3 Ways to Manage Meeting Schedules More Productively


Get Shift Done: Management

Photo credit: Domenico Presutto via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Setting up meetings can be tedious and time-consuming. How many email threads have you endured with a dozen messages asking, “How about Tuesday at 3? No? Monday at 4?” Surely, you think, there’s a better way. And with the help of these three guidelines, there is.

Meetings earned their bad reputations: They’re expensive, often ineffective, can perpetuate occupational inequality, and just scheduling them is too-often a four-step cycle of frustration. The tech world has responded with its usual “There’s an app for that!” reaction, to both good and bad effect.

As with most problems, awareness is a major part of any solution. Start, therefore, with the cheapest but hardest step: Clarify for yourself what a meeting should accomplish. And if you don’t know, don’t hold one.

Familiarize yourself with the current marketplace of scheduling applications. Start with Melanie Pinola’s 18 Best Apps to Manage Your Schedule. What features matter to you? Do you want your scheduling seamlessly consolidated across different devices? Do you like simple, few-click approaches? Does deep customizability — bright colors! integration with other online apps! — pay off for you? Do you do your scheduling at your desk? On the go? Both?

Don’t stop there, though. “Schedulers” complement base calendaring applications in helping co-ordinate your schedule with your colleagues and clients. If meetings are a profit center for you — if you make money from scheduled consulting or selling therapeutic time — you’ll love the opportunity to point prospects to your Calendly or Doodle tool, instructing clients how to put themselves on your calendar. Every “Save” they choose means direct revenue for your business. At the high end, AI has entered the crowded scheduler marketplace.

Even before you commit to any application, knowing a little about how the software saves your effort and gets you into productive meetings gives a valuable perspective on how you operate now.

Establish routines. Essentially all calendars offer “repeating” items. If you start off every Monday morning with your sales team, enter that as one repeating meeting, rather than 52 separate weeks you have to manage each year. This pays off in mundane ways, such as when you need to add a new name to the list of attendees, or shift the start-time by half an hour. It also helps team members predict their own schedules, which reduces confusion and benefits morale.

Make routine work even better. When you have similar meetings or events that don’t qualify as “repeating,” use your calendar’s “copy” or “duplicate” action. This gives you a head start on focusing on the unique values of each meeting. Also, getting the basics right with a minimum of keystrokes helps save you from such typographical errors as scheduling lunch at 11:30pm (I’ve done that) or in a location three miles from where you intended (I’ve done that, too). Focus on the essentials, and get your computer to help with the tedious details.

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