Multiple Calendars – For People That Do (And Are Mobile)

Maybe it’s because I’m what would be regarded as a ‘power user’ – but I find calendars on my phone and online with Google very, very useful. What is a seemingly simple tool is enabled and ready to make magical things happen.

A discussion that I raised with one of my BBM groups today was a question: Will BlackBerry 10 support multiple calendars? This is and always has been a big deal for me. Although I found myself explaining to one member why it is important. I hadn’t really considered that those who don’t use calendars wouldn’t see the benefits of multiple and shared calendars.

Read on to find out how amazing multiple shared calendars are.

Scenario 1 – Home Life

Isn’t it always the way. You have a calendar in the kitchen and members of your family add dates and times of things going on. School fair, assemblies, days out – it all goes there.

So why not set up a special ‘Family’ calendar? You can add a date onto this calendar and share it out to the tech-savvy members of your family. Your kids will see on their phone that they can’t have their friends around this weekend as you’re all going to a car boot sale. You can safely book that dentist appointment knowing that it won’t conflict with your kid’s flu jabs which are on the following day. It’s all there! All the time.

The best part is that it sits alongside your personal calendar, so those things that you want to keep to yourself can be on your personal calendar. Such like buying a present for the wife, or coffee with an ex. And because you can see these calendars together in a single screen, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you shouldn’t be somewhere else at the time!

Scenario 2 – The Freelancer

So, you work for yourself and have a number of clients. They need to know what kind of time you are working as it happens and you need to know how much time you’ve spent on the project so that you can bill them.

Multiple calendars is the answer!

I’ve found myself in this exact situation before. Whenever I worked for a client I would set up a specific calendar in Google Apps especially for them. I would then allow them read-only access to the calender.

Now, whenever I sat down to work for the client I would create a calender entry outlining what I was working on. When I was finished, I’d set the end-time. Magic! Instant update for my client to see what I had done. They could visit the calendar whenever they liked to see how much I was working and what I was doing. It was elegant, fast, and easy to use from either my phone or the desktop.

Another bonus was that when I viewed these calenders I could mix with the calendar filters and see at a glance how much I was working for each client, a combination of them and overall.

The best part was, at the end of the month I’d simply download the calendar and convert it to a spreadsheet file. I’d instantly have a bill ready to send to my clients!

The great thing for me as an indie freelancer is this allowed me to keep clients up to date at all times, maintain a billing system and all at NO COST!

Scenario 3 – The Small Business

Shared calendars are also beneficial to businesses.

You can create calendars to manage booked leave. Set schedules for staff and manage the time that they work.

Each staff member can have a calendar to record their working hours and the bosses can see what they’ve worked as well.

Now imagine doing that from your mobile phone! As a mobile worker, having these tools instantly at your disposal simply by checking your calendar app is incredibly productive with very little effort.

Scenario 4 – The Small – Medium Business

One of the clients that I work for is a business that has 3 directors. They work remotely mainly, and keep in contact using VOIP phones. One of the issues that they had was that they couldn’t keep up with appointments when they needed to contact one another.

The answer? You know it already. Shared calendars. I set them up with Google Apps and each director used their calendar for appointments and meetings and shared them out to the office staff and the other directors. Literally overnight the efficiency level shot up as suddenly everyone knew where each other was, if they were busy / available and when to schedule meetings with multiple people as everyone’s availability was visible on a single screen.

It was so simple, yet so revolutionary.

Another thing I’ve used additional calendars for is managing public events on a website. Imagine that your business regularly goes on exhibitions or puts on public showcases. It would be great to have a calendar on your website that has all of these. But it’s a pain to update a website every time that you need to change / add / delete an event. What I did is create a special calendar to link to my website. To update my website – all I’d do is load up my new calendar and change those events. They would be instantly be updated on the website! Tada!

Don’t Underestimate What You Can Do

So there it is – why multiple calendar support is such a critical requirement with mobile devices at the moment. Remember that this isn’t having multiple email accounts with multiple calendars – this is about using a SINGLE email account to manage, share and receive multiple calenders. Calendar management is now a very powerful.

As companies are preparing themselves for a PC-less world in less than 10 years, we need to ensure that the power users – the people that like to get things done efficiently – have the tools available to them.

This isn’t anything magical or done by using any special software, I’m using free services and programs that are standard to make these amazing things happen.

And that’s where the discussion I had this morning comes in. We’re getting close to the launch of BlackBerry 10 – and one of the issues I have had with traditional BlackBerry phones is that they do not support multiple calendars. What’s especially infuriating is that I can get my additional calendars on my PlayBook by using a hack, but this isn’t appearing on my BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha. So I’m guessing that this feature has been left off yet again.

I hope that BlackBerry realise how important this feature is for serious mobile users – as I can honestly believe that something that seems quite trivial would be a complete deal-breaker for some.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how others use multiple and shared calendars to make their work and home lives better!