Productivity – Scheduling Meetings

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Lately my time is becoming increasingly scarce. I’m being pulled in a lot of different directions because I’ve got my fingers in so many pies, and a lot of those projects require that I take time to meet with people, either in person or through Skype.

At first that meant a lot of emails back and forth “I’m free then and then, how about you?” – but if you’re doing a few of these at the same time, I quickly found that I was running the risk of double-booking in terms of the availability I was offering to people. Not only that but when you’re dealing with people in other countries, the mental gymnastics required to do timezone conversions in your head can get taxing and lead to issues. It was in short, chaos.

I’ve been looking for a better way for a while now. The people I’m meeting with are online and my calendar is online so it seemed reasonably obvious that something ought to exist that would be able to assess my availability and present that but then also book it in real time and add it into my calendar.

It turns out that this sort of service does exist, and the app I’m using is called ScheduleOnce. You can check out how it works for free (right now I’m on a free plan, though I’m thinking seriously of upgrading). You set your general availability on a per-day basis, essentially setting up what hours you are open, then you connect to your cloud-calendar to pull more specific availability. You can control how many times people need to suggest, what length and other things – and for paid accounts you can set an amount of time before and after that gets blocked off for e.g. a snack or a pee break.

ScheduleOnce has made a nice change for me because it’s cut a long back and forth on email into “here’s my calendar, set something up when you’re available”. That said, what I’d really like to get to is a system where just the fact that two people want to meet is enough to get the calendars to interface and find a mutually agreeable time, but we’re not there yet. Also, you have to be careful how you use it – especially when dealing with people further up the food chain than you as it can be seen as a bit of a powerplay (“I don’t have time, use my system”), but in general, it’s been really helpful to streamlining something that’s normally just way too dull and time consuming.

  • Matthew Jack

    There’s also Google Calendar. Maybe doesn’t have as many features, but it’s free, robust, handles timezones fine and it’s compatible with Outlook.

    • Luke Dicken

      ScheduleOnce ties off against gCal (a point I should have included) but as far as I’m aware gCal itself doesn’t have native ability for you to say to someone “pick a time from these times that I’m provably available based on my calendar and schedule something that will auto-add to my calendar” which is the core functionality this adds.

      gCal does allow for shared events (in fact SO makes use of these when it creates the event) but they are generated on your end and you invite an attendee and hope they can accept.

      So unless I’m missing functionality in gCal (possible – they do change it) this is extra stuff.