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The Smart Calendar Revolution: 5 Ways Smart Calendars Will Change How We Work

By
Adam Henshall
|
Nov 29, 2023
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With the advent of AI, the way we think about calendars is starting to change. The smart calendar has emerged and it's here to change everything. Click to see how.
https://www.xembly.com/resources/smart-calendar
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Whether it's in your professional or personal life, calendars shape the way we attack the day.

For many white collar professionals, the calendar defines what we do day-to-day, when we do it, and how. The calendar - more than any other workplace organization tool - is the spine of how things get done.

The calendar has also evolved. With tools like Outlook and GSuite, professional shared calendars are part and parcel of the job.

In fact, in almost every line of work calendars are vital.

When is the next delivery arriving? When do I need to buy more stock? What day do I need to be on site? 

But calendars are getting an overhaul.

With the advent of AI, the way we think about calendars is starting to change. With this comes the emergence of the smart calendar.

In this Xembly article, we'll look at what a smart calendar is and how it's changing the way we work and live. We’ll cover:

  • What is a smart calendar?
  • Top 4 defining features of a smart calendar
  • The different types of smart calendars
  • The 5 advantages of using a smart calendar for work
  • Xembly turns a smart calendar into an AI chief of staff

What is a smart calendar?

A smart calendar is a type of calendar that achieves a much higher feature set than a normal calendar through the use of machine learning or artificial intelligence.

A smart calendar reduces the amount of manual effort you have to use to manage your time.

A smart calendar might complete certain tasks for you without needing to consult you. Or, a smart calendar might allow you to use the tool without having to interact with the normal interface, for example, through voice control or a message in another platform.

How does a smart calendar differ from a regular calendar?

A regular calendar could mean an offline calendar, a wall hanging, or a series of dated post-it notes on your desk. Calendars have been useful to help us stay organized and plan ahead for a very long time.

Because they were effective, most digital calendars attempted to replicate offline calendars in design; their form and function.

A smart calendar, however, doesn't just replicate the offline calendars we’re all used to. A smart calendar changes the way we interact with a calendar.

Is a smart calendar the same as a digital calendar?

A smart calendar is a digital calendar but it can do more.

A digital calendar tries to replicate an offline calendar online. Some are still simple and require you to manually update them and to navigate an interface which looks the same as an offline calendar.

However, if you are using calendars from Apple, Google, or Outlook, you may find suggestions or notifications to add an event to your calendar based on the contents of an email. This type of feature is an example of smart functionality, taking information from another set of tools and passing it into the calendar.

The ability to pass that information is what makes a calendar smart. In this sense, a smart calendar is like a digital calendar with a human assistant.

You can still access the digital calendar yourself as normal, but you do not need to manually update it in the same way as before. Smart calendars are closer to having an assistant or a secretary as an analogy for functionality.

Once you have an assistant to manage your calendar, that assistant can be capable of doing other things. Suddenly your smart calendar is more than a calendar and it can achieve a wider variety of outcomes. 

At Xembly, we often talk about this evolution in a professional context as being more like a chief of staff. We use the analogy of a chief of staff because the smart calendars can be centrally synced, creating a central knowledge of what is happening across the company at any given moment in time. This feels a pay grade above a single person's secretary or assistant.

And the evolution from calendar to chief of staff opens up a whole range of other possibilities which we will explore in this article.

Top 4 features of a smart calendar.

We understand that smart calendars are an evolution of digital calendars, but can we be more specific? What are the key features or functionalities which separate a smart calendar from a fairly clever digital calendar? 

Below I’m providing four capabilities which are important to being a smart calendar. I think a truly smart calendar achieves all four of these areas - though, maybe it is possible to achieve three of these and still be a smart calendar. 

Personally, I think you need to achieve all four.

Smart calendar feature #1: Automatic event scheduling

Smart calendars should have the capability to automatically put events onto your calendar when they think it is right to do so. This does not mean that they always schedule events for you without asking, but it does mean they can make recommendations or they can provide time slots to other people when you may be free or available for a meeting.

This automatic event scheduling could be as simple as recognizing you have an email from your hairdresser confirming the date and time of your next haircut.

I receive these emails every time I book a haircut on my hairdresser's mobile application. My calendar on my iPhone automatically asks me whether I want to add this appointment onto the calendar.

This is the feature where digital calendars have begun to appear smart. Yet, this feature alone doesn't make for a smart calendar.

Smart calendar feature #2: Natural language processing

A truly smart calendar, in a world of large language models, is now able to process normal written or spoken language and convert that into instructions for itself to schedule items or change items on a calendar.

This is not entirely new. As any power users of Siri or Alexa will tell you, a basic version of this functionality has been available for the past few years.

However, now with the advances in A I technology, we have reached a point where you can interact with your calendar on a much more conversational level.

You can ask your calendar about existing engagements. You can tell it to move one and instruct it to place something new in the space. The ability to do this naturally as if talking to another person is really what separates the smart calendar from a regular digital calendar.

Another aspect of this might be the ability to provide these instructions in different ways. Some smart calendars provide a text box in which you can chat with the AI to manage your calendar. Others may allow you to speak with your calendar or - as we will come to later - you may be able to chat with your calendar through other platforms like email or slack. 

The ability for your calendar to understand what you are saying and reply to you with useful responses as well as carry out your instructions, distinguishes the smart calendar from other types of digital calendar.

This is what makes it feel like having an assistant.

Smart calendar feature #3: Context awareness.

This one is a killer feature and dictates whether or not a smart calendar achieves its goal of feeling like a real human assistant.

Context awareness means that your calendar can understand and process multiple bits of information at once.

For example, if you tell your calendar, you want to book a meeting at 2pm on Tuesday, your calendar should let you know if you are already busy at 2pm on Tuesday. This is the most simple version of context awareness.

A slightly more complicated version of that could be to say you are busy at 2 pm on Tuesday, but you are available and free at 3pm on Tuesday. “Would you like to schedule it at 3pm?” 

A further iteration of that context awareness might be where your calendar tells you that you already have something booked at 2pm on Tuesday, but the existing item at 2pm is less important than this new item. So it recommends placing the new item at 2pm and moving the old item to 3pm when you are free. 

With each step of complexity as we iterate this context awareness, we begin to see the extra value the calendar is adding. It also achieves the illusion of human-like intelligence by factoring in multiple variables and making suggestions based on those facts.

A further level of context awareness would be to recommend actions taken outside of the calendar: “You marked this task complete. Would you like me to update it for you in Jira?” 

In this scenario, the A I is offering to act on your behalf outside the context of the calendar. This is the next level where smart calendars almost become too smart to still be called calendars.

Smart calendar feature #4: Integration with other apps

Where smart calendars become really smart is the ability to integrate with the other platforms you already use.

This value is taken even further in the context of a workplace because your colleagues are also on those platforms, which means the AI can trigger extensive workflows across your company.

We have already mentioned the most basic versions of integration with other apps in the context of the connection between email and calendar, which is one of the first areas where calendars began to get smart.

However, it isn't just email which can connect to your calendar. For a long time, calendars have been able to connect with other messaging and communication platforms like Slack or Microsoft teams. Now, with AI technology, calendars can integrate into a wide range of different platforms and enable complex actions.

The no-code and API movements of the late 2010s created a new web of business and personal software where each platform can integrate into many others, sometimes natively and sometimes via third party apps like Zapier or Integromat, now known as Make.

With AI capabilities building on this existing web of integrated products, you can now start from a central point and trigger a sea of actions across your entire tech stack - and smart calendars are beginning to place themselves as that central point your day revolves around and from which your AI can take actions.

The different types of smart calendars.

Up to this point, we have given pretty tight technical definitions of what can count or qualify as a smart calendar and what cannot.

However, the term smart calendar will be used by many people to mean many different things and we should be cognizant of that fact. So here are three different things someone might be referring to when they use the term smart calendar. 

Types of smart calendars #1: A normal digital calendar

Some people might just be referring to how much better their Google calendar has become with the addition of smarter features and easier integrations with the Google home they have in their house.

For many people who are not on the tech cutting-edge, a calendar which identifies events in your emails and automatically proposes adding them seems very smart. Also being able to ask your Google hardware what is on your calendar and for it to respond and explain accurately, also seems pretty smart.

This is true, not just of Google calendars, but the Apple ecosystem too. These types of digital calendars have gotten a lot smarter, but we don't really consider them to be true smart calendars in the context of this article. 

Types of smart calendars #2: A physical tablet calendar

This is one I personally love. 

The physical tablet calendar seems very smart to many people and it is. This type of smart calendar is what people are looking for when they want to replace the physical calendar that lives on their fridge, wall, or on their desk.

There are two physical calendars I recommend checking out. One is the Skylight Calendar and the other is the Hearth Display.

The Skylight Calendar

The Skylight Calendar is a tablet which comes cased in a photo frame. You can purchase a 10 inch or 15 inch version of the Skylight Calendar.

The price for the skylight calendar is around $300. The calendar integrates with Google, Outlook, Apple, Cozi, and Yahoo. It’s connected to the Wi-Fi and, with an HD touch screen, it works as you would expect a tablet to work.

You can also connect the tablet to your own phone with their mobile app and you can use a range of their software including charts for completing chores, meal planning, and sleep mode to decide what time the tablet turns on and what time it turns off each day.

The Skylight can be mounted on the wall or placed on a surface much like a normal photo frame.

The Hearth Display 

The Hearth Display is similar to the functionalities of the Skylight Calendar, however, the Hearth is intended only for wall mounting and it has a much larger screen than the Skylight.

The Hearth Display is designed to be a full home operating system with different profiles for each family member. This allows you to delegate tasks and chores, to share and integrate calendars, and to try to build and establish routines.

The Hearth Display feels more designed; designed for families and catered to dealing with children.

It's currently sold out as I write this, but you can join their waitlist for the next batch.

Types of smart calendars #3: A professional smart calendar 

A professional smart calendar is really what we are talking about when we say the words smart calendar. We are talking about something capable of acting like a human assistant, and managing a calendar and a network of connected and integrated apps.

However, this kind of professional smart calendar - if used in the workplace as business software - can be even more than that.

Xembly is more than an executive assistant

Xembly, for example, is much more than an assistant or secretary for one person. Being business software, Xembly provides centralized knowledge of what is happening in your organization.

This makes the smart calendar appear to behave more like a chief of staff overseeing all the meetings taking place across the organization, understanding their notes, and creating and delegating tasks.

This is the future of an AI which helps achieve organizational success in your business. The calendar is simply the central point for each person through which they interact with that AI operating system for the business's organizational success. 

It’s in this context that the smart calendar ascends to its highest value.

The five advantages of using a smart calendar for work

It isn’t just there to book your meetings.

#1: It's easier to maintain calendar discipline.

If your day is entirely booked with meetings, then it is very easy to complete your day in accordance with your calendar.

However, for many people not in management, their days are not entirely booked with meetings. In fact, their days have large open spaces. In those open spaces they may use time boxing or time blocking to designate on their calendar what activities they are going to do at which point in time.

This is a time management system and, like any system, adherence is key. Using a smart calendar makes adherence to the system much easier.

For example, Xena, the Xembly AI, messages me on Slack every morning to tell me what I have on my calendar and ask me what I want to add.

This enables me to effectively time block every day and helps me adhere to my time management system. Xena has made it much easier and this makes me more effective every day, with those marginal gains accumulating over time.

#2: Booking meetings with individuals or groups happens instantly.

It’s common now to receive or send a meeting link when you want to book a meeting with somebody within or outside your organization.

While Xembly offers this functionality, you don't have to send links. If I want to book a meeting with Andrew, I tell Xena to book a meeting with Andrew at this time, that time, or when we're both free. Xena then handles that for me and I don't have to look at a calendar or think about it again.

This is even more impressive when trying to book with a large group of people. This is something traditional meeting links really struggle with, but Xena knows when everyone is free - or when everyone is doing lower priority tasks - and can propose meeting times as a result.

#3: It automatically produces meeting notes when you are in a meeting.

With Google Meet or Zoom, the AI can attend the meeting and record notes for everyone on the team. This AI note taking is almost instant and remarkably accurate.

A truly smart AI can leave out sections like introductions - that aren’t useful - and focus on the important takeaways. With Xembly, these notes the AI takes are available for everyone to review, edit, and contribute to at the end of the meeting.

This allows for everyone to create shared truth in the meeting notes and have equal access to those meeting notes immediately at the end of the meetings. This also means everyone can pay proper attention and contribute to their fullest because no one is being distracted having to take notes.

#4: It creates tasks from meeting notes and blocks time to complete them.

This isn't an advantage of normal smart calendar technology. This is an advantage of using Xembly specifically.

Xembly pulls action items from the meeting notes and suggests delegating them to individuals who would be good to complete those tasks. This shows the potential of smart calendar systems and how easy it is to go from a calendar to an entire task management system for an organization.

Xembly even blocks time on your calendar to complete the tasks you've been assigned, forming a full circle from calendar to meeting to notes to tasks and back to the calendar again. 

#5: Smart calendars can integrate with your tech stack.

We have already covered the ability for smart calendars to integrate with different platforms, but the level to which they can achieve this is impressive - Xembly, for example, can update information in Salesforce or Hubspot as well as add information into Slack.

You could even use tools like Zapier to make complicated multi-step workflows triggered by Xembly actions. The possibilities for integration are endless.

Xembly turns a smart calendar into an AI chief of staff

Xembly’s Task Manager gives direction to your calendar through its auto-task monitoring and time allocation. With Xembly’s Task Manager, users experience a 26% uptick in task completion rates. It creates time for meeting tasks and shapes your timetable to help you get them done.

If you're still not sold, check out our happy customers:

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