Google Calendar New Goals Feature Uses Machine Learning

If you have personal goals you've long wanted to achieve but just can't seem to find the time to do them, Google says it can help. A new feature called Goals puts Google Calendar's machine intelligence in charge of finding free time and adding in those tasks so distractions and last-minute schedule changes don't put a stop to your personal targets.

Google announced the new feature yesterday, on the day that Google Calendar turned 10. The feature works by looking at a user's existing schedule in Calendar and identifying windows of time that can accommodate personal goals.

Goals was developed with the help of Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely, whose time-management app company, Timeful, was acquired by Google last year. Ariely told The New York Times that the new Calendar feature was designed as a "tool to help us against ourselves, and all the short-term things we agree to do in our calendar."

Goals 'Finds Time' for You

Research has shown that people are more likely to achieve goals if they track their progress regularly. Physically recording that progress or publicly sharing it with others also improves the odds of meeting goals, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association last year.

With Goals, Google Calendar "will help you find the time and stick to it," product manager Jyoti Ramnath wrote yesterday in a Google blog post. Simply identify a goal in Calendar, answer a few questions like "How often?" and "Best time?" and Google's machine smarts will do the rest, he said.

For example, a user who sets a goal to "run three times a week" might intend to go running after work but might get sidetracked by a last-minute meeting with her boss. As soon as the user adds that meeting to her Calendar, Goals will move her...

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