your screen. You can add tasks – which are much more information-rich than a Reminder.

Tasks have due dates, for sorting. Can be put into lists, for categorization, using the tool box at the bottom-right of the screen:

And most of all, they have that handy, searchable Notes field! Don’t forget your hashtags!

And even though the little area that Google gives them to the right of the screen is pretty tiny – you can open a window SPECIFIC to tasks, (mail.google.com/tasks/canvas) to get more functionality out of this feature set. I highly recommend it as it is a way of getting around the either/or functionality of Reminders vs. Tasks.

Calendar Entries

There is so much goodness here. Let’s dive into this screen. Most of this is intuitive, but I will cover the things that aren’t obvious or as well-known for their usefulness.

Time zone: you can set the time zone for your entry. Helpful if you are on a business trip in California trying to setup a dentist appointment in Connecticut. (and kind of important too). But it is also useful for less obvious things like traveling. I put the date and time my flight is leaving in one time zone and the date/time it is arriving in the destination time zone. Click on Time zone and you can choose your country and time zone(s) for an entry.

Where: Putting a full address in this field makes it useable for Apps like WAZE and Google Maps.

Calendar: This drop down list will show all the sub-calendars you’ve created so you can put this entry exactly where you want it to be.

Description: Did I mention hashtags enough yet? These go HERE. This is search-city. You can put everything text-based into this field and search on it. Just think of the possibilities. For this entry, maybe the ticketing website, the location website, phone number and the ticket confirmation numbers could be added. Go wild with this field!

Event color: I color-code each family member differently. Sometimes I end up using a RED YELLOW GREEN (think stoplight) for making entries stick out as needed.

P.S.: I recommend, for ease of use, to get your family members on board with a free email account from Google (gmail.com). We will cover calendar sharing in a future article, but that is good homework for the next article.

It’s never too late to get organized, but the New Year always makes it seem like a good time to start. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope you will find it very useful!

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