How Apple's Calendar and Contacts Apps Can Make You More Productive

Knowledge is productivity power

Apple iOS 10
Apple PR

We all have busy lives and, for most iOS users, the Calendar and Contacts apps have become key to meeting daily communication and productivity targets. With these tips, you’ll be far more productive when using either app.

Picture Your Contacts

When someone rings you, iOS already puts their number and name on your display. Apple has even made sure the operating system is smart enough to guess who might be calling by quickly taking a look at your email messages if the number is not in contacts.

However, one way to make it super-easy to tell who is calling you is to add an image of your contact. Here is what to do if you have an image of the contact or another image that may be suitable.

  1. Open the Contacts app, select a person's name for which you'd like to add a photo.
  2. Tap Edit in the right-hand corner.
  3. Tap Add Photo and you will be asked to take a photo or choose a photo from your Photos library.
  4. Add the image. You will be asked to Move and Scale the picture; do so as needed by using your finger to move the image around within the clearly shown frame, and using pinch gestures to scale the image to the right size.
  5. When you have the contact’s picture just the way you want it, tap Choose and Done.

In future, you’ll see a picture of your contact appear on your iPhone display when they call you up and will be able to recognize who they are much more quickly.

Tip: You can also assign images to contacts from within Photos. When you find an image you want to use for a contact, just tap the Share icon and choose Assign to Contact. You’ll then need to find the contact and move and scale the image to suit.

Never Miss Email From Anyone Who Matters

Only available on iOS, Mail’s VIP feature is a good way to monitor incoming mail from key contacts. It combines all the messages from key contacts inside one easy to watch folder. You can also set your iOS device to alert you when you receive messages from key people.

  1. To enable VIP, enter the Mailboxes view in iOS Mail.
  2. Tap Edit.
  3. Tap Add VIP. The VIP mailbox will appear in your Mailboxes list.
  4. Tap the circled I (information button) to the right of VIP.
  5. You are in VIP List. Tap Add VIP to select contacts you want to monitor in this way.
    1. You can also add contacts to VIP by tapping their address in the header of an email and selecting Add to VIP on the next screen.
  6. Once you have chosen the people you want to watch for emails from, you can set-up alerts. Tap the I beside VIP Mailbox and scroll to the bottom of your list where you will find VIP Alerts, which you should tap.

You will enter Mail settings for notifications. Enable Allow Notifications and then set these as you wish them to be. I like to disable notifications in general, except for those from VIPs. This article will help you take better control of Notification Center on your device.

Reschedule Events

This short and sweet tip may not be immediately obvious. When you need to change the time of a scheduled event you can:

  • On an iPhone, press and hold the event until it becomes opaque and you can drag it to the new time or even new day.
  • On an iPhone, press and hold the event until it becomes opaque and then drag one of the small circles to a new start or end time.
  • On both iPhones and Macs, tap the event to open it, tap Edit and change the time, day or location.
  • On both iPhones and Macs, you can also use Siri to reschedule an event, say something like “reschedule my 2 pm meeting on April 24 to [new time]”.

Add Events From Mail

Apple has created a series of data detectors that try to help you easily add events from mail. In fact, it tries to do all the work for you. Here's how it works: When you receive an email containing an event you should see a small item appear at the top of your mobile device screen. It features a Calendar icon and a phrase: Event found.

If you want to add the event to your Calendar all you now need to do is tap the small word "add"… (it will appear in blue). A new calendar event will immediately be created for you.

Making Default Alerts Great Again

Everyone has slightly different needs. With this in mind, you may find that you usually need to change the time of the alert when creating new Calendar alert items. Why not change the default time to one that usually suits you better?

To achieve this, open Settings > Calendar > Default Alert Times. This is where you can choose the most appropriate time for alerts to remind you about Birthdays, Events and All-Day Events. In the future, when creating an Event alert, the default time will match your usual preference, saving you a few seconds when setting up new events.

Don’t Be Late

One of the most useful Calendar features is its ability to figure out how long it will take you to travel to scheduled events. To use this, follow these steps:

  1. Create an event in the usual way and then open that event.
  2. Tap Edit.
  3. Next, enter the event location and allow Calendar to access your Location data if it asks you to do so.
  4. Tap Alert and then create a Time to Leave alert in the drop-down menu.
    1. You can create multiple reminders, including conventional reminders that the event is about to take place. However, what will happen once you have the Time to Leave alert set is that your device will remind you when you have to leave to get to your meeting destination.

Share Calendars with Others

The ability to share Calendars with others is a little-used gem. This can be very useful when you want to share family or work-related cameras.

When you share a calendar anyone who you choose to share it with can read or edit your calendars, including being able to add their own entries, which is why you should create a specific calendar to share, rather than sharing all your private schedule data.

To create a new calendar, follow these steps:

  1. Open Calendars and tap Calendars at the bottom of the display.
  2. Tap Edit at the top of the display.
  3. Choose Add Calendar, name the new item and assign it a color.
  4. Tap Done.

To share the calendar, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Calendars button to get to a list of all your current calendars. Look for the one you would like to share.
  2. Tap the I (info) button to the right of the calendar you want to share.
  3. On the next screen, tap Add Person.
    1. Choose the contact(s) you want to share this item with. You will be able to control what they can do, but for this feature to be useful they must be able to create and edit items.

With this feature set up, you and your family/colleagues will be able to keep track of each other’s schedules and ensure you don’t clash.

Note: When you share calendars, you will be alerted when the people you are sharing with add or edit anything.

Use Nicknames With Contacts

If you use nicknames you will be able to ask Siri to “call my mom,” or “call the doctor,” or “send a message to the boss." Siri is smart enough to look for people’s nicknames when performing a command for you, although you do need to assign these names first.

There are two ways to do this:

  • Method one: Use the screen
    1. Open Contacts to find the person you want to add information about.
    2. Open the record and tap Edit.
    3. Scroll down until you see add field, written in blue.
    4. Tap this and then tap Nickname.
    5. The Nickname field appears just below the name at the top of the card. Now you can enter the relevant name, such as Dad, Mom, My Boss, etc.
  • Method two: Use Siri
    1. Launch Siri and ask it to call a nickname, “Dad,” for example.
    2. If you have not assigned the nickname you use to a contact, Siri will ask who the right person should be.
    3. Once you name the correct person, Siri will ask you if you want it to remember that nickname relates to that contact. Say yes, and you’ll be able to use that nickname to refer to the contact in future.

Work with Other Services

Your Calendar and Contacts apps can sync with third-party services, including Yahoo!, Google, or Microsoft Exchange-compatible solutions. That’s useful for casual Gmail users but essential for those of us who need to access corporate systems from our iPhones.

To sync to a third-party service:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap the Mail option.
  3. Tap Accounts.
  4. Select Add Account.
  5. Now you must choose which type of account you want to sync data with. Tap Other if you use alternate contact management and/or scheduling solutions that supports the LDAP or CardDAV protocols.
  6. Once you’ve entered the relevant details, you’ll be able to choose which apps support the third-party service.

When you have these set up your iPhone, iPad, or Mac will automatically sync with these services, which means you will be able to access work calendars and schedule appointments using your Apple product.

Bonus for Mac Users: A Schedule Tip

This is such a great feature it really is a shame it is currently only available on Macs. The ability to open almost any kind of file to schedule is a little-known talent. You can use it to, for example, maintain timesheets or ensure presentation materials are to hand when you are on your way to a meeting.

The feature is a little hidden, but here’s how it works:

  1. Create a new event in Calendar (Command + N).
  2. Control-click on the event and select Get Info in the list.
  3. Click on the Get info field to get to the edit functions. 
    1. You can also select the event and tap Command + E.
  4. Tap the Alert field.
  5. In the drop-down menu, select Custom.
  6. In the next item, tap the top field to see a drop-down menu from which you can choose your alert style: Message, Message with Sound, email, and Open file. Choose Open file.
  7. You’ll be required to choose the file you want to open, and can set the time at which the alert activates
  8. Click OK.

When that event is scheduled to take place, you will have all the documents you need automatically located and opened so you will be able to go straight to your meeting. You can add additional alarms by tapping the + button beside alert.