Aug 2, 2011 tech
So in January of 2010 I landed in Las Vegas for my very first Consumer Electronics Show. I’d booked wall-to-wall appointments for three days straight and had the most impressively color-coded and organized google calendar ever. So it was quite a shock when I checked the appointments on my phone for the next morning, only to discover that all of them had been shifted three hours earlier! A breakfast appointment for 7:30, which was already way too early for my taste, was now listed at 4:30am. I was having lunch with a website rep at 9am and cocktails at 3pm. What the hell?
My newish-at-the-time Droid had never been off of the east coast, so I hadn’t encountered this before. I had the phone set to automatically change to local time, and when that happened, google shifted all of my appointments to local time. Which would have been great if they were conference calls with people back in NYC, but pretty useless since they were local appointments.
I switched the Droid’s settings so that I could manually change the time zone, and in the end left it on east coast time – I thought it would be easier to mentally figure out the correct local time than to figure out the correct time of the appointments. I kept my computer on east coast time as well.
It wasn’t until about halfway through the trip that I had time to sit down and figure out what I’d done wrong. And there, at the top of the event creation page, was something I’d never noticed before: a time zone setting.
All I had to do was set the time zone for each appointment to Pacific time – something I should have done when I was entering them originally (new appointments default to whichever time zone your calendar is set to at that moment).
That way, I was able to set my phone and computer to local time, and my appointments adjusted themselves accordingly: east coast appointments were shifted earlier, and west coast appointments were right there in local time.
So, here’s a day with some east coast and west coast appointments, with my calendar set to east coast time. You’ll notice that “Microsoft Breakfast” appears to be at 11am; while I wish every day started that late, that appointment and all following are in Pacific time. The kids’ camp times and the 9am (fake) conference call are both NYC-time appointments.
Once I get to San Diego and set my laptop to west coast time, that same page will look like this. If that conference call were real, I would know that I had to get up very early to talk to somebody back on the east coast, and also that my husband will be getting Jake onto the camp bus not long after I’ve gone to bed.
If you want to schedule something that crosses time zones, like an airplane flight, you can even use split time zones. This is especially handy if you share your calendar with others and want to block that time off as unavailable. Or if you have an itinerary that lists local times and you don’t want to do the math.
So, the flight is listed as having the correct duration on my calendar and I can be careful not to schedule anything during that time.
And there you have it. Just remember when making appointments that happen in another city to ask yourself if they’re in another time zone, and mark them accordingly. That way, everything will be in order when you land, no mental gymnastics required!
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