Why Calendar is Confusing
With modern cloud services, everyone wants you to use their calendar service to synchronize your data across all of your devices. Whether it’s Google, iCloud, Microsoft, or some other service option, everyone will tell you their calendar service is the best, and you should be using their calendar. Users end up with multiple calendar services across their multiple devices. With this comes the confusion of not knowing which calendar you added an appointment to, not knowing which calendar is sending out invites, or which calendar you should be paying attention to across your devices. I often hear, “My calendar isn’t working!” In 95% of the cases, it is working, but the confusion factor has taken over.
Why do I need all of these calendars?
You don’t need to use a calendar service from every “cloud” service you have a relationship with. On your devices, you have the ability to configure if you want to use a calendar or not. The best advice I can give you is to shut off all of your calendars and pick ONE service to use for all of your calendar needs. This is usually the calendar from your work address, as most appointments are probably going to be going to this address. You probably also want all of your appointments to be COMING from this address. Do you really want your personal iCloud or Gmail account coming across to someone else when you schedule an appointment with them? Most likely not.
Multiple Calendars / Multiple Services – What’s the difference?
First, let me explain the difference between a calendar and a calendaring service. The service itself is provided from Apple (iCloud), Google (Google Calendar), Microsoft (Office365), or other similar services. This is typically some hosting service that maintains all of your calendar information. Within that one service, you have the option to use multiple calendars. For example, you might have a calendar for your work items and a calendar for your personal items. Maybe you have a big event coming up, and you want a calendar specifically to schedule items for that event. Being able to turn on or off a calendar for a specific event can help you focus in on scheduled items for a specific calendar or clear the clutter of your schedule.
Most people want separation between work and personal events. In your work life, you may want to share your work calendar with your team. In that case, you also don’t necessarily want to share that you’re picking up Billy and Sue from school with your work colleagues. Separating your common-themed events into specific calendars allows you to manage not only your events effectively, but it gives you the power to share specific types of calendar entries with various people that need this information (spouse, sibling, parent, child, associate, assistant, and so-on).
You could have multiple personal calendars as well as calendars that come and go based on specific projects or events. I recently went through a home renovation project that took three years, and I had a calendar specifically setup for meetings with contractors and subcontractors, meetings with the department of building inspection, as well as events that were specifically related to the construction project. Once the project was completed, I removed the calendar, as I no longer needed access to it.
So now let’s start looking at how to work with what you currently have.
First, we’re going to determine what service to use for your calendaring needs. Each service has its own pros and cons, but for basic calendaring, they should all meet your needs.
Next, you want to look at your existing calendars across your multiple services. Do you have multiple home and work calendars setup already? This is OK. We can work with this data. We’re going to export those calendars and pull the data from your existing services. Make sure you identify these calendars and understand how you will label them moving forward (Home, School, Work, Holidays, etc.).
Next, we’re going to import all of these exported calendars into your chosen service. This is where we name these new calendars from the last step. Depending on your service, you may also have the option to merge data from your calendars.
Next, we’re going to disable all other calendar services on your devices with the exception of the calendar service that you will be using. This eliminates the confusion, as we’re only using one service, not multiple services.
Finally, you’re going to enable and disable your various calendars across all of your devices. Maybe you want to have your personal calendar(s) show up on one device and your work calendar(s) show up on another. You may also need to view a calendar that you have shared access to. Knowing how to quickly enable and disable your calendars will make life easier for you when it comes to effective calendaring.
If you’re having trouble following along, use the handy graphic here as a high-level instruction set.
Where will my calendars live?
The simple rule of thumb is to use the service that is associated with your work email. This is typically something like Exchange or Google, unless you’re using some proprietary service for calendaring (or some great new product has come on the market after 2015). If you use an email service from a web hosting company, check out our current promo to move to Google Apps.
Exporting existing calendars
So you have multiple calendars today across multiple services. The first step is to “export” the calendars from the services you no longer wish to use. It’s best to perform this process on your computer where you’ll be able to save and move files around easily. You will want to export your calendars to an area on your computer like your desktop for easy access. Keep in mind that you may also be exporting calendars from your personal calendar service to your work calendar service (such as moving a personal Google Calendar to your work Google Apps calendar).
Think of this as a “copy and paste” but with your calendar data. Of course, you may not want to keep certain calendars, so you can just leave them where they are and move on with “migrating” data from calendars that you do choose to use.
- Exporting from iCloud – Click on Calendars (this will show you how to download a calendar from iCloud or export a calendar from the Calendar app on a Mac)
- Exporting from Exchange / Hosted Exchange via Outlook
- Exporting from Exchange on a Mac – See To export your Outlook Calendar in iCalendar (.ics) format
- Exporting from Google – Click on Export events from one calendar
Import downloaded calendars
Now we’re going to import these calendars into the service that you will use, going forward. In most cases, you’re going to want to create a calendar in your selected service, PRIOR to importing the data file. For example, if you’re importing Daisy’s Walking schedule calendar, create “Daisy’s Schedule” as a new calendar on the service BEFORE you import the file.
- Importing into iCloud – Use the Calendar app on a Mac and click on Import events into a calendar
- Importing into Exchange/Hosted Exchange – Import on Outlook – Process for Outlook 2010, but should be similar for newer versions.
- Importing into Google – See Step 2: Import events into Google Calendar
Ok. I’ve done this. Now what?
Now we’re going to disable all of the other calendar services that you’re not working with anymore.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences, select Internet Accounts, and look for any account listed that shows Calendars. These are the accounts you will want to select and uncheck ONLY the Calendars check box. Remember to keep the one account active that you have moved all of your calendars to.
On iOS, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Look for any accounts listed that show Calendars. These are the accounts that you will want to “switch” off, with the exception of the account that you moved all of your calendars to.
On Outlook (Windows), go to File > Account Settings > Account Settings. Typically, you won’t have additional calendars, but if you do, they will be listed in the Internet Calendars tab. Remove any additional calendars listed here.
On Andriod, go to Settings > Accounts > Select the account you want to disable calendar on > Select the three dots in the upper right corner > Uncheck “Sync Calendar”. Repeat this for any other service that is syncing calendar to your Android device, with the exception of the calendar service you’re using, going forward.
Enable/Disable Calendars (Show/Hide)
Now we’re going to show or hide the calendars on your calendar service. Doing this allows you to show or hide specific calendars on each device, preventing information overload.
- For iOS Devices
- For Android Devices – Select Choose which calendars to display or sync
- For Outlook – Directions for Outlook 2010, but holds true in 2013 as well – haven’t tested in 2016
- For OS X Calendar
Whew! That was a lot of work!
Yep. But going forward, you’re set. Just note that some of the calendar invites that you may have accepted may be associated with one of the calendar accounts that you recently disabled. This could cause a problem if the organizer sends out an update to the meeting. This shouldn’t be a problem over the course of a few weeks, but it’s something to be aware of.
Is this the end-all of your calendar problems? No, it’s not the magic bullet. But this is going to get you closer to fewer headaches with your calendaring than not combining into one service. Keep in mind that there are more advanced features that you can now access such as delegating calendars, but you now have one place for everyone to delegate to.
Until next time, have a fantastic week!