What is an online calendar?
Most of us have a lot going on and struggle to keep track of everything. Paper calendars help, but they have some drawbacks: space is limited, rescheduling can get messy, you have to write everything by hand, and they’re difficult to share with others.
An online calendar looks fairly similar to the original, with all of your events, but you have more flexibility because everything is digital. It’s easy to reschedule things, add recurring events, and view any time period you want. Plus, you can access your calendar app from any device and even share it with friends and coworkers. Online calendars might not have fun artwork like paper calendars, but they’re much more powerful—once you use them, it’s hard to imagine going back..
Online calendar features
Calendar apps vary, but most have the same benefits: helping you plan, stay organized, and keep track of deadlines. Here’s what you can do with online calendars, depending on which app you use:
- Create personal and business appointments.
- View other people’s schedules and organize meetings based on availability.
- Check meeting room availability and choose a location.
- See meeting invite responses.
- Share your calendar and adjust sharing settings so others see event details or just that you’re busy or free.
- View multiple calendars at a time, like work, personal, and holidays.
- See your upcoming day, week, month, or year as well as past events.
- Set appointment reminders, from five minutes to several weeks before the event.
- Create recurring meetings, whether they’re weekly, yearly, or a certain day each month.
- Give other employees access to manage your business calendar app.
- Check the upcoming weather forecast.
- Categorize events by color.
- Automatically accept or decline meetings based on your availability.
How online calendars connect to your existing apps
One of the best aspects of online calendars is that they connect with your other apps. Here’s how to use them together.
Email: When you organize a new meeting, your online calendar will create an email invite for attendees with the details, such as whether their attendance is required or optional. You can also send your entire calendar via email so people can see when you’re free. In some calendar apps, dragging an email from your inbox to the calendar icon will automatically create a new meeting with the email content in the meeting details.
Videoconferencing: Some calendar apps connect to videoconference apps, so when you click Meet now or New meeting in your calendar, it creates a meeting invite that includes the videoconference link. a meeting invite that includes the videoconference link.
Documents: When you create a new event, some calendars show an Attach file option so you can add a document, video, or image to the invite for attendees to review before or during the meeting.
Note-taking app: When you open an event in some calendar apps, you’ll see an option to create minutes in your note-taking app. You can choose whether you want to share your notes or keep them private.
Five ways integrated online calendars increase productivity
#1. Schedule meetings faster
Gone are the days of emailing back and forth to find a meeting time that works for everyone. With the scheduling assistant in your online calendar, you can see blocks of busy and free time for each person, so it’s easy to spot the best time for a meeting. If you work with people in other time zones, you can choose to show their local time, which helps prevent meetings outside of their working hours.
It’s also quick to accept, decline, and reschedule meetings with online calendars because they sync with email. When meeting attendees get an email invite, they can accept, decline, or suggest a different time directly from their email app.
#2. Structure your time to hit deadlines
Juggling multiple projects, each with their own milestones, can be challenging. Online calendars make it easier to plan. View the major deadlines on your group and organization calendars, then create a workback schedule on your personal calendar to stay on track. Break big projects into smaller pieces, giving yourself a certain amount of time for each one, with optional reminders. Block out time on your schedule—ideally during the time of day you’re most productive—to focus on certain tasks so people know not to disturb you and you can get more done.
#3. Collaborate more easily
When you add files to calendar appointments, like a shared presentation or design mockup, it’s faster for attendees to access them during meetings. Then they can focus on contributing instead of looking for a document. For productive collaboration, you can even add questions or prompts in the meeting description for people to consider beforehand.
#4. Plan for absences
Between vacations, sick days, holidays, and conferences, lots of events can delay a project. With online calendars, you can view many schedules at once to gauge your team’s availability leading up to a deadline. Then you can plan for coverage, avoid surprises, and move deadlines if needed.
#5. Take it anywhere
Calendar apps automatically sync online, so all of your devices automatically have the latest version of your schedule. You can even join a meeting from your phone if the invite has a videoconferencing link.
Online calendar best practices
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your business calendar app.
- Schedule breaks. Block out time for lunch and short breaks like a walk or exercise. Fresh air and stretching can do wonders for your productivity.
- Delegate to a coworker. Save time by giving another employee, such as an office manager, access to your calendar and the ability to add or reschedule events.
- Send an email instead. Consider whether a meeting could just be an email. If a meeting is necessary, invite as few people as possible.
- Consider visibility. Adjust calendar settings based on whether your coworkers need to know appointment details or just that you’re unavailable.
- Limit reminders. You probably want notifications for meetings, but maybe not for coworkers’ vacations. Turn off the ones you don’t want to limit interruptions.
- Schedule shorter meetings. Some business calendar apps let you schedule a 25- or 50-minute meeting instead of the typical 30 or 60 minutes. Try it out—your coworkers will probably appreciate the extra time.
Online calendars can help you stay organized, productive, and connected to your team no matter where you are. If you’re not sure which calendar app to get, try Microsoft Outlook for business. For a comprehensive solution that includes Microsoft Outlook, buy Microsoft 365 for business to get started right away.