Dealing with unwieldy digital calendars
A lot has changed on the digital front in the last few decades, but the only constant I see is the huge hassle with digital diaries and calendars. I explain how they fill up and take over so easily.
The diary and calendar are tools that mankind has used for thousands of years, and to which divine powers have long been ascribed. Something of that divinity still radiates from them and for many, the diary is something magical and the hustle and bustle of it even a status symbol.
It is also pre-eminently the place where the personal and the professional should mix like oil and water. It is also a tool that can bring order to chaos, but is also quickly derailed when participants (or available spaces) are missing due to illness, abandonment or mistakes.
In this article, I will take you through the different forms digital diaries and calendars can take digitally. To plan and manage personal and professional appointments. The calendars themselves, the types of invitations, scheduling appointments and reservations, schedules n public calendars.
The most basic building blocks, of course, are the digital calendars themselves. That which people use to book and manage appointments, via computer and mobile phone. And actually, you still have to distinguish the programme from the calendar server. You can view a Google Calendar through your Apple Calendar just fine. (Or Exchange, Office 365, iCloud).
There are several digital calendar or calendar apps that people commonly used to manage their calendars. Market shares for calendar apps can be difficult to determine as they depend on several factors such as platform, region and type of user.
However, here are some rough estimates made with available data:
- Google Calendar: As of January 2021, Google Calendar would be the most used calendar app worldwide, with more than 500 million monthly active users.
- Apple Calendar: Apple Calendar is the pre-installed calendar app on Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. By 2021, Apple had an estimated 1.65 billion active devices worldwide, indicating a significant user base for the Apple Calendar app.
- Microsoft Outlook: Microsoft Outlook is a popular calendar app among business users and is often used in corporate environments. According to Microsoft's Q4 2021 earnings report, Microsoft 365 had 300 million paid copies, including access to Outlook's calendar feature.
Some other applications include BusyCal and Fantastical. Of course, the main calendars are also available as a web page or as part of webmail.
Doing some research on Twitter, I noticed that many people also use a paper calendar in addition to the digital calendar. For themselves, but certainly also for the family. And separate digital diaries: one for home, one for work.
I also learned about a group of software new to me, the family planner (Cozy, FamilyWall, TimeTree).
Planning appointments and reservations
Full diaries are a well-known problem. But how do digital diaries actually get filled? I see these three ways:
- Creating an item yourself
- An item is shared
- Items are in a public calendar
For point two, it could be that something is jointly planned (Doodle/Date picker) or that you subscribe to a calendar (Calendly). In both cases, you will eventually receive an item to add to your calendar.
And if you are scheduled somewhere, for school or work, you usually receive an item via public calendar or server.
One-time invitations sent locally or on a server
Once upon a time, digital calendars were also offline, but nowadays, you can assume that a server is used on the back end. Unless someone is principled and prefers a local calendar, for example, for reasons of privacy, for themselves and those with whom there are appointments.
Invitations sent once are an item sent to you or on a web page. The request or event contains details such as the date, time, place and purpose of the meeting, and the recipient(s) can choose to accept or decline the invitation.
You get these calendar items as soon as you participate in an event such as a concert, train or plane trip, course or meeting. For example, if you participate via Facebook or LinkedIn.
There are two variants of such an invitation. The first is an ICS file that you open and save locally, and the second is an invitation to Google Calendar. They are hard to tell apart because calendars are usually connected to a server again and so an ICS is the more sure thing.
See an example from Zoom below:
Besides the regular appointments you make by noting them in your digital calendar, there are calendars where appointments are deployed by others, such as companies using Outlook, for example. But also Google Calendar if you share calendar items with other Google Calendar users.
These synchronized meeting requests are usually shared via a shared calendar or scheduling tool, and the information is automatically updated for all participants. This means that any change a participant makes to the meeting details is automatically updated for all other participants.
For example, if a team member changes the meeting time or location, all other team members invited to the meeting will receive an automatic notification of the change. This ensures that everyone is informed and avoids confusion or missed meetings.
If someone sends you an invitation via e-mail via Google Calendar, you can respond in two ways. You can press "yes" and then the invitation will be saved in Google Calendar. Or you can press the ICS file, and then you can choose in which calendar you want to save something.
In the first case, adjustments can be made by you and the others. In the second case, not. It is a choice that gives you more control.
Applications such as Doodle
Scheduling an appointment will involve looking for a date after some consultation, for instance via e-mail or WhatsApp. For this, there are applications like Doodle or date picker that work with a poll or poll.
Situations for which this is useful are:
- Planning meetings
- Planning events (parties, workshops or conferences)
- Planning interviews (recruiters)
- Arrange travel
- Arrange consultations (lawyers, doctors or consultants)
In general, tools like Doodle are useful in any scenario where planning and coordination are needed. They can save time and reduce frustration by simplifying finding a mutually agreeable time for meetings, events or other types of appointments.
If the appointment is confirmed by everyone in the group (or the majority) then it can be saved in the digital calendar.
Scheduling software, such as Calendly
It is a type of software application designed to simplify the process of scheduling meetings or appointments by allowing users to easily view available time slots and book appointments or meetings with others.
Planning or appointment scheduling software has become increasingly popular in both personal and business life, with a significant increase in application in recent years. In personal life, scheduling software is often used to schedule appointments with doctors, dentists, consultants, coaches and other service providers.
Good to know is that, on the back end, these tools are often linked to the digital calendar of the professional who offers. If this person is not available according to the calendar, the available time will also disappear.
By the way, by no means everyone is enamoured with these kinds of tools. A good proportion of people find it unseemly and rude to be saddled with finding a free slot in someone else's diary.
On the above forms, you still have some control. That is often not the case with timetables.
Scheduling software, also known as employee scheduling software, is a type of software that helps organizations manage employee schedules, shifts, and time off. These tools are typically used by companies with hourly or shift-based employees, such as retail shops, restaurants and healthcare facilities.
In general, scheduling software can help companies improve efficiency, reduce errors and save time when managing employee schedules. By automating many of the manual processes involved in scheduling and time tracking, businesses can focus on other important aspects of their operations.
Schools and universities
Scheduling software can also be used in schools. Many schools use timetabling software to manage the schedules of teachers, staff and other personnel.
For example, timetabling software can be used to create and manage class schedules, assign teachers to specific classes and track teacher availability and leave requests. It can also be used to make substitute teacher assignments and track teacher professional development hours.
Besides timetables, timetabling software can be used to manage other related tasks, such as tracking student attendance and managing extracurricular activities.
Some examples include Blackboard, Moodle and PowerSchool.
Public calendars are calendars that anyone can view or open. These calendars can be used to share information about events, appointments, meetings and other types of planned activities.
Here are some common use cases for public calendars:
- Business calendars
- Public events
- Municipal calendars
- Personal calendars
In general, public calendars can be a useful tool for sharing planning information with others, promoting events and improving communication and collaboration within a group or community.
I use them to calendar my contacts' birthdays, keep track of public holidays and my plane and hotel bookings. But calendars for football matches and TV broadcasts are also popular.
Schedjoules' app includes dozens of calendars you can subscribe to:
Digital invitations, diaries and calendars come in multiple shapes and sizes. They provide much-needed structure and the opportunity to bring groups of people together efficiently and effectively.
But they are also a genre in their own right, and not yet easy to deploy well. They are subject to social dynamics, rankings and the whims of humans. As a result, they can sometimes cause more work than they take away. Also, the many options sometimes make it so complicated that people fall back on pen and paper.
And another thing, digital diaries fill up faster it seems, especially if others have direct access to them.