Supercharge Your Productivity: Add an Inbox to Your Calendar

by | 4 Nov 2019 | Blog30, Productivity, Working Out Loud

I know what you’re thinking! Another inbox? That’s the last thing I need!

Don’t be so quick to dismiss the idea though. I can assure you I felt exactly the same but I inadvertently created one during a massive restructure of my calendaring system and it has boosted my productivity to such an extent I thought I’d share it with you.

The Old System

On moving to the Mac platform in 2006 I started using what was back then called iCal. This was a culture shock for me. I came to the Mac from the world of Windows and I’d used Windows since 1992. 14 years of Microsoft meant I was using Outlook, an integrated mail, calendar, contact and to-do application. The Mac method of separating the mail, calendar and contact functions into 3 separate apps was alien to me.

I had questions!

  • Could I be as productive if I had to use 3 or more different apps to replace the functionality of Outlook?
  • How much “power-user” functionality would be missing?
  • How much information would I be able to transfer from my existing system?

I needn’t have worried. I was just as productive with 3 separate apps and the speed and simplicity of the new system meant if there were any “power-user” features missing I didn’t notice their absence. I was able to transfer my existing data over to the Mac and carry on seamlessly.

That’s how I continued for the next 12 years. I toyed with other applications, adding them to the mix when circumstances demanded it. Those apps included numerous email clients and several calendar apps but the core of the system remained the same.

  • Mail hosted on Google
  • Calendars and contacts hosted on what is now known as Apple’s iCloud service

Why Change?

While iCloud was stable the majority of the time there have been a couple of outages that have taken days to completely settle down. My other main issue was the failure of two factor authentication while trying to access calendar information via a browser.

Since my mail was already hosted on Google it seemed logical to move my calendars there too.

My only concern was any potential issues that might arise during the transition particularly on my iOS devices.

I needn’t have worried as everything worked just as well as it had before and I was thus in a place to be able to take the opportunity to improve a system I use multiple times every single day.

The New “Calendar Inbox” System

One of the best improvements I made to my new system was to add an extra calendar. I know adding another calendar seems counterintuitive to simplifying things but it’s worked amazingly well.

I can add upwards of 25 appointments to my calendar system each week and many of those come from webinar registration systems. The process for adding those events used to be:

  • Register for the webinar
  • Download an ics file (used by Apple and Microsoft Outlook)
  • Locate the downloaded file and open it in a calendar app
  • Trawl through the calendar looking for the newly added appointment
  • Manually configure all the necessary extra information in that appointment

While it didn’t take long for a single event going through the same process 25 times was both time consuming and mind numbing.

By moving to Google Calendar I don’t need to download the ics file at all. I can just click the option to “Add to Calendar” from any browser. My Google Calendar opens with the appointment in either edit mode, in which case I can instantly add any additional information, or already added to my calendar.

And it was the “already added to my calendar” option that gave me the idea to add an extra calendar to my system and name it Inbox, or to be more accurate __Inbox. Adding those underscores forces the calendar to be displayed at the top of the calendar list in the Google Calendar page which is stubbornly displayed in alphabetical order.

The Google Calendar List
The Google Calendar List

Making this Inbox Calendar the default calendar means that all newly added appointments are added to that specific calendar automatically. There are several benefits of this:

  • Using the colour of the calendar it’s easy to see which items have been added to the calendar but not processed
  • I can quickly add any number of events to the calendar and be able to identify them later for further processing and finally moving them to the correct calendars
  • I can add tentative items to my Inbox Calendar and then confirm or delete them later rather than leaving details of potential events and appointments languishing in emails in my email inbox

Just Try It

Irrespective of where you host your calendars try adding an Inbox Calendar, make it your default calendar and see if it works for you. It certainly does for me!

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