Power through schedules with 21 Google Calendar tricks

You can start the new year with even greater control and productivity thanks to these tips

Maybe you charge through your plans with Patton-like precision, planning everything down to the minute. Or, like Marilyn Monroe, perhaps you've "been on a calendar, but never on time." It really doesn't matter which approach you take--Google Calendar can fit your style.

The service is accessible wherever you go, and it offers granular controls for Type A personalities as well as color coding for the style-conscious. It's even socially aware, allowing you to add calendars outside your organization, and to involve your social network in events. However, you're likely to curse every now and then when it freezes (although Google guarantees 99 percent uptime), or when calendar clutter makes you miss a meeting.

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This guide will help you take control, whether you're a Google Calendar novice or a power user. Most of the tips apply both to the free Google Calendar and to the one bundled with a paid Google Apps for Business subscription.

Not all of the useful shortcuts are official features. Google is constantly brewing new concoctions, so visit its Labs to find unique tools. Unlike with desktop software, Google can roll out new features whenever it likes.

Work faster--and focus

1. Use keyboard shortcuts

Don't reach for your mouse or touchpad--Google offers a long list of keyboard shortcuts that can save you time. Most are pretty intuitive; for starters, press the letter C on the keyboard to create an event. For more, check out the full list of shortcuts.

2. Find any date in a hurry

Need to know what you did last summer, or want to prevent conflicts for future plans? Don't wade through the weeks to find a specific date. Visit the Labs from the gear icon, and from the General settings, enable 'Jump to date', and then click Save. Now the 'Jump to date' tool appears to the right of your calendar, and you can punch in any day to do just that.

3. Customize calendar navigation

It's not immediately obvious that you can see your calendar in more than the Day, Week, Month, or 4 Days views that Google displays, but you can. Just go to the mini calendar to the left of the main calendar, and highlight the time frame--such as two weeks--that you wish to see. Your main calendar immediately adjusts. What if you always prefer to count your days in an unusual amount of time, such as three-week increments? Click the gear icon from your calendar page, and in the General settings change both 'Default view' and 'Custom view' to "3 Weeks. Once you save, you'll see 21 days at a time whenever you open your calendar.

4. What's on your agenda?

If you're a power user with a ton of shared calendars and appointments, the Day view can be hard on the eyes. You can bring up a plain-text list of events for the day ahead by clicking the Agenda  button above your calendar.

5. Dim less-important events

Carpe diem! Who cares what happened last week? Why let that weekly reminder to change the litterbox dominate your calendar? You can make past and repeating future events look a little less vivid. Click the gear icon, and on the Calendar Settings page find 'Event dimming'. Check one or both of the Dim past events and Dim recurring future events boxes. (On the other hand, this option may not be for you if you tend to forget Tuesday's sales meeting.)

6. Hide weekends

You're using Google Calendar only for work, so tuck Saturday and Sunday out of sight. You can show just Monday through Friday by clicking the gear icon and choosing Hide weekends on the General settings page.

7. Minimize all-day events

The company's out-of-office calendar entries are hogging space at the top of your workday. Get them out of the way: Simply find the tiny triangular arrow that appears below and to the left of the first day of the week, and click it. Now you'll see a synopsis, like '19 events', instead of a pile of text.

8. Keep both work and play at your fingertips

If you'd rather not have private events appear in your work week, you can toggle easily between your home and work calendars. Say that you're already signed in to your Google Apps for Business account. Click your email address in the upper-right corner of the Google Calendar page, and select Add account. Enter the details for your private Gmail address. Now, the next time you click your email address in that corner, you'll see both identities there, and you can switch easily between the two calendars.

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