Has your Google Calendar ever looked like this, a stacked up day of meetings / appointments? Definitely, your calendar is overbooked sometimes with back-to-back meetings. While the meetings do not conflict with each others, there is no room for you to take a break or at least transit from next meeting.

Back-to-back meetings in Google Calendar
Back-to-back meetings in Google Calendar

While Google Calendar supports organization wide calendar visibility to allow your colleagues to see your calendar availability, they may not consider the time necessary for you to prepare for the meeting. It's also not uncommon to see meetings run over time.

You need "buffer" times between appointments to allow yourself clean up a meeting, take a break, clear your mind, prepare and walk to next appointment. For example, you have a 1 hour 1:1 video call appointment, you may need 10-15 minutes to briefly think about what to say and after the conversation, you may need another 10 minutes to organize the notes.

Buffer times are private calendar events on your calendar. The buffer events are shown as "busy" to others so they cannot book times conflicting with your buffer times. Buffer times are not a native feature supported by Google Calendar.

Personal buffer times to prevent overbooking in Google Calendar
Personal buffer times to prevent overbooking in Google Calendar

This article describes how to use Foresight, a workflow automation tool for your Google Workspace, to automate creating buffer times on your Google Calendar.

Video Demo

The video demo is an oversimplified case. For each incoming meeting invite to your primary calendar, add a 15 minutes buffer time before the appointment and add a 5 minutes buffer time after the appointment.

Instructions

Follow the step-by-step instructions below to set up an automation for your calendar.

  1. Sign into Foresight.
  2. Go to Rules.
  3. Click the new rule button button to create a new rule.
  4. In the Select a trigger page, choose New calendar event.
    New calendar event trigger in Foresight
  5. In the Edit trigger page,
    1. Click the REQUEST ACCOUNT ACCESS button to connect Foresight with your Google Account. Once you authorize the permissions, the status turns into Access granted..
    2. In Calendars field, click and select Primary Calendar. This means Foresight watches for new meeting invites on your primary calendar.
    3. Leave Also include events I was not invited, Also include events I created and Include events created by Foresight options unchecked.
  6. Click Next.
  7. In the Select an action page, Choose Create calendar buffer events action
    Create calendar buffer events action in Foresight
  8. In the Edit Create calendar buffer events action page,
    1. Click the REQUEST ACCOUNT ACCESS button to connect Foresight with your Google Account. Once you authorize the permissions, the status turns into Access granted..
    2. In the Calendar field, click and select Calendar Id variable from the drop down menu. The variable is displayed as {{ calendarId_xxxxxx }}.
    3. In the Event field, click and select Calendar Event Id variable from the drop down menu. The variable is displayed as {{ calendarEventId_xxxxxx }}.
    4. In the Pre buffer time field, choose the duration of the buffer event before the meeting.
    5. In the Post buffer time field, choose the duration of the buffer event after the meeting.
      Configuring Create calendar buffer events action in Foresight
  9. Click Review.
  10. In the Review page, type a name for the rule and click Create.
  11. Your workflow looks like
    Foresight rule visualization of Auto Add Meeting buffer times in Google Calendar

Now ask your colleagues to send you a few test meeting invites. Meeting buffer times will be created momentarily after the invites receive your Google Calendar.

Notes

  1. The Create calendar buffer events action does not support all-day events or recurring events, but only one-time meetings.
  2. The demonstrated case does not create buffer times for events created by yourself. If you also need that, check the Also include events I created option in your New calendar event trigger.
  3. If you want sophisticated automation use cases, such as excluding meeting invites from specific person, or on specific date range, you may create a rule like New calendar buffer events => Get calendar event info => If (Event start time is after 5/1/2021) => Create calendar buffer events.

Feel free to leave your ideas or questions below.

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