One of the things I hate most, as an entrepreneur and modern knowledge worker, is the never ending trouble of scheduling meetings. Meetings themselves are a death nail of productivity, to be sure, but that’s a whole other topic. Instead, the one I am talking about is the loop of “I have Tuesday open, so we’ll check with Mike, Sara and Lisa to get a meeting scheduled.” Then, there is a mountain of time robbing, soul stealing back and forth emails, calls and texts to get it all figured out. You know the process… Sara is busy when everyone else is free and Mike doesn’t work Tuesday afternoons and blah blah blah….
The next thing you know, you’ve spent more time scheduling the meeting than a meeting would take (and it still has to happen too.. grrrrr…..). As an entrepreneur and small business person, this is a real profit killer. (It is for large companies too, it’s just that the bleeding isn’t as apparent to them as it is to us…)
So, let’s talk about a couple of ways that I have found to deal with this problem, or at least keep it to a minimum as much as possible.
1) Shared calendars for my staff – we use Google calendars and mail, so we have a shared calendar set for everyone in the company to see. This allows them to make time selections without needing the back and forth. This is available in Exchange and many other “corporate” platforms as well. But, if you are a small business and haven’t gotten around to building shared calendars, DO IT. DO IT NOW. It took care of about 80% of the immediate pain from this issue in one fell swoop.
That handles folks inside the organization, but what about prospects, customers, clients and partners?
2) Get a Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) – I use Fancy Hands for this very reason, in addition to the other awesome stuff they do for me. They handle scheduling of complex issues for FREE. So, you can simply bring them into an email string or have them call folks to schedule a meeting and they will handle the lifting, the back and forth and the negotiations for you. You get a confirmation of the process and the event ends up on your calendar, so you get the normal alerts or other functions to bring it to your attention. For me, this is FANTASTIC! I use them for booking most meetings and they have only failed me once in almost a year of testing, and that was a complex meeting with 9 attendees and several time zones! Give them a try. (You can learn more about my use of them here.)
3) Introduce Doodle into your workflow – You can think of Doodle as a self serve VPA or an anonymous sanitized calendar for online event scheduling. You create a personal page for your calendar and link your stuff to it. Then, a person can go to the site and request an appointment with you. They can see when you are free and when you are booked, without any of the details of the time slots. You get an email about their request and can either accept, decline or propose another time slot. This works very well, and is quick and easy for them and you. In simple one-on-one meetings, this is a fantastic solution. It even scales to about 3-4 people very well. Beyond about 4-5 people, the process gets cumbersome, so I usually punt back to Fancy Hands. But, this adds the final piece to the puzzle and makes it friendly and easy to schedule time with me. Check out my schedule page here. I simply added it to my email signature, so now every email contains contact info and a link to schedule appointments!
If you would like to try Fancy Hands, you will find a referral code at the bottom of this page about me trying it. I do get a small compensation for the use of the codes, so please use them if you want to explore the service.
Between these three tools, I have eliminated about 99% of all of the pain of scheduling meetings and appointments. Give it a shot, and let me know how it works for you!