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I had an “aha!” moment with Google Calendar a while back. My calendar, like most people’s, serves a bunch of different purposes: It holds work-related events and deadlines, family-related events and appointments, personal appointments, reminders, and then also random stuff like travel plans and important occasions to remember.
For the longest time, all that stuff was lumped together into one big, overwhelming mess. And then I realized there was a better way — one with some pretty cool productivity perks attached to it.
If your calendar could also benefit from some next-level organization, try what worked for me. The first step is to think about what types of events you tend to have in your agenda. Maybe you have work-, personal-, family-, and reminder-related events, like I do. Or maybe you have even more intricate categories that are worth separating out further — work-related events that are meetings, deadlines, and phone calls, for instance, or whatever the case may be.
Once you’ve figured out your categories, go to the Google Calendar website. (This part of the setup can’t be done from the Android app, unfortunately, but the changes you make on the desktop site will show up and apply there, too.) Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select Settings, then click the Add calendar option in the left-of-screen menu and select Create new calendar.
Type in the name of your first new category — Work, Personal, Family, or whatever — and then click the blue Create calendar button. Do the same for any other categories you want to create, then find each of your newly created categories in that left-of-screen menu and, one by one, click them to configure their settings.
And here’s where the work really starts to pay off: First, for each of your calendar categories, you can now set a specific default notification behavior. Maybe, for instance, you like to get notified on your phone of upcoming work meetings five minutes in advance — but you like to get notified about personal appointments an hour ahead of time and then again 15 minutes before the start time. Maybe there are certain types of events for which you don’t like to get notified at all.
Well, now that you’ve separated each type of event into its own individual category, you can decide on an appropriate default for each area and then have that specific notification behavior get applied automatically to every new event you create.
Next, back in the main Calendar website view, hover over each of your categories and click the three-dot menu icon that appears alongside it to customize its color. That way, all your future events will automatically be assigned a color based on their category — like red for work events, blue for personal, and so on — without your having to manually set that each time or give it any thought.
You will have to go through and move all of your existing events into the appropriate categories once, which is admittedly a minor hassle. Once you’ve caught up with that, though, all you’ve gotta do from then on out is select the category you want as you’re creating an event — whether from the web or within the Calendar app on your phone — and your preferred notification pattern and color will automatically be applied.
And then, the especially spiffy part: When you’re looking at your agenda in any Google Calendar interface, you can easily filter your events to see only those of a certain type — if, say, you want to look at your personal appointments without also seeing all the clutter from your work deadlines, or if you want to skim through your upcoming work events without seeing all your haircuts and family obligations.
In Google Calendar on the web, all you’ve gotta do is uncheck whatever categories you don’t want to see from the list of calendars in the left-hand area of the screen. And in the Calendar Android app, that same list lives within the app’s main menu: Just tap the three-line icon in the app’s upper-left corner, and you’ll see your categories pop up for easy filtering.