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14 Mar

Find a time for meetings with ease

Datum: 2012-03-14 11:00

Some things are best done in coop­er­a­tion with oth­ers. That is why we need to have meet­ings. In order to meet, we need to find an appro­pri­ate time when every­one is available. 

But here is where it gets tricky. 

Find­ing a time which suits all involved can be an elab­o­rate task. 
How much time did you actu­al­ly spend try­ing to find a time when all can be present in the last month?

If you add it all up, it might actu­al­ly amount to sev­er­al hours of e‑mailing back and forth where the dia­logue runs some­thing along the lines of:

A: Could we meet?”

B: Sure, some time next week.”

C: Next week sounds good to me as well”

A: OK then. How is Tuesday?”

B: I am only avail­able dur­ing the afternoon.”

C: Not a good time for me, but I am avail­able Wednes­day morning.”

B: No can do, I have anoth­er meet­ing to attend then.”

A: How about meet­ing the week after next?”

It would not take so long if this entire e‑mail con­ver­sa­tion took place with­in fif­teen min­utes, but when a few peo­ple are engaged in the con­ver­sa­tion, it could eas­i­ly take a whole day or more to arrive at any conclusion. 

If only two peo­ple are meet­ing, it is often eas­i­est to just give the oth­er per­son a call and dis­cuss the mat­ter until you find a suit­able time, but if you are three, four or even more who intend to meet, just reach­ing every­one by phone is a chal­lenge in itself.

Luck­i­ly there are a hand­ful of tools which make the pro­ce­dure of syn­chro­niz­ing sched­ules quick and easy. 

Which is great, since you prob­a­bly have more urgent things to get on with than spend­ing your time flip­ping back and forth through your calendar?

Do this

Here are some sug­ges­tions of tools which can aid you in mak­ing appoint­ments and sched­ul­ing meet­ings, so that you have more time to spend on more impor­tant matters. 

  1. Use the auto­mat­ic meet­ing-time-find­er in your com­pa­ny-cal­en­dar program. There is a fea­ture in most of the reg­u­lar cal­en­dar-pro­grams which auto­mat­i­cal­ly helps us find the next oppor­tu­ni­ty to have a meet­ing. The fea­ture is called Group Sched­ules” in Out­look, Sched­uler” in Lotus Notes and Avail­able Meet­ing Times” in iCal. 

    Once you have stat­ed who the par­tic­i­pants are for the meet­ing and how long it will be, the func­tion will quite sim­ply find the first pos­si­ble time when all par­ties are available. 

    This does how­ev­er require that all par­tic­i­pants are using the same cal­en­dar-serv­er, that is, are part of the same orga­ni­za­tion. If one or more of the par­tic­i­pants are clients, sup­pli­ers or some oth­er exter­nal par­ty, this method is no longer helpful. 

    But, do not despair. There are oth­er ways. 
  2. Use a semi-auto­mat­ic meet­ing-time-find­er online There are online-ser­vices which pro­vide aid in book­ing meet­ings smoother, regard­less if the par­tic­i­pants make use of Google Cal­en­dar, Out­look, Lotus Notes or a reg­u­lar agenda.

    The ser­vice I have cho­sen to use per­son­al­ly is Tun​gle​.me. A sim­i­lar option is Cal­en­dar.

    If you want Tun​gle​.me to func­tion as an auto­mat­ic meet­ing-time-find­er, every par­tic­i­pant needs to pub­lish his or her cal­en­dar at Tun​gle​.me, which means you have to reveal when you are avail­able and when you are not (but does not list what you do when you are busy). As this does not cor­re­spond with my pref­er­ence, I have cho­sen to use Tun​gle​.me as a semi-auto­mat­ic service. 

    When I wish to arrange a meet­ing, I go to Tun​gle​.me, ini­ti­ate a new book­ing, state who I wish to invite (by enter­ing e‑mail address­es) and how long I want the meet­ing to be. 
    After doing this, I indi­cate when I am avail­able in the com­ing weeks by high­light­ing times in the Tun​gle​.me cal­en­dar and fin­ish off by send­ing the invi­ta­tion.

    When the poten­tial par­tic­i­pants receive the invi­ta­tion, they sim­ply click on the link, get the same cal­en­dar on their screen and just high­light which of my high­light­ed times that would suit their sched­ules as well. When all the par­tic­i­pants have respond­ed, Tun​gle​.me tells me at which times every­body were avail­able, after which I con­firm a time for the meeting. 

    The ser­vice makes my life eas­i­er since it saves me a whole lot of e‑mails I would oth­er­wise have to send back and forth to the oth­er participants. 
    Since I have cho­sen not to pub­lish my entire sched­ule, it is not a ful­ly auto­mat­ic process for me, but the addi­tion­al effort I need to invest by stat­ing my avail­abil­i­ty is worth it since it still saves me time.
  3. Ana­logue method for find­ing times to meet. The option which requires no dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion is that you make sure to sched­ule a time for the next meet­ing before round­ing off a meet­ing you are hav­ing right now (which nat­u­ral­ly requires that it con­cerns the same group of peo­ple). If you all take out your agen­das, syn­chro­niz­ing your plans will be done with ease. 

Less trou­ble gives more time to what matters

Using one of these meth­ods of find­ing times for meet­ings will quite sim­ply save you time. By doing so you are let­ting a sys­tem take care of all the admin­is­tra­tive work and effort necessary. 

When work­ing on a project a while back, it was part of my assign­ment to call thir­teen dif­fer­ent peo­ple from dif­fer­ent depart­ments with­in the orga­ni­za­tion to a meet­ing in Decem­ber for a two-hour work-shop. I gave the names to Outlook’s sched­ul­ing-func­tion and with­in a few sec­onds it gave me the first pos­si­ble time when all par­tic­i­pants would be avail­able – and it was in the end of February. 

Could you imag­ine the cir­cus of phone-calls and e‑mails I would have had to engage myself in if the sched­ul­ing-func­tion didn’t exist?

What is your way?

What is your favorite tool when it comes to sim­pli­fy­ing sched­ul­ing of meet­ings? Feel free to com­ment below!