Technology has a way of going in and out of popularity, and while the days of HotSyncing our Palm Pilots are over, email and the digital calendar have managed to ward off nearly any sign of obsolescence. The move from PDA to smartphone has actually demonstrated the opposite, taking our personal calendars and transforming them into real-time collaborative scheduling tools.

However beneficial this added level of connectivity might be, the ubiquity of the digital calendar has created its own challenges. We have to juggle our own personal calendars, department calendars, and the shared calendars of friends and coworkers. A smartphone can make this data available to you anywhere, but condensing it into a lean and efficient productivity system requires a bit of forethought and just a few minutes of technical setup. We’ll guide you through some of the more technical aspects of the process, and by the end you’ll have your smartphone tuned up with all the information you need to keep an impeccable schedule.

Syncing with an Exchange server

If you’re looking to set up your phone with your company’s email and calendaring back-end, chances are good that you’ll be tapping into a corporate Exchange server. Microsoft’s Exchange Server software came about in the early nineties when the company shuttered its Unix-based Xenix systems, and it has since become the de-facto standard in enterprise email, calendar, and contact management software.

It’s so ubiquitous, in fact, that iOS, Android, and Windows Phone all offer integrated Exchange support. In some cases, all you’ll have to enter is your email address and password for access to your company’s Exchange server, while others will have to enter custom domains and other technical settings. Gathering these settings ahead of time by calling your IT department or logging into their website will spare you a good deal of frustration when setting up your apps, so we recommend doing that now.

iOS

Android

Windows Phone

Syncing with a Google account

If you’re on Android, you probably already have your Google account set up. If not, adding it in Settings under “Accounts & sync” or the “Accounts” category simply requires you to input your username and password, whereupon a dialog will pop up asking you to choose which services you’d like to sync.

Other mobile OS’s will require a little more setup before you can easily switch between calendars and accounts. Both iOS and Windows Phone require a two step process in order to view multiple calendars — step one involves a separate process for iOS and Windows Phone, whereas step two is shared between them both.

Step One:

Step Two:

Conclusions

Juggling a handful of server settings in addition to the slight variations in how mobile OS’s handle accounts can make the setup process seem rather complex and obtuse, but as we’ve seen, the hardest part is getting connected. Once you’ve done that, all three smartphone platforms offer reliable ways to keep up to date with all of your email, calendars, and contacts. Which scheme you choose will vary by device and your preferred ecosystem, but universal support for standards like Exchange and IMAP have made integrating a personal smartphone into busy work life not only a possibility, but an enticing alternative to a dedicated company handset.