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Productivity tips, calendar hacks, & product updates from the Reclaim team.

How to Create a Smart Calendar
April 22, 2021

Some days, it feels as if you’re at the mercy of your calendar. Your standard workday is a blur of Zoom meetings, urgent tasks, and tight deadlines, and you end up forgoing lunch breaks and canceling personal commitments just to get it all done. Yet, though your schedule is full, you’re often left with little to no time for your most important work. In this article, we’re going to show you how to create a smart calendar so you can take back control over your busy schedule.

What is a smart calendar?

First, let’s define what a smart calendar is. A smart calendar is a centralized reflection of all your various schedules that uses automation and intelligence to simplify calendar management and boost productivity. It helps you create boundaries between life and work, block time for the things that matter to you, and cut the time you spend manually managing your schedule by a significant margin. Smart calendar apps give you a set of tools for defining flexible policies that you can apply to your smart calendar to automatically schedule your ideal workweek.

1. Create a smart primary calendar

The first step is to establish a smart primary calendar that includes all versions of your calendars — personal, professional, and so on — so that your availability is truly up-to-date with all your various schedules.

Before we dig into the details of why you need a smart primary calendar, let’s walk through the differences between the two types of calendars that exist in Google Calendar as well as other similar services: primary and secondary.

  • Primary calendar: This is your default calendar, and the first calendar you’ll see in Google Calendar under My Calendars. All events are created on your primary calendar by default, and it’s the only calendar people will see when they book time with you using Google's Find a Time feature.
  • Secondary calendar: Also known as a shared calendar, this is any other calendar that’s been shared with your Google account. Shared calendars appear below your primary calendar. When you add events to your shared calendar, they become visible to you on your primary calendar. However, these events aren’t visible to other people when they book time with you using Google’s Find a Time feature. That means that if you have a personal calendar that you've shared with your work Google account, events from that calendar won't show as busy when others go to book time with you. This can create a lot of problems!


In a recent survey, we found that most people prefer to maintain separate work and personal calendars, creating blocks for personal time on their work calendars when needed. But, researchers at Mount Ida College and the University of Michigan-Dearborn found that maintaining separate calendars isn’t effective

Why? Because, as we discussed earlier, your colleagues will only see availability from one calendar — your primary calendar — and that means that you're constantly adding copies of events from your personal calendar to your work calendar in order to keep your time defended. Sure, you can invite your work calendar to events on your personal calendar, but that now means that the details of personal events are visible to your colleagues on your primary calendar.

One alternative is to use your work calendar for both personal and professional events. This seems like a convenient option, but it again comes with a steep cost: your privacy. Another method is to share your personal calendar with your colleagues at work. This again requires manual work, and sacrifices your privacy: now, you have a bunch of your personal events on display to your colleagues. And, even with that method, Google's Find a Time feature still won't show availability from those other calendars.

Here's a simple way to put it: if you're trying to keep your availability blocked on your primary calendar for events from other calendars, it's going to take a lot of manual work and will likely result in you being overbooked constantly. 

Reclaim solves this problem by enabling you to automatically sync events between calendars, giving you the smart primary calendar that you want. It watches for events from any Google Calendar and then blocks off time on your other calendars using customizable privacy settings. So, for example, if you have an event called "Job Interview" on your personal calendar that you'd rather not share with your colleagues — but you still want it to be blocked off on your work calendar — Reclaim can sync that event over and give it a generic title like "busy" or even "Personal Commitment":


This means that you get to keep your separate schedules and sync your personal and work calendars, with the ability to control both from either calendar. Upcoming events from your personal calendar will be automatically blocked off on your work's primary calendar. If an event on your personal calendar is changed or canceled, the update will be automatically reflected for you (and your actively scheduling colleagues) on your work calendar.

2. Integrate your high-priority tasks

In order to set up a truly smart calendar, it has to contain more than just your meetings and events. If you're not proactively making time for your most important priorities on your calendar every week, you're quickly going to become a victim of your schedule — and the important work is going to get pushed to your nights and weekends.

Depending on your role, you may spend up to 50% of your time in meetings, but that still leaves half of your workday schedule unaccounted for. A smart calendar integrates your prioritized tasks into your schedule so you always get focus time to work on the stuff that truly matters. Your priorities shift from week to week, and even shift during the week as new stuff comes up, so it's critical that your smart calendar gives you flexibility so that you can reprioritize your schedule on-the-fly.

Sounds good, right? But if you've ever spent a weekend blocking time for your tasks, you know all too well that the best-laid plans fall apart come Monday morning. Manual methods for blocking time for your tasks simply are too rigid and toilsome to really align with how frequently your calendar changes. 

It's clear that the good folks at Google really want you to spend time on your tasks. In fact, they offer a feature called Google Tasks. It sits right in your calendar, too! Just add your to-dos and give them a due date. Super convenient!

Well...not really. Here are three big problems with Google Tasks:

  1. It doesn't actually block events on your calendar. Instead, it adds Tasks, which are essentially reminders that are only visible to you. 
  2. It treats your due date as the date you want the time blocked, which doesn't really address your needs: you need time to get stuff done before it's due, not on the day it's due.
  3. It still has the same problem that manual time blocking does: it's too static, and doesn't auto-update based on your changing needs.

Reclaim addresses the core problem with time blocking on a smart calendar by giving you the ability to define flexible policies around your tasks. Rather than forcing you to manually block time on your calendar for your most important to-dos, you can simply tell Reclaim what you need to get done, how much time you need, and when it's due — and Reclaim will automatically find time for you to get the work done before your due date. 

Another issue with time blocking is that it leaves your schedule too booked up, which can make you unavailable to others who want to find time with you. It can even make your life more difficult, because you're constantly negotiating with other people to help them find free time. Reclaim solves this by keeping your Tasks flexible and free until you're at risk of missing your due date. We'll talk about this more below.

Reclaim already integrates natively with Slack, ClickUpAsana, Jira, Todoist, Linear, and Google Tasks (with more integrations in the works!), so you can get your Tasks blocked from the places you're already working!

3. Set up flexible time for routines + to-dos

As we discussed above, a smart calendar needs to take a flexible approach to scheduling so that your time blocks adapt and reschedule as your week changes, and so that you remain available to others who want to meet with you. That way, you still get time for your most important routines across work and life — without making your schedule too rigid to contend with reality.

One important concept to familiarize yourself with is the difference between Free and Busy events in Google Calendar. Just as others will only see time blocked on your primary calendar, they'll only see events blocked if they're marked as Busy. You can see this option when creating an event in Google Calendar:


When you create a calendar event, the default is Busy — if people try to book time with you, they’ll see that you’re unavailable. The challenge is this: if you pack your calendar with Busy blocks, it will be hard for team members to find time to collaborate with you.

On the other hand, Free events are only visible to you, so anyone can book over them. But now, you risk people booking all over your routines and tasks! And, on top of that, you still have to manage all of this manually: you'd need to know exactly when to flip your time blocks from Free to Busy, and you have to move your time blocks around when things change.

Using Reclaim, you can block flexible time for your habits and tasks. When Reclaim adds events to your calendar, they’re initially created as Free time so you can remain available to your colleagues. As your day fills up or gets too busy — in other words, if Reclaim sees that you're at risk of missing your routines and tasks — your time blocks automatically flip from Free to Busy. This is an incredibly powerful way to keep yourself flexible but disciplined, all without the toil of manual time blocking.

Reclaim also gives you total control of your preferences for scheduling recurring habits. When you create a habit, you tell Reclaim how much time you need and a time window for when you want them to happen. For example, you might want a 30-minute lunch break between 11:30a and 2p every day, but you don't care if it's at 1p or 11:30a; just as long as you get to eat lunch! In Reclaim, you can express this kind of adaptive need so that you get time within the window you want, but without the need to constantly move your lunch block around:

4. Take the toil out of scheduling

Smart calendar apps use automation to cut out the back-and-forth involved with traditional meeting scheduling.

Cal Newport, author and computer science professor, avoids using email to schedule meetings: “Use Calendly, use Acuity, use the features built into Microsoft Outlook, and if you’re setting up a group meeting, use Doodle. But do not let this coordination unfold as a slow back-and-forth exchange of messages, as this is guaranteed to keep you in a state of constant, agitated inbox checking.”

Apps like Calendly help you automate scheduling. You simply set your availability preferences, share your Calendly link, and let schedulers pick a time that works best for both parties. The meeting is automatically added to both attendees' calendars, and you can even set up automated meeting reminders to confirm they can make it. If you have a greater degree of control over your time, consider time batching your meetings to boost your productivity. 

Reclaim users often integrate with Calendly to balance meetings, individual focus time, and personal commitments. Because Reclaim keeps your time blocks flexible, you never have to worry about sending someone a Calendly link that looks like this:

Sending someone a Calendly link that has no availability only makes everyone's life harder: you're back to going back-and-forth over email. With Reclaim + Calendly, you can ensure that your links will always have lots of flexible time for your routines and tasks so that you can offer your attendees a lot of options. Your schedule will automatically shift events from Free to Busy as your day fills up—keeping you flexible for new Calendly meetings while still defending the time you need for productive work.


5. Build boundaries into your schedule

Boundaries are important for a healthy work-life balance, so they should absolutely be incorporated into your smart calendar. Working hours, breaks, and meeting buffers are a great way to defend your personal life and also keep your sanity through a jam-packed workday.

As many of us have experienced firsthand, remote work is blurring the boundary between our professional and personal lives. Zoom meeting fatigue entered our vocabulary as we moved out of offices, and a NBER analysis suggests U.S. employees are now actually working beyond standard hours since the COVID-19 shift to remote work. 

It’s important to establish a separation between home and work for space to rest and reset. Entrepreneur Shelcy V. Joseph writes in Forbes that maintaining boundaries is crucial while working remotely: “Set expectations with your coworkers and manager so they’ll know when you’ll be online, and try to stay within those parameters.”

You can customize your working hours in Google Calendar to establish that personal boundary around work and personal hours. Google Calendar’s working hours lets you set timeframes for when you’re available for meetings, warning schedulers if they’re creating an event outside of your working hours. This feature is turned on for all Google Calendar users by default. To adjust your working hours:

  1. Go to Settings in your Google Calendar.
  2. From General, select Working Hours.
  3. Modify them to suit your needs


You should also consider limiting back-to-back meetings by adding buffer times between videoconference meetings. The Journal of Public Health Management & Practice recommends managers encourage their employees to practice “time protective behavior” so that online meetings don’t overrun their entire workday. Use this time to organize your notes, get up from your desk, or prepare for the next meeting.

Use a smart calendar to reclaim your schedule

On any given workday, you have multiple demands fighting for your attention. And instead of bringing a sense of order to your life, your calendar has become a source of stress.

A smart calendar is like a personal assistant who’s 100% in sync with your priorities and preferences. By putting a smart calendar to work, you’ll finally have the tools to be more intentional about your schedule — and make your workweek a great one, every time.

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See the top 5 work habits to try to boost your productivity. If you’re seeking a promotion, trying to pivot your career, or just simply looking to step your game up in the workplace, this is for you.
Calendar Heroes: Chris Hunt, Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow
September 10, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Chris Hunt, Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow

Working on a team that is spread across 10 different time zones and our Calendar Hero, Chris Hunt lets us in on how he is able to do it. Check it out!
Durable Identity: Employee-Friendly SaaS for Life Changes
September 7, 2021

Durable Identity: Employee-Friendly SaaS for Life Changes

The average person changes jobs every 4.1 years, but you shouldn't have to re-sign up for every SaaS app that often. The future of work will be more durable - your identity will survive life changes.
Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity
August 31, 2021

Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity

"This meeting could’ve been an email.” We're all thinking it. Even 71% of senior managers feel their meetings are unproductive. Reduce meetings and boost productivity with weekly status reports.
The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care
August 26, 2021

The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care

The best time to meditate depends on your intention and your schedule. But no matter when you meditate, you can reap the benefits. The important thing is that you make time for this healthy habit.
Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools
August 24, 2021

Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools

Staying organized can feel like a constant battle for people with ADHD before you find your ideal rhythm and workflow. Here are the top ADHD organization tools to help you become more productive.
No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company
August 19, 2021

No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company

Are meetings consuming your workweek? 78% of people feel their meeting schedule is out of control - see how one no-meeting day a week can improve your productivity, team morale and prevent burnout.
Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman
August 17, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman

Working as JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman, Ben shares how he balances priorities while developing the JSON Schema strategy and it's tooling, and supports the open-source community.
Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite
August 11, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite

Shay Kingsbury at Hootsuite shares how she balances priorities while leading merger and acquisition integration and Go To Market for Sparkcentral at the social media marketing and management platform.
Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages
August 10, 2021

Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages

Slack released a much-anticipated feature in June of 2021: scheduled sends for Slack messages. This, paired with some awesome Status syncing capabilities from Reclaim, can help you become a rockstar Slack communicator and role model for your team.
Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk
August 9, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk

Michele Wiedemer at Synk shares how she balances priorities while developing the education training program for security champions and developers at the open source security platform.
Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever
August 4, 2021

Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever

Exercising for as little as 15 minutes a day can increase your lifespan by as much as 3 years, and you’ll sleep better and feel less stressed too. Here's how to optimize your workouts for the best time of day.
Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People
July 28, 2021

Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People

Reading has amazing benefits, and 35% of people want to do it more. It increases verbal intelligence, makes you a better leader, reduces stress, and fends off Alzheimer’s. Here are 5 tips to try out.
Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square
July 26, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square

Rohini Pandhi, a Product Lead at Square, shares her style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the product efforts for one of the top digital payment companies in the world.
15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work
July 22, 2021

15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work

Check out the top 15 Slack apps productive teams are using today to build and support the future of work at their organization across calendar management, project management, status updates, HR and team building.
Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge
July 19, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge

Connor MacDonald at The Ridge shares his style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the marketing vision for the brand that brought the world the first RFID-blocking wallet.
Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools
July 7, 2021

Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools

We get asked almost every day: what's the difference between Reclaim.ai and Clockwise? While we're both in the smart calendar space, there are some key differences to consider.
Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips
July 2, 2021

Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips

Need to create better calendar event titles to communicate context to your invitees, colleagues and incoming schedulers? Calendar communication starts with the first thing people see: the event title.
Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity
June 22, 2021

Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity

Want to improve your quality of work, energy level, and creativity? In this article, learn 5 ways in which taking a lunch will actually boost your productivity.
Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time
June 17, 2021

Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time

Learn the 5 key differences between effective vs. pointless meetings, and 3 tips to avoid unnecessary meetings getting booked on your calendar.
3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal
June 10, 2021

3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal

You want work-life balance, but work and life can't separate into equal halves. Forget balance, here are three ways to make work-life harmony a reality.
Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉
May 26, 2021

Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉

We're excited to announce that Reclaim has raised $4.8M in seed funding led by Index Ventures. Here's what comes next.
Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management
May 25, 2021

Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management

How to use the Pareto Principle 80/20 rule to block time for your priorities.
3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus
April 28, 2021

3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus

While you may think multitasking is a skill you can master, only 2.5% of people can do it effectively. Your brain performs best when “single-tasking”, focusing on only one thing at a time.
How to Create a Smart Calendar
April 22, 2021

How to Create a Smart Calendar

A smart calendar can help you simplify calendar management and boost productivity. Here's how to create a smart calendar so you can take control of your busy schedule.
Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them
April 9, 2021

Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them

Most time management advice is out of touch with reality. Here are the top 3 problems with it and how to solve them.
Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek
April 5, 2021

Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek

We're excited to announce that Planner is now available in public beta for all Reclaim users. Planner lets you prioritize and schedule all your Tasks and Habits exactly the way you want, every week.
4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules
March 25, 2021

4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules

Time blocking is the habit of mindfully scheduling daily and weekly tasks to get everything done as efficiently as possible. A time blocking planner is used to organize your new, efficient schedule.
Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It
March 16, 2021

Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It

How do you stop context switching from eating into your productive time? We look at tactics to help you reduce task switching and improve your concentration at work.
Why You Can’t Focus at Work, and How to Get Back on Track
March 8, 2021

Why You Can’t Focus at Work, and How to Get Back on Track

It's not always easy to achieve deep focus in the modern workplace. Here are evidence-based strategies you can use to improve your focus during the workday.
Time Management for Managers: How to Tame Your Busy Calendar
March 1, 2021

Time Management for Managers: How to Tame Your Busy Calendar

Most managers calendars are dominated by needless meetings and tasks that should be delegated. 50% of the week is gone and you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. Time to prioritize your calendar.
Introducing Tasks: your to-do list finally meets your calendar
September 1, 2020

Introducing Tasks: your to-do list finally meets your calendar

We just launched Tasks. It's like your backlog and your calendar decided to make it official and get hitched.
Introducing Habits: smart, automatic time blocking for your routines
June 26, 2020

Introducing Habits: smart, automatic time blocking for your routines

Struggling to make time for the things that matter in these crazy times? Never fear, Habits are here.
Calendar Heroes: a Q&A with Zachary Smith, Managing Director at Equinix
May 27, 2020

Calendar Heroes: a Q&A with Zachary Smith, Managing Director at Equinix

We had a chance to sit down virtually with Zachary Smith, who founded Packet before it was acquired by Equinix, where he now serves as Managing Director for their bare metal and edge computing business.
Introducing Reclaim Assistant: more flexibility, more smarts
May 11, 2020

Introducing Reclaim Assistant: more flexibility, more smarts

We just launched Reclaim Assistant, a smarter way to get your calendar under control.
The only Google Calendar hacks you'll ever need
April 23, 2020

The only Google Calendar hacks you'll ever need

Tired of reading posts about Google Calendar hacks and tips that just aren't useful? This is the one for you.
4 new features from Reclaim to help you work from home
April 16, 2020

4 new features from Reclaim to help you work from home

If you're new to working from home or working remotely, these new features from Reclaim will help you to keep your sanity intact.
5 ways to help your remote teams
March 31, 2020

5 ways to help your remote teams

Now that your teams are remote, how do you make sure they don't burn out? Here are 5 ways to help your remote teams keep things balanced.
How good is your work-life balance?
February 7, 2020

How good is your work-life balance?

How defended is your work calendar? Here are some numbers that might make you wonder.
Announcing Reclaim LifeWork: sync all the calendars!
January 24, 2020

Announcing Reclaim LifeWork: sync all the calendars!

We're excited to announce the launch of Reclaim LifeWork. Automatically block time on your work calendar for personal events, and never miss out on life again.
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