Getting Things Done with Google Calendar

It’s 2010 and it’s time to get things done! Okay, 2010 or not, many of us are always looking for a better way to manage our tasks, events and goals. The truth of task management is that there’s no single best way to tackle it for everyone. It will depend on your style of management, your interaction preferences and how the solution integrates into your current workflow.

Personally I couldn’t seem to stick with any Get Things Done (GTD) or task management apps, until I remembered I hadn’t really given Google Calendar a fair shake. After getting it setup and familiarizing myself with it, it was a solution that actually worked for me and I’ve stuck with it. It’s free, it’s flexible and it integrates well with my current workflow.

Today I’ll go through using Google Calendar to manage your schedule and get things done.

Getting Started

If you use any of Google’s services, you’re probably aware of the multitude of additional services they offer — for free. One of the more popular ones, is Google Calendar (GC). Assuming you already have a Gmail account (or use Google Apps), you’re already ready to get started using GC. If not, you’ll need to sign up for a Gmail account (or Google Apps) first.

I should point out that, for professionals or those that use Google Apps, Google Calendar has spot on integration with the rest of the Google Apps suite. Checkout our how-to on setting up your personalized Google Apps suite.

Once you’re signed into Gmail or Google Apps mail, click “Calendar” in the top left corner of the page.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar

Viewing

By default, the calendar will be in Week view, highlighting the current day in yellow and the current time with a small red arrow at the far left (near the column of times) and a small red bar within the current day column.

Week View

Week View

You have five viewing options; Day, Week, Month, 4 Days and Agenda. Each gives you a different level of detail viewing. It’s surprising to see a feature like this missing from many of today’s GTD and task management apps. Quickly switching from a fine grained view of todays tasks to viewing what I have scheduled for the rest of the week, then the month, is invaluable for me.

Calendar Navigation

Calendar Navigation

A quick way to navigate to a specific day, week or month, is by using the calendar on the left. Simply click the desired day or click and drag through the days you want to view. This could be a couple days, part of a week or even part of a month.

The great thing about this, is the calendar instantly changes to fit your specified date range. You get views that you can’t get from the general view tabs at the top.

Viewing Three Days

Viewing Three Days

From viewing three consecutive days, to two weeks — instantly.

Viewing Two Weeks

Viewing Two Weeks

Sharing

All these viewing options are great but the capability of sharing your calendar(s) with others, makes collaboration much easier. Even better, you can create public calendars for others and access some great public calendars from others. These include holidays from around the world, sports and a few others like your contact’s birthdays, phases of the moon, stardates, etc. (interesting huh?).

Calendar Sharing

Calendar Sharing

Share Date Nights Calendar

Share Date Nights Calendar

I’ve added three new private calendars and subscribed to three new public calendars for US holidays and football games. Now I’d like to share my “Date Nights” calendar with my girlfriend so either of us don’t forget an important night.

I can make this a public calendar and share it with specific people as well as define permissions for each person. This makes it incredibly easy to keep others informed about your schedule and allow them to inform you of their schedule, simplifying and reducing the work necessary to keep track of everything.

Date Nights Sharing Details

Date Nights Sharing Details

Calendar Management

Calendar Settings

Calendar Settings

As you can see, it would be quite easy to setup more than a handful of calendars in no time at all. This is great for managing your life but could turn into a mess pretty quick if you need to make some bulk edits.

Not to worry though, just click the Settings link at the bottom of either of your calendar lists to view a full overview. From here you’ll be able to change list viewing options, notifications, unsubscribe, etc.

Calendar Settings Overview

Calendar Settings Overview

Event Entry

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of schedule management is the flexibility and ease of entering information. In Google Calendar, you simply click the date in the calendar viewing area to create a new event. Enter the title and time, select the calendar the event applies to and click “Create event” or “edit event details”.

Create Event

Create Event

Edit Time Block

Edit Time Block

Once you click “Create event” or hit Enter, the new event instantly appears in your calendar view, highlighted with the corresponding color of the calendar you selected. When you enter a new event in Month view without editing its details, it automatically sets it as an all day event.

If you enter a new event in a more detailed view, it will select a one hour block of time by default — which you can then quickly drag (using the two small lines at the bottom) to the block of time you want.

Detailed Event Entry

So far, entering events has been a breeze. However, there are times when more detail options are necessary. Those options are just a quick click away. When creating a new event, you can click “edit event details” to immediately edit more detailed information or, if you’ve already entered an event just click the event to see a popup bubble with the event details and a link to edit the event.

Edit Event Details

Edit Event Details

From here, you’ll be able to control your event details at a much finer level as well as include additional information such as the event location, descrioption, guests and notification options.

Editing Event Details

Editing Event Details

One of the great things here is the ability to manage a guest list. This means Google Calendar isn’t just a calendar and GTD app, it can be used to manage actual events to a certain degree.

Notifications

Notification options are pretty straight forward and include options that can be individually set for each calendar unless otherwise specified by events you’ve entered. Methods of notification include email and SMS.

Notification Options

Notification Options

Mobile Integration

You can setup mobile notifications (SMS) after you’ve verified your phone.

Mobile Integration

Mobile Integration

This method of mobile integration is fine and everything but the truth is, today’s popular mobile devices include the iPhone, BlackBerry’s, Android devices, etc. These devices are capable of a much more than simple SMS. Google is no slouch in this area and has implemented mobile sync for these major devices.

Mobile Sync

Mobile Sync

Mobile sync is compatible with Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia/Symbian and Windows Mobile. This pretty much covers every major platform. I use Google Calendar with my iPhone and while I won’t cover the setup here, the level of integration and capabilities is just what I’ve been looking for.

Labs

If you already use Google Calendar, or you plan to start using it, don’t forget to check out some of the great testing features in the Labs. My favorite? World clock.

Labs

Labs

Final Thoughts

With such a great interface that isn’t intimidating and keeps the complicated features easily accessible but out of the way, Google Calendar is a great web app for managing your schedule. Its flexibility, integration and options make it easy to fit just about anyone’s workflow.

If you haven’t found a task/event/schedule management app that suites you yet, Google Calendar is definitely worth trying. As always with Google, you get these features at an always great price, Free

Hopefully this how-to will help those interested in Google Calendar get setup and running in no time. For those of you who have already found the app that works for you, what have you settled on? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Thanks!