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Google Calendar can be a really useful tool in keeping your life organized, but it doesn’t do you any good when it fills up and leaves you stressed. We often don’t have enough hours in a day, but the calendar itself can come to our rescue. Plan your schedule smartly and you won’t have to do everything at once.

Here are 10 tips that help you use Google Calendar to keep your schedule in check.

Schedule Free Time

gcal-relaxing

Google Calendar isn’t just for reminding you of meetings, due dates, and travel arrangements; it can also be a great way to remind yourself to take some time off. Scheduling a couple hours each evening for reading, for example, will remind you every day that you need to do something for yourself. Add a lunch break to your schedule with a note that the time shouldn’t be spent working. Put dates with your spouse and time with your kids into your calendar.

Adding free and leisure time How to Create More Free Time By Gamifying Your Schedule How to Create More Free Time By Gamifying Your Schedule There is nothing more rewarding than accomplishing a task that's on your schedule ahead of time. So, why do you insist on punishing yourself for completing tasks, rather than giving yourself your just reward? Read More to your calendar will make it look a lot more full, but it will also remind you that taking some time for yourself is important — stress can really run you down, make you more likely to get sick, and decrease your productivity.

So use your calendar to help you relieve some stress by scheduling in your favorite activities! Even if it’s something as simple as taking a walk or playing with your dog.

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Make Time for Self-Development

Make Time for Self-development

We have a tendency to focus on the things that need to get done, especially at work. And when you put all of that on your calendar, as well as all the things you want to do in your free time, there’s not a lot of room left. But it’s still important to make time for self-development Where Do You Start with Self-Improvement? Where Do You Start with Self-Improvement? If you know that you want to engage in a self-improving lifestyle, but don't know where to start, these simple, time-proven strategies can help you get your footing. Read More , whatever that means to you. It could be time spent reading about a skill that you’d like to develop, practicing an instrument, working out . . . it could be almost anything. Just make sure that you’re spending on time on things that help you grow.

It’s easy to let these activities take the back seat when other things come up, but having side projects and out-of-work interests can help boost your creativity, relieve stress, and improve your skills — whether those skills will help you progress in your career or just make you happy. That’s why scheduling time to play with your Arduino is just as important as scheduling time for finding a career mentor 4 Tips To Contact Anyone & Ask Them To Be Your Career Mentor 4 Tips To Contact Anyone & Ask Them To Be Your Career Mentor For those looking to develop in a field, mentors are essential. Alas, you can’t pick up a mentor from the shelves of Walmart. Here are a few tips when looking for career mentoring. Read More .

Schedule Everything

Time blocking isn’t for everyone, but it can do wonders for some people’s motivation. Rob wrote a great article on time blocking Time Blocking -- The Secret Weapon For Better Focus Time Blocking -- The Secret Weapon For Better Focus Are you looking for a more efficient way to organise your work-days? Try Time Blocking. This time management tactic can help keep you on track while keeping distractions, procrastination, and unproductive multitasking at bay. Read More  where you can get the details, but the basic version is this: each evening, take 15 or 20 minutes to break the following day into different-sized chunks of time, each with a specific goal (even if that goal is replying to email).

Having a particular block of time scheduled for an activity will help you stay focused on your goals and get more done. Cal Newport, who wrote the post that inspired Rob’s article, claims he gets a staggering 50% more productivity out of a week with this tactic.

Give Yourself Extra Time

No matter how focused you are, how single-minded you can be about your projects, things always come up. Do you have a perfectly planned schedule that will let you build a website in a day? You’ll get called into an unexpected meeting. Did you give yourself two weeks to edit a book? You’ll get sick. Plan on building an Arduino alarm system How To Make a Simple Arduino Alarm System How To Make a Simple Arduino Alarm System Detect movement, then scare the heck out of an intruder with a high pitched alarm sounds and flashing lights. Does that sound fun? Of course it does. That's the goal of today's Arduino project, suitable... Read More in a weekend? Your in-laws will stop by for a surprise visit. It’s an unpleasant fact of life: we just think we can get things done faster than we can.

Google Calendar can be a big help here. Every time you put something on your calendar, think about adding a little extra time. Think your meeting will take 30 minutes? Better give it 45. Plan on driving to your interview in 15? Give yourself at least 30. These little bits of extra time add up and will help you keep from feeling rushed.

Plus, if you finish the task well before the exaggerated deadline, use the “bonus” time for anything else!, like exercising your brain 5 Things You Can Do In 5 Minutes To Exercise Your Brain 5 Things You Can Do In 5 Minutes To Exercise Your Brain Keeping your brain in top shape requires that you challenge it on a regular basis. Surprisingly, you can do a lot in five minutes. Here are five things you can do for your mental fitness. Read More .

Consult the Forecast

gcal-forecast

Have you ever been late because you got stuck on a highway in a snowstorm? Google Calendar can help. To display the weather forecast directly in your calendar, just go to Settings and choose whether you’d like the temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius.

You’ll now see little icons above each day in the week — they won’t give you the best weather information What Are The Best Weather Websites? What Are The Best Weather Websites? I'm rather obsessed with the weather. It's not my fault, it's just that I was born and brought up in the U.K., and all British people are obsessed with the weather. I think it's because... Read More , but if you see that it looks like rain, snow, or heavy winds, it could be a reminder to pad the task with some extra time or to think of a schedule workaround because of the weather.

Add Drive Time

One of the most useful features of Google Maps Get There Faster - 10 Google Maps & Navigation Tips Get There Faster - 10 Google Maps & Navigation Tips Google Maps is still the most powerful mapping service ever, despite what Apple might say. Whether you’re using Google Maps in a browser on your desktop or an app on your mobile phone, Google Maps... Read More  is that it will give you an estimate of your travel time if you leave right now; but you can also choose your departure time to get an estimate based on traffic in the past. This can be hugely useful when you need to take drive time into account.

If you’ve entered an address into your Google Calendar event, you can click right from the event to a map, making it even easier to get an estimate of your travel time and build it into your calendar.

Don’t Overbook Yourself

overbooked-gcal

This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s worth a reminder. Google Calendar makes it easy to put a lot of things on your calendar, and even adds some automatically (it can now add travel itineraries directly from Gmail, for example). And because it’s so good at sending you reminders for things, you might not keep it open. This is a recipe for double-booking some time slots, which will contribute to your calendaring stress.

Even if you don’t find yourself scheduling two things at once, taking the time to make sure that you haven’t planned out every minute of your day is a good idea.

Integrate Other Calendars

Having easy access to your calendar is paramount — but being able to see other calendars can also be very useful. For example, if your spouse also uses Google Calendar, and you can’t remember if you’re supposed to pick up the kids from school, you can see if she’s working late that day by checking her schedule. If you add your professional schedule from whatever calendaring service you use at work, it’ll be easier to see your personal and work calendars next to each other, which can help in planning. Google supports multiple calendars.

Ryan wrote an awesome article on a bunch of things you can automatically add Awesome Things You Can Automatically Import To Google Calendar Awesome Things You Can Automatically Import To Google Calendar A calendar keeps every aspect of your life focused in one place, allowing you to worry less and accomplish more. Here are some useful ways to import important information into your Google Calendar. Read More to your Google Calendar, many of which can be very useful.

See Where You Can Make Cuts

decline-gcal

Remember that the “No” button is there to be used. In many workplaces, employees are asked to take part in too many meetings that don’t accomplish much, and this can make you feel more stressed about your schedule. Taking a look at the week ahead and seeing where you can replace a meeting with an email or a phone call will help clear out valuable time. If there’s anything else that can be cut out, don’t hesitate — you can put that time to better use!

Use Relaxation Reminders

Relaxation Reminders

Reminding yourself to stop and take a breath every once in a while is a great use of Google Calendar. It could be a single reminder to practice being grateful for a few minutes, a short block of time for journalling, a daily meditation slot, or any other sort of relaxation practice, even for just a couple minutes Take A Break: 10 Websites To Help You Relax For Two Minutes Take A Break: 10 Websites To Help You Relax For Two Minutes It's incredibly important to take the time to relax occasionally. It doesn't do anyone any good to constantly be ON, to be working, to be stressed by the rigors of everyday life. In the same... Read More .

If you’re feeling over-scheduled and stressed, these things are invaluable, and it’s worth putting them on your calendar so you don’t forget. Set aside a block of time each day (or every couple days) and set up a repeating “mindfulness” appointment with yourself so that you don’t accidentally schedule over it.

Google Calendar to the Rescue

Google Calendar is a surprisingly effective resource when it comes to getting organized and decluttering your schedule — don’t be afraid to use it, and don’t be afraid to be ruthless when choosing which events to accept and which to decline. The secret to effectively using a calendar is simple: cut out the things that you don’t need, make time for the things you love, and keep it all organized!

Do you use Google Calendar to keep everything in order? Has it helped keep your stress under control? What are your favorite ways to use it? Share your tips and thoughts below!

Image Credits: pushpins on calendar Via Shutterstock

  1. Justin Baumann
    May 10, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Does the travel time change based on your current location or is it locked in to the location you were at when you created the appointment?

    • Dann Albright
      May 10, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      To completely honest, I'm not totally sure, and that's a great question. I would imagine, however, that it's calculated based on your current location.

  2. Gabe
    February 8, 2016 at 12:43 am

    I'm hoping to someday see a calendar Lab (or official feature) that automatically adds travel/drive time to the beginning of the next appointment!

    • Dann Albright
      February 9, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      That would be awesome! I have to imagine that Google is working on that; it seems like such an obvious extension of the features they have to offer.

  3. Marie D
    June 23, 2015 at 1:14 am

    Apparently certain parts of the gSyncit service are affected by Google's changes. http://www.fieldstonsoftware.com/software/gsyncit3/download.shtml

    I found a Calendar Sync between Google Cal and Outlook.
    http://www.pppindia.com/calendar-sync/index.html

    It takes a bit of tweaking between the two, and it helps to only be updating in ONE calendar at a time (I have mine set to "last updated" which doesn't always play nice).

    Thanks Dann! Great ideas here!

  4. Paul Parkinson LRPS
    April 30, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I've tried gSyncit and dammit if it doesn't just work straight out of the box. I'm on the trial at the moment but fully expect to upgrade very very shortly.

    • Dann Albright
      May 5, 2015 at 6:05 am

      Fantastic! Glad to hear that it worked. I hope you can take advantage of the tips from the article more efficiently now!

  5. Kayla Matthews
    April 28, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Dann, I think this post has changed my life!

    I always thought giving myself free time was enough, but actually scheduling the things I want to get done in my free time and on weekends has reeeaalllly helped me be even more productive! I got so much done in the last couple days because of these tips.

    Thanks for the advice!

    • Dann Albright
      May 5, 2015 at 6:05 am

      I'm really glad you liked the article! It's strange just how much more you can get done when you put it in your calendar. I've scheduled things like "find magazines to pitch" and "brainstorm article topics" lately, and they've been super helpful. I think I find it best to schedule things that I know I should do but are difficult to prioritize, so that's been helpful. And, as you mentioned, scheduling the things that you want to get done in your free time and weekends is great—keeps me from getting stuck on Pinterest for an hour instead of reading the next book on my list or playing with an Arduino. :-)

  6. Paul Parkinson LRPS
    April 26, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks for the excellent recommendations folks. I'm a "domestic" Gmail user and a "corporate" Outlook user so the Gmail sided "gSyncit" seems like the one to try. I'll give it a whirl and report back. Cheers.

  7. Kim Oser
    April 21, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    The extension Boomerang Calendar is a great add-on. It allows you to propose dates to someone in Gmail and can mark them as tentative in Google Calendar. It has options for the other party to one click accept a date and/or time and the other tentative dates are removed or when they confirm a date (via email, text, voice or reject all proposed dates), you copy and paste a provided URL that will either change the accepted proposed date to from tentative to a regular calendar event and delete the other tentative dates/times or a URL that will delete all of the tentative dates/times. It is great to avoid overbooking,

    • Dann Albright
      April 26, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      That sounds like a really great extension! Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Anto
    April 20, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Or perhaps Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook® or GASMO in short. Available at https://tools.google.com/dlpage/gappssync

    I'm not sure if it's gonna work with a consumer Google account, meaning Gmail account. Perhaps it's available only for Google Apps users. You should check it out.

  9. SH
    April 20, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Try gSyncit to sync Outlook to Gmail and v.v.

  10. Paul Parkinson LRPS
    April 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    What I really need is a reliable way of linking GCal to my day-job MS Outlook. Google Calendar Synch was brilliant but with so many brilliant Google products, they killed it. So - what is the best replacement for GCalSynch?

    Cheers.

    • Dann Albright
      April 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Not sure if you've seen them yet, but there are a lot of great suggestions below for replacing Calendar Synch. Check them out and let us know which one works best for you!

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