Skedify team
Sat Jun 26 2021 · 10 min read

Appointment Scheduling

From Egypt to your cell phone: The evolution of the calendar

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Ben Franklin hit the nail on the head when impressing the importance of organization. Keeping a track of your time and planning ahead for the day’s activities can help you be optimally productive. Calendars have always been a mainstay in tracking major events, as well as planning for the future.

Up until about twenty years ago, a calendar was merely a paper item stuck on the wall, bound inside pages of a diary or neatly placed on your desk taking note of important dates, events and appointments. Important events, appointments and days were subsequently recorded manually. The dates on the paper calendar are arrayed in columns or as grids with a small matrix of boxes allowing the user to record appointments in sometimes tiny and illegible handwriting.

Subsequent innovations to make calendars interactive led to the inventions of modern-day digital calendars such as spreadsheets, Microsoft Outlook, Blackberrys, Palm PDAs, iPads, Mozilla Thunderbird and Google calendar. These calendars take the organization to the next level and help users stay as up to date as possible when it comes to the day’s events.

A look back

The need for a time tracking device was recognized quite early in man’s history. Ancient man is thought to have tracked the days by use of the sun, in order to know when and where to find food or plant primitive crops.

The first scientific calendar to be used was the Egyptian calendar, which had 12 months in a year and 30 days in each month. Then in 45 BC, Romans adopted the Julian calendar, which had 355 days and 30 or 31 days in each month. Later the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582, and after a series of changes and modifications, became the calendar we use today.

Calendars go digital

By the mid-’80s, people’s drive for something more useful than a paper calendar became evident. Paper calendars were cumbersome and didn’t work for you, or even with you. You worked at it. Electronics were tried in various ways to augment the basic calendar. In 1979 Alfred B. Levine described a simple interface that allowed users to record and store future appointments and events. The interface had the ability to edit, delete and recall the records using a computer keyboard as input. This feature was later introduced on PDAs and other portable devices like Lexicon LK 3000.

With the introduction of groupware software (or software that enhances a team working experience by aiding communication in a collaborative way), usefulness and subsequently the importance of electronic calendar increased exponentially. It also influenced the design and functionality of PDAs and ultimately the mobile devices we use today.

With the advent of Web 2.0 technology, social translucency and the mash-up of different technologies, electronic calendaring advanced even further. Today, most mobile phones have calendaring capabilities with the ability to synchronize with a desktop calendar, a friend’s calendar, or an employee’s calendar by storing the information on the cloud. This makes the digital calendar extremely versatile and exponentially more useful than its predecessors.

What can an electronic calendar do?

An electronic calendar helps in managing your meetings and appointments and also shares your schedule with others. Some of the best features include:

  1. Links appointment with contacts – An electronic calendar links appointments with contacts in your address book. This allows you to easily reach whoever your appointment is with, in the event that you want to reschedule, or just confirm the meeting.
  2. Search data – An electronic calendar can search for specific data relating to the date, name and place, helping you easily find a certain person, location or time of an event.
  3. Syncs data – An electronic calendar can also synchronize data to your appointments across your devices so that you always have the most updated information about your upcoming day or week.
  4. Set up appointments – It can also set up appointments automatically to recur over any specified time period (weekly, monthly or even annually).
  5. Syncs with others – Your electronic calendar can be synced with electronic calendars of your family members or other employees ensuring everyone is up to speed on upcoming appointments.
  6. Displays free meeting times – Once you share your digital calendar with other users, they can see the available slots for meetings and can request meetings on a specific date.
  7. Reminders – Your electronic calendar can also set audio and visual alarms as reminders of your upcoming appointment. So, you will never miss a meeting.
  8. Backup copy – One of the most useful features of an electronic calendar is that it can store a backup copy. Since it syncs to the cloud, a copy is available to you even if something happens to your mobile device.
  9. Privacy – Just because your electronic calendar is sharable, it does not mean that everyone can see all of your appointments. Privacy settings allow only permitted users to view specified calendar events, giving you maximum usability.

What can an electronic calendar do for you?

Today’s calendars are extremely versatile and can meet a variety of needs. So, how can you maximize your calendars functions?

  1. Use your calendar for time-specific things. Many people use their calendar for writing to-do lists. As they do so, they include things they wish to do on that particular day. These things without specific time boundary tend to get delayed and or even left unfinished. This defeats the purpose of an effective calendar. So, in order to utilize your calendar optimally, enter in time-specific tasks like meeting from 12 pm to 1 pm, doctor’s appointment at 5 pm. Or, designate a time to do tasks on your list, like 12 pm drop off dry cleaning.
  2. Use location field. While filling in the details of the appointment, it’s good practice to fill in additional details like location, venue of the meeting, room numbers, etc. These details can save you from last-minute panic when you’re searching for your next appointment’s location.
  3. Use the notes field. Like the location field, it is worthwhile to mention the agenda and a brief note about the meeting or appointment. It will help you remember the crucial points just before the event. For example, if you are going for a meeting with your boss and you have a few concerns, enter them in the notes field. This can help you remain focused on the objective of the meeting.
  4. Use the invitation feature. If you are initiating a meeting, use the invitation feature to invite the other parties to the meeting. If they agree, you will receive a confirmation, and can even send reminders to those involved, ensuring everyone comes on time.
  5. Set a reminder. Most of us set the calendar and then forget about it. To make sure that we show up at the appointment, set a reminder at a specific time before the event. Reminders usually come with pop up dialogues, email or SMS.
  6. Linear view. Set your calendar to a weekly or linear view from a monthly view. A weekly view shows a bigger picture and offers a quick glance to see your appointments and schedule in the immediate future. Colour-coding your calendar items for certain tasks gives insight into the number of hours spent per week on a particular activity. Combine colour-coding and the linear view function to maximize your calendar’s effectiveness.

When’s your next appointment?

The evolution of the calendar into the digital version we all know today has contributed to our productiveness as a society. We can operate more efficiently, and there’s no limit to how high we can climb with the assistance of our digital calendars.