Ask just about anyone what their goals are this year, and you’ll find a big one at the top of many lists: “I need to get more organized!”
Being more organized can bring a host of benefits to your life, whether you're doing it for your own betterment or to help things run more smoothly at your business. It can free up time you didn't know you had, identify gaps in scheduling that you could use more efficiently and cut down on unnecessary stress. It's something everyone could stand to get better at, and it's never too late to start.
Organizational tools can even have a beneficial effect on your health. Better organization can lead to higher energy levels, better eating habits, improved sleep and increased levels of happiness. Improving your organization abilities doesn't have to be a chore either—with the right tools, you can plan your weekly schedule and keep all your most important info organized right from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Here, we'll go over what makes a truly great calendar app and list nine of the best ones you can use to help get your life more organized in 2020.
Calendar apps and planners are ubiquitous—there are dozens of apps and brands to choose from, some tailored to ultra-specific niches like bullet journals and sketch planners. Most of them have the same two basic functions: scheduling upcoming events and reminding you of the important ones. At this stage, pretty much all the calendar apps available can do that.
So aren't they all the same? Not necessarily.
To be really list-worthy, an app needs to tick off a few boxes:
It should be easy to use. A good calendar app shouldn't require a lot of clicks or extensive menu navigation to use effectively. The user experience should be as intuitive as possible.
It should be intentionally designed. It should follow through on its promised function and do it well.
It should be feature-rich and customizable to fit the user's needs.
It should allow you to share with other users, giving people the ability to share access and set appointments with ease.
It should be available to use on multiple devices. Keeping track of your schedule via your desktop, laptop and phone is critical for busy professionals.
With that in mind, let's get into our list.
Especially if you're running a business, it can be a real challenge to keep track of all the moving parts necessary to keep that business running. Having a place to write down everything, complete with notes and reminders and store it all for easy access can open up mental bandwidth better used for creative projects. But whether you're organizing your work week, planning out the next school semester or running errands for the family, a good calendar app can help keep things on track.
Cost: FreePlatforms: Android, iOS, Web
The most widely used work schedule app out there is Google Calendar; it practically has the market cornered on scheduling apps. It has the benefit of being free and comes standard on Android devices as part of Google's native app suite. It also works with Apple's iOS, meaning it can work with just about any device on the market.
This app's cross-platform functionality is one of its greatest strengths. It lets you create multiple calendars and port them to almost any other online calendar you use, easily transferring important events, dates and to-do lists between calendars.
Users can also email invitations to events like group chats or Google Hangouts easily, which makes it useful for work meetings or any time you need to get a group of people together to talk or collaborate on a project.
It also keeps everything synced across time zones—a nice benefit for people who travel a lot for work—and integrates with other productivity apps designed to help you get the most out of your time, like Todoist, Trello and Asana.
Google Calendar allows for the color-coding of multiple calendars as well as the ability to show or hide different calendars depending on which areas of your life the events apply to. You can have separate calendars for work and personal events—coding one in blue and the other yellow, for example—to see at a glance what kind of events are on that day's docket.
Platforms: iOS, Mac, Web
While Google still has the dominant share of the smartphone user market in North America, Apple is catching up. According to data from Statista, Android users made up 51.9% of the market in September 2019, and Apple had 47.4%. That means Apple's calendar app is almost as likely to be used as Google's.
It comes free on Apple devices, so if every machine you've got—phone, laptop and desktop—is running Mac OS, this app can make your life a lot easier. Apple's calendar app keeps your important dates and events synced across all Apple devices from iMac to Apple Watch by storing your information in iCloud. That means you can access your calendar via the web at iCloud.com if you're in a pinch and can't get to it any other way.
If you're a heavy Siri user, the Apple calendar lets you add things to your calendar by voice command. Since Apple's two latest OS updates have Siri integrated even on your desktop, you can do this from literally any Apple device you own.
Since it comes installed on any Apple device and adds events automatically, it's unsurprisingly been voted best free calendar app for Apple users.
Cost: $69.99/year as part of Microsoft Office 365 personal but could be offered free through an employer or school
Platforms: Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Web
Another widely-used default app, Microsoft's Outlook calendar is a great tool for businesses, and you're especially likely to see it used by employees at large institutions like universities.
Outlook's strength lies in its ability to consolidate all your personal information in one place, syncing emails, notes, contacts, calendars and task lists. Multiple calendars can be viewed in multiple ways, either side-by-side or as an overlay. You can set reminders and send meeting requests to coworkers.
Outlook lets you share your calendar with your coworkers, which can be very useful for scheduling group work events and meetings or making sure everyone on your team is up to speed on their deadlines. Team members can view and even manage each other's calendars in Outlook, and the mobile app combines calendar and email functions.
There aren't a lot of bells and whistles on this one, but it does the basics well.
Cost: Free for basic, $8/month for premium, $12/month for pro
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows
More of a specialized scheduling tool or recruiting software than a conventional calendar app, Calendly is great for business owners who need to organize their hiring process. It synchronizes with all the calendar apps listed above and then some, integrating interviews into your schedule automatically as soon as they're booked. The scheduling for recruiting challenges we've grown to expect become a thing of the past.
The app's interface is bright and minimal, making use of clean lines and rounded graphics for a modern look that still feels fun. Calendly lets prospective hires choose their own interview times and dates after you put your availability into the app so there are no conflicts with your existing schedule.
It also sends reminders for interview meetings you've got coming up and reminds the interviewee to reduce the chance of no-shows. You can even print business cards with a meeting link on them in the form of a QR code.
Once you've selected someone to interview, you can send them an email via Calendly with a link to schedule anything from a phone interview to a video conference. It gives both you and the prospective hire the flexibility of interviewing off-site if needed.
The app also gives you the option of scheduling interviews round-robin style or with a panel of interviewers from your company. It's also perfect for hiring on a deadline.
Cost: $49.99 after trial on Mac, $9.99 on iPad, $4.99 on iPhone/Apple Watch
Platforms: iOS, Mac
Another one for the Mac users, Fantastical is a multilingual app that just might make you consider getting a wearable device. The app stays synced across all Apple devices with an attractive and easy-to-use interface, and its readout on the Apple Watch is particularly impressive.
A neat feature of this app is the ability to set geo-fenced reminders that only trigger when the user is in a specific location—maybe reminding you to pick something up in the city on your way to work. It also has impressive natural language processing capabilities in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.
Fantastical lets you schedule reminders and events at your desk or on the go and integrates with other widely used calendars like Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and Outlook. Though the price tag is hefty, it's been named the best paid app for iOS and could be worth the money if you're the kind of person who lives by their calendar.
Cost: Free for basic, $5.99/month for premium (billed yearly)
Platforms: Android, iOS, Outlook, iCloud
Any.do used to be a reminder and to-do list app until it rolled its separate calendar feature, Cal, into the main app in 2016. Since then, it's become a one-stop shop for organization enthusiasts and has made multiple lists of best calendar and organizational apps. The app keeps reminders, tasks, calendars, goals and schedules all in one place. You can also make and share lists, like a grocery list for a specific event, with others.
Not only can this app help you stay organized, but it can also help you stay productive by keeping you on top of your goals and to-dos for the day. Any.do allows for location-specific reminders and sends you a notification at the beginning of every day with a preview of your agenda to remind you of your goals. An especially useful feature is the ability to add travel time to event reminders, so you're notified with enough time to actually get there when you're supposed to.
Users can import Any.do's calendar into any other calendar app they use, such as Google or Apple Calendar. Once done, the events mapped out in Any.do will adapt to that calendar, taking on the same color-coding. For example, if you have birthdays marked in yellow and workouts marked in red in Google Calendar, Any.do events will match that format when you import them.
Platforms: Linux, iOS, Windows
Thunderbird is an open-source software company, similar to Firefox in that it makes developer tools accessible to anyone and lets users report on and fix bugs in the system. In fact, they're part of MZLA Technologies Corporation—a subsidiary of Mozilla Foundation, the company that created the Firefox open-source web browser. The company markets itself as a free and open-source news feed, chat and calendar client that's easy for users to set up and customize.
The Lightning Calendar app by Thunderbird is a top choice for Linux users, and it also works on iOS. It manages emails and tasks as well, opening each facet of the app in a separate tab. This lets users switch back and forth between to-do lists and scheduling meetings in their calendars easily. A bonus of this calendar app is that you can see a summary of that day's important events even when paging forward and backward through other days and months.
Users can select a day, week, multi-week or monthly calendar view in Lightning Calendar. A built-in search function allows you to search for events by categories like “birthday” or “meeting.” It isn't the most aesthetically pleasing calendar app out there, but it's very utilitarian and does allow for some customization via built-in themes.
Cost: $1.99 for a one-month trial, $11.99/yearPlatforms: iOS
If you are looking for something a little more visually appealing, this calendar app by the makers of the Moleskine notebook is all about aesthetics. It's iOS only, but if you're part of the Apple ecosystem, you may want to give it a try.
Timepage incorporates the same minimalist visual elements you may be familiar with from Moleskine notebooks. The interface is clean, clutter-free and elegant, with a black, white and red color scheme. It works with iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.
Aside from its great look, Timepage is a legitimately useful calendar app with features you may not find anywhere else. For example, it tracks your time with a smart “heat map” feature to let you know when you're busiest throughout the week. Natural language processing makes it easy to enter events and reminders and integrates with other apps like maps and weather to show you forecasts and travel times to your next event.
Platforms: Web (Chrome plugin), Android, iOS, Windows
As the name implies, this calendar app is aimed specifically at students looking to organize their academic lives and extracurriculars. My Study Life wants to take the place of every student's old-school paper planner and claims they'll “never forget a lecture or assignment again.”
Different from what you may see in the professional world, this app tends to be organized around a semester schedule rather than a quarterly one. The makers of the app say it was designed to meet the often-changing circumstances that come with academic life.
Once you've added all your classes into the app, it lets users log assignments they have coming up. One particularly useful feature of My Study Life is that users can view their progress on those assignments as a percentage of how close they are to completion. Another section of the app lets you keep track of upcoming exams so you can plan study time in advance.
As an added bonus, this app syncs its schedule across multiple devices via the cloud and can even be accessed offline, making it super easy to keep on top of those important academic milestones.
Everyone's needs are different, but whether you're a CEO, solopreneur or student, there's a calendar app out there for you. With so many to choose from, it's worth taking the time to do a little homework to see which will best fit your needs rather than picking the first one you come across. So do some experimenting and find out which one feels right.
Maybe your smartphone's default app is perfect for you, or maybe you need a little more customization. Today's calendar apps let you make them unique to you and your schedule, allowing you to tweak them into an interactive tool you'll love to use instead of one you could live without.
If you're a hiring manager, Calendly might be what you need to streamline your interview process. If you're a student, My Study Life might be ideal. Hardcore Apple users would benefit from the syncing capabilities of Apple Calendar or Fantastical, while Google fans probably get all they need from Google Calendar. It's all a matter of preference and utility.
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