Using Google Calendar as a Project Management Tool

in Administration

Using Google Calendar as a Project Management Tool

Since the day I hit ‘Publish’ Google Calendar has changed immensely. I saw the complete design overhaul and new integrations, which in my eyes only graduated Google Calendar from the position of an awesome free project management tool to the best project management tool for my freelance business. Read on to find out why Google Calendar outranks all of the other project management software and programmes I have tested.

Is Google Calendar For You?

As a way of introduction to this article, let me tell you what my project management needs are.

I am a part-time office worker and part-time freelancer. I have limited amount of time to work on commissioned projects during the week so I need my project management process to be easy & efficient when I sit down to do it.

I often answer client e-mails on the go, therefore, I need a tool that I can easily update on my phone and immediately sync with my computer.

I don’t need to see complex charts or the percentage of completed work because I track that in a report I send to my customers.

I need reminders because I am busy and sometimes I forget about my tasks.

I am working remotely and want to be able to share project progress and important milestones with my customers, if they want a detailed overview of the work I am doing.

Oh, and I would rather not pay for a project management tool because I am cheap.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? If the answer is yes, you need to give Google Calendar a try.

But let’s also do a simple reality check here before I soldier on with this article…

Google Calendar is a super simple calendar-based project management tool and expecting it to jump through hoops is a waste of time. GC is not meant to go into extreme details such as task assignment or quantifying progress, and it will not show you a yearly timeline. Treat Google Calendar as your project calendar with note-taking, lists-making, notifications functions, which gets more advanced once you start exploring different integrations.

Google Calendar is for you if:

  • You want a clutter free simple tool with sleek layout
  • You like a calendar style project view
  • You don’t need charts, graphs, tables, and so on
  • You like syncing your tool across multiple devices
  • You like free things
  • You need task scheduling with time view

Google Calendar isn’t for you if:

  • You want a dynamic view of your tasks
  • You are a visual planner (like, thinking of Trello makes you happy)
  • You need a detailed task, subtask and sub-subtask breakdown and assign tasks to team members
  • You need to integrate your tool with e-mail, publishing programmes, CRM and whatever

Google Calendar = the Simplest Project Management Programme for Small Business Owners

To me, Google Calendar outranks Trello and Asana because it’s like a foolproof command centre of a list-maker on steroids. Let’s take a look at the dashboard:

The browser Google Calendar view offers a spacious calendar section, which can be adjusted from day view to week or month view, as well as a full year calendar (without event details), custom timeframe (by default, this option is set to 3 days) or a schedule (just a list of dates and to do’s).

The same goes for the Google Calendar mobile app. By the way, all Android phones have Google integration built in but I suggest downloading GC app anyway and disabling the default calendar.

On the bottom left in the in-browser view you will see the list of your calendars, as well as calendars you are subscribed to (for example, national holidays in Austria).

The panel on the right side under your profile picture (synced with your Google Account because you can only view Google Calendar when logged into a Google Account) is a recent addition. By default, you will see two icons: Google Keep, which syncs your notes, and in-app task manager. 

How to Use Google Calendar for Project Planning

The following section explains the process of setting up & getting into a project management routine.

#1 Planning a project in Google Calendar

The best way to structure projects in Google Calendar is to categorise them into different calendars.

You can create an unlimited number of new calendars and colour code, share or hide them. I have the following calendars:

  • personal
  • shared with my partner
  • freelance work
  • blog
  • health tracker

If you will be sharing calendars with others, for example, with a client, then I would create a separate calendar named after them so the person will not see your other work commitments.

I don’t create separate calendars for each of my projects because they are mostly short-term. However, I do code my workflow by including #NAME in event names for all of the entries in my freelance work calendar. For example, all SEO audits are named #SEO + Customer Name and all online presence guides are marked with #OP. Google Calendar is searchable and this way I can easily pull up whatever service I need to look up.

A good way to create a visual project timeline is to create all day events over the period of time the particular project parts are running and colour coding them (see the image below). If you want to, you can also print the calendar in day, week or month view if you prefer to keep a physical copy.

#2 Adding tasks to Google Calendar

The cool thing about Google Calendar is that you can really plan out your project and create a detailed task list with reminders and subtasks distributed throughout your day at the time you want to work on them. Wheeeey!

An example of a project tracking calendar view with work phases planned over one week. These can be used to block off time for particular stages of your project, as the “all day” events appear at the top of the weekly schedule.
Tasks view – you can see that the task created on the list on the right appears in blue on your calendar.

To plan project tasks, I create individual calendar events blocking off time during the day. This strategy is better than using tasks function if you want to:

  • attach files to tasks
  • add longer notes to your tasks
  • collaborate with other people on tasks (you can add them as event guests, which gives them visibility into the event notes/files and adds the event to their Google Calendars)
  • create recurring tasks (just repeat the event)

I don’t really use tasks that often because I like to see all of the tasks I have done on the days they were completed. Right now, once you tick off the whole list of tasks, they will be moved to the ‘Completed’ section and will continue to accumulate there until you delete them manually. I simply add a check mark to the name of the event/task I completed but don’t remove it from the calendar to be able to go back to it if needed.

If you are a list person, you will love the tasks or Google Keep add-ons. Similarly to different calendars, you can create multiple lists of tasks, which will be visible in the right panel as well as in the main calendar view. You can set a due date for each task as well as a list of subtasks.

#3 Collaborating on Projects

Google Calendar makes collaborating very simple: you can either share your entire project calendar with your clients, suppliers, work colleagues etc. or you can add them individually to events that you want them to participate in as participants (a word of warning – this works best if they use Gmail). If you are managing a project, you can create individual team member calendars to keep track of their progress.

To read more about sharing your Google Calendar, visit this Google Calendar help center section.

A big bonus is the time zone feature – each calendar can be set to a different time zone. You don’t appreciate having additional time zone display until you have to Skype with US-based colleagues! For information on using Google Calendar in different time zones, click here. By the way, you can also add Google Hangouts to your planned event – learn how to do it here.

Other Cool Things Google Calendar Can Do to Make Your Life Easier

  • Create a dedicated calendar for your goals, keeping track of/scheduling time to focus on your work towards them. In fact, Google Calendar mobile app lets you automate your goal setting with intuitive events- read more here.
  • Create a shared calendar with your family/partner for family events, birthday reminders, parties and even meal planning.
  • Batch your days for a different task (one of the secrets of highly productive people!) and plan your weekly schedules with repetitive events option.
  • Create events straight from your Gmail, such as your flight schedule or webinars.
  • Automate your social media, backups or mute your phone (and so much more) with IFTTT applets.
  • Manage and group e-mail event guest lists.

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