Customize Outlook Calendar view to boost productivity

Microsoft Outlook Calendar is useful for work and personal use, but are you seeing it in the best way possible? Customize Outlook Calendar views and make meetings, events and appointments easier.

Calendar is part of Outlook email and it is available free on the web in a browser at the outlook.com website or as part of a Microsoft 365 (Office) subscription. In this guide I use the free web app, although everything will work the same if you are a subscriber.

If you have not explored the settings in Outlook Calendar, you should take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to take a look. There are some useful settings that can make using the calendar easier to use and this means that it might even boost your productivity.

Let’s look at the sort of things you might want to customize. I am using the dark theme here, so your Outlook Calendar may be black on white instead of white on black.

1: View Outlook Calendar settings

Customize Outlook Calendar settings in a web browser at the outlook.com website
Customize Outlook Calendar settings

To customize Outlook Calendar, go to outlook.com in a browser on a Windows PC, Apple Mac or Linux computer. Click the gear icon in the top right corner of the page and then click View all Outlook settings at the bottom of the panel that appears.

When the Settings window appears, select Calendar in the first column and then View in the second column. View settings appear in the third column.

2: Start the week

Set the first day of the week in Outlook Calendar
Set the first day of the week for Outlook Calendar

What day does the week start on? The first day is Sunday, of course, but for several reasons it is better to make the first day Monday. You then work five days and have two days off. It means that work activities and weekend activities appear next to each other. Not everyone works Monday to Friday of course, but if you do, it is a useful setting. Select your preferred day in the list.

3: Set the time scale

Set the time scale for the day view in Outlook Calendar
Set the time scale for day views in Outlook

At the top of Calendar is a menu to select the view. Choose Day, Work Week or Week and each day is divided up into blocks. The size of the blocks is set in Time Scale in Calendar settings and it can be from 5 to 60 minutes.

Avoid the 60 minutes setting because one-hour blocks in the calendar make it difficult to schedule events that are shorter. Choose 30 minutes, or if you want even finer control over scheduled events, set the time scale to 15 or 10 minutes.

I’ll show what this looks like in a minute. For now, let’s continue with Calendar settings.

4: Work week and meeting hours

Set the work week and meeting hours in Outlook Calendar settings
Work week and meeting hours in Calendar settings

Many people work Monday to Friday, but some work odd days. Tick the days that you work under Show work week as. This is used when the Work Week view is selected in the menu above the calendar.

When do you normally hold meetings? Probably not before 9 AM or after 5 or 6 PM. Set the start and end times under Meeting hours in the Calendar settings. It helps when scheduling them.

5: Add extra time zones

Add extra time zones to Outlook Calendar in Settings
Add time zones and enter labels for them

If you have meetings, real or online, with people that are in other time zones, it is useful to add their time zones to the calendar display. When scheduling meetings, appointments and events, you can easily see what time it is for the other person. It means you will not call them out of their normal office hours, or wake them for a chat when they are fast asleep.

Your own time zone is displayed in the Time Zones section, and there is a button to add extra time zones. Click it and enter a city to search for. Click the one you want in the list. For example, search for New York and select it in the suggestions to add it.

6: View your customized calendar

Don’t forget to click the Save button at the bottom of the Calendar Settings panel, then return to the Outlook Calendar.

Outlook Calendar with time zones and a 60 minute time scale
Time zones and 60 minute time scale in Outlook Calendar

There are a couple of things to see in this screen shot and the first is the two columns labelled UTC-5 and UTC+0 between the month calendar and the daily view. These are the time zones. You can also see that the two events in the calendar are a bit squashed. This is because the time scale (step 3), is set to 60 minutes. It really isn’t that useful, and it is best avoided.

Outlook Calendar with time zones and a 10 minute time scale
labelled time zones and 10 minute time scale in Outlook Calendar

I went back into Calendar settings and added a label for each of the time zones. I called my own time zone Home and the New York time zone NY. This makes it easy to see the time where I am and the time in New York. It’s better than the default UTC+0 and UTC-5.

I also set the time scale to 10-minute intervals (step 3). There is more space to display the title of events and more space to show multiple events within the calendar, like two appointments close together, like 10.00 and 10.30.

Another useful feature of setting a smaller scale is that you can easily click and drag calendar events to adjust the start and end times. Move the mouse over an event and then click and drag the handles (small circles top and bottom).

With the scale set to 10 minutes, you can drag the event start and end in 10-minute jumps. For example, you can change a 30-minute meeting into a 20 or 40 minute one using click and drag with the mouse. The event is updated.

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