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The Time Zone Calendar Problem: A Clumsy But Effective Hack

US Time zones.svgSo a little while ago, I was griping ardently on Facebook and Twitter about this stupid fracking thing my iPhone calendar had started doing. (I know, I know — first world problems.) If I entered an event into my calendar for (say) 5pm, and I then flew from the Pacific time zone to the Eastern time zone, my phone would ever-so-helpfully change the time of the event — of all the events in my calendar — to reflect the time change. The 5pm event in my calendar would get changed to 8pm.

So if I entered, oh, say, just to pick an example completely at random, A FLIGHT DEPARTURE TIME of 5pm, it would ever-so-helpfully change the time of that flight in my calendar to 8pm. If I’d made an appointment for a lunch meeting in San Francisco at noon, when I was on the East Coast it would tell me the appointment was at 3pm. Etc.

Useless. Completely useless.

I asked around on Facebook and Twitter, seeing if anyone knew of a fix for this. A few people suggested turning Time Zone Support on — or off, I forget which is which — a setting in which you could enter both the time of an event and the time zone it was happening in… but that didn’t work, either. If you entered a 5pm event and told the calendar it was in Chicago, and you then went to the East Coast, it would tell you the time of the event in East Coast time… not in Chicago time. And for events during which time zones changed — such as oh, say, just to pick an example completely at random, A FLIGHT DEPARTURE AND LANDING TIME starting in New York and ending in San Francisco — it was completely useless. There was no way to tell the calendar, “This event starts in one time zone and ends in another.”

All I wanted was a calendar in which I could enter the time of an event, and have it NOT FUCKING WELL CHANGE from the time that I had entered. I enter events in the way that makes sense to me, and I wanted them to stay exactly the way I entered them.

When I put out the desperate, anguished cry for help on Facebook and Twitter, a whole bunch of people begged me, “If you get a solution, will you please please please tell me?” Apparently my despair and anguish are echoed across the globe.

So I have a solution, one that was suggested by a couple of different people. (Sorry, I don’t remember who now — if it was you, tell me in the comments, and I’ll give you credit.) I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and it totally works. It’s clumsy, it’s inelegant, it’s a total hack… but it works. It does what I want it to. It records the time of an event in my calendar, exactly the way I tell it to — and it keeps it that way, exactly as I entered it.

The hack:

Type the start and finish time of the event into the title of the event.

When I enter an event in my calendar, in the “title” field, I’ll type, “Dinner with Rebecca,” or, “Talk at Colorado State,” or, “SFO to ORD.” And then I’ll type in, “6pm – 8pm,” or “7:30 pm – 9pm,” or “11:15 am – 5:35 pm.”

And because it’s just text in the title field, it doesn’t change, no matter where I am.

It’s clumsy. It’s inelegant. It’s a total hack. But it works.

You’re welcome.

Comments

  1. Lofty says

    Haha, you might as well stick a post-it note to the back of the phone. Isn’t technology maaaarvellous?

  2. says

    When I travel, I like to have items on my calendar entered in such a way that they appear correct for the timezone which I’m in. If I enter something on my phone or via ical as 5pm PST, and if I’m on the east coast, then the effective time there should be 2pm EST. My phone knows where I am and should automatically set the timezone for the calendar appropriately. The time for an item shouldn’t change just because I moved to a different timezone. A time, which includes the timezone, is already fully specified and no “correction” is needed, as long as it’s entered correctly.

    Thus, I turned on “time zone support” in iCal (under Advenced menu in Preferences), and I turned OFF “Time zone support” for Calendar on the iPhone (under Settings > “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”). When I enter an event in iCal, I just make sure I have the correct timezone set for that event in the upper-right. When I end up in a different timezone, my phone automatically knows the local time and Calendar also shows events in the local timezone. Since all events have the timezone set correctly, they always show up correctly.

  3. tengalaxies says

    I work programming server-side computer applications. Time zones are the bane of my existence. Not all platforms handle them well, and people get confused just thinking about them. For example, the definition of a “day” (midnight to midnight) changes depending on time zone so you can’t compare system X’s daily aggregated data, which is in PST because its company was founded in California, with system Y’s daily data which is in London time because that’s where the user is located, with system Z’s data which is in New York time because that’s where most companies in the industry are headquartered.

    Your problem is interesting because you don’t want the calendar to do what seems intuitive to most people: changing times based on the time zone you’re in. If you had scheduled a business call for 2pm when you were in San Francisco and then it turned out you were in Chicago during that time, you’d want it to tell you 4pm, right? But if your attendance at the meeting depends on you being there, I can see how the changing times are confusing.

    Time zones. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

  4. says

    You can actually have it either way. Just turn on “time zone support” in iCal and then you can either turn it on or off on your iPhone’s Calendar program and get it operating either way. Just play with the two settings until you find what works for you. You can pretend to be in a different timezone on your phone under settings just to see what would happen.

  5. Greta Christina says

    When I travel, I like to have items on my calendar entered in such a way that they appear correct for the timezone which I’m in.

    raj @ #2: I get that. A lot of people want that. But I don’t. I want events listed with whatever time I entered, and I want that not to change when I travel. I literally want my calendar to ignore the existence of time zones entirely.

    You can actually have it either way. Just turn on “time zone support” in iCal and then you can either turn it on or off on your iPhone’s Calendar program and get it operating either way. Just play with the two settings until you find what works for you.

    raj @ #4: I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work. Again: I literally want the calendar to ignore the existence of time zones, and just list the time of upcoming events exactly as I enter them, regardless of where I was when I entered them or where I am when I’m looking at them. Right now, the only solution I’ve come up with for this is my hack.

  6. says

    It was me who suggested this kludge to you, and I further credit good ol’ practical Patsy, who gave it to me IRL. You’re welcome. :)

  7. says

    Ok, this is my last comment on this. I’ve been using this for years and it has worked just fine.

    You can easily play around with all of this timezone support even while sitting in one location. For example, on your phone, go to Settings >General > Date & Time. Set “Set Automatically” to “off”. Now you can change your timezone to be anywhere else. I set mine to “New York” and instantly all of my Calendar entries moved to times 3 hours later. I then go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars >Time Zone Support and set “Time Zone Support” to “on”, and set your timezone to “Los Angeles”. Instantly all of my Calendar entries moved back to their appropriate times. So, this demonstrates that you can have your Calendar entries always displayed in one timezone, even though you’re in another.

  8. Acitta says

    Google calendar on Android has a toggle to set it to display calendars and event times in your home time zone when travelling.

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