Protect your calendar, save your sanity

Our workspace is full of interruption these days and it has become harder to do work that requires focus. Are you among those people who avoid the interruption by blocking some time in their calendar? How long before someone comes along and double books you? A similar story is people inviting you to a meeting while you are away on leave or dropping kids at school.

Calendar-meme

You can’t train everyone to use the ‘Find a time’ feature of Google Calendar. One solution is to auto-decline invites for that 7am meeting without you moving a finger.

The rest of this article is about Google Calendar, you may stop reading if you use something else 😉 There used to be “Automatically declining events” configuration in Labs, but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore (at least to me). However, it is still easy to do simple automation like this using “Google Apps Scripts”. Have a look here to see how it works.

Update: Google has released a new feature that allows you define a special type of event called ‘Out of office’, which will allow you to automatically decline any new invites or existing events during that period. Unfortunately, you can’t define a recurring ‘Out of office’, which hugely limits its benefits.

I had used Apps Scripts before, so I wrote one (using this as a starting point) to do what I needed. It tracks my out of office hours and declines all the incoming invites with a polite response. This is how my calendar might look like when I define out-of-office events in it.

calendar-with-ooo

Check it out here on GitHub, copy and modify it to fit your purpose. When you run it for the first time, you will need to grant access to manage your calendar and send emails as you. Set it to run every few minutes and you are all set. No more meetings when you are away.

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