Calytics is Fitbit for your calendar.

Calytics analyzes your events and informs you of how you spent your time. It syncs with your calendars and allows you to create recipes to track what you want using the Google Calender API. 

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HOW THIS CAME TO BE

In April 2019, I decided to write a newsletter that detailed my goals & plans for the year and send updates to both my friends and the general public. I wanted to use this as a way to hold myself accountable to my goals. In the process I realized that I needed to track my metrics and present them to the subscribers the same way a public company would share news to its shareholders. I started tracking these metrics on Google Calendar but quickly realized that capturing this data wasn't enough. It didn't really answer my question of how I was progressing towards my goals. 

It also struck me that since the calendar has been brought online, it hasn’t changed all that much. While there have been tons of integrations, like goals and tasks, calendars have not yet to integrate analytics despite the large amount of data it aggregates.  

This led me to the question:

How might we enhance the digital calendar for power users? 

I.Research – Understanding What Currently Exists

Because I started this with such an open-ended question, I really had to define and understand the who (power users), what (digital calendar), and how (enhance). I started with defining the who – who are the power users or people who consistently depend on a digital calendar. With limited resources, I decided the best way to aggregate this type of data was to look through different YouTube videos, Reddit threads, and calendar app reviews on the App Store. 

Here’s the full document: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Xadklso6z12XPBWId9b5_Cg94ZdmP5x4XNJWQ6CiY9c/edit?usp=sharing

Watching these YouTube tutorials revealed who the possible users are and how they used their calendar. Some of the users that showed up were students, parents, elders, freelancers/CEOs, and salaried professionals. While spanning a large demographic, what they all had in common was that they used multiple calendars, used a time-blocking method, color-coded their events, and synced their calendar across devices.

I also decided to look through the reviews on various Calendar apps from the past two years to see if what feedback users had and what features they wanted. Interestingly enough, they were also pretty consistent across the different apps: automating transit times, night/dark mode, and color & font customizations.

However, the one thing that stood out to me while doing this research was when two of the YouTubers mentioned that they reviewed their calendars every week to plan out their upcoming week. One YouTuber (Phyllis) actually says it’s the most important thing you do if you want to be productive. It stuck with me because thinking about the various ways that users are brought back to the app, there didn’t seem to be a feedback loop built into the product that brought users back in a consistent manner aside from events. 

II. My Hypothesis

Doing this research surfaced lots of problems to be addressed and features that users wanted built out. While I thought that the weekly reviews would be a good feature to be built, I also wanted to make sure that other possibilities were considered. So I made a list of all the different ways that users wanted to improve their digital calendar and ranked them according to how hard it would to build, it’s potential impact on the user, and the resources needed to buildit. I also eliminated features on the list if it was already on an existing app or if it was ultimately a UX issue.

That really left me with two things: summary of weekly events and time allotment based on calendar/category.

My helped me formulate my hypothesis that by delivering a weekly summary of their events, it would not only help users understand how they were progressing towards their goals but also increase their calendar use. 

The Experiment

To test this idea, I ran a 4-week experiment with two users and myself. Both users shared their calendar with me. One user, Caleb, received a weekly email that broke down their calendar based on the various categories they made for their calendar. The other, John, did not. Because of the limited number of users, I decided to include myself and had 4 weeks where I broke down my weekly events and 4 weeks where I didn’t. I separated these weeks with a 2 week break so make sure there weren’t any carry over effects from receiving that kind of feedback. 

Lesson: I Initially asked about 10 people to test this idea with me but it turns out that privacy is a huge concern for most users. Their primary calendar is actually their work calendar which meant that access & restriction fell to the organization rather than the user, thus eliminating a lot of potential people to test with. As a workaround,I asked friends who were pretty senior in their company and wouldn’t have issues with bypassing this access restrictions. This led me to two test users whose name name I've anonymized to ensure privacy.

Below are the results: 

With Caleb, there was a steady decline in unaccounted time as the weeks progressed. This pattern was also mirrored with my own behaviors and data. This translates to higher product use and better time management. Meanwhile, the unaccounted time remained relatively high for John, who did not receive any calendar feedback. This effect was also reflected in my schedule when I didn't track my time. In fact, not only was the unaccounted time higher, there was also a greater variance in that number. 


Getting Feedback

After the 4 weeks, I asked both users to talk about their experience in a phone interview. Through this, I learned the following:

1.    The primary product they used was Google Calendar. However, they accessed it from a variety of sources. John used the Apple calendar on mobile but web version of Google Calendar on desktop. Caleb used Superhuman on both mobile and desktop. I use my Apple calendar on both mobile & desktop.

2.    All three users neither reviewed their weeks prior to this experiment nor kept track of how they were allotting their time.

3.    Caleb found that receiving the emails made him feel more productive and helped him focus more on what’s important in his work. John mentioned he would have loved to get that kind of email for his work and personal life. He already gets one from his Fitbit which helps him focus on his fitness goals and felt receiving that email would be a great addition.

Both users (and myself) experienced moments where we were extremely busy and forgot to enter events. Reminders would have been helpful.


Proposed Solution

Despite testing with only 3 users, it became apparent that the way people use their calendars and what they add onto it vary greatly. The solution I came up with needed to fit three criteria:

1.    It needed to be built on top of Google Calendar and be accessible through its API so that other apps that integrate with Google Calendar can also access this

2.    It needed to sit in the background and reinforce how users are already using their calendar

3.    It needs to ensure user privacy and remain under the user’s domain (client-side)

4.    It needs to have flexibility in what information is captured and calculated or analyzed

Based on these constraints, I decided to create a Google Chrome extension that runs calendar analytics in the background and emails you the results on a set schedule. The users have a choice of preset recipes and can create their own based on the properties exposed by the Calendar API. 

Using Format