Using an automated scheduling tool

by Michele on October 25, 2011

One of the biggest time wasters in business is going back and forth to try to set a meeting time.  It’s bad enough with just two people, but add a third person or

Solopreneurs can schedule meetings with automated tools

Easy meeting scheduling for solopreneurs

even more and it can take hours of time spread over days just to schedule a simple meeting.

What I found is that someone would want to schedule with me “in the middle of next week.”  I would email my availability on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and wait to hear back.  In the meantime, since I offered those times to someone already I was unable to offer them to anyone else in the meantime.  I might even have to put the next person wanting to meet with me on hold.  You can see how this one thing could bog down several people for days.

What I switched to was an automated, online scheduler where people who want to meet with me get a link to a page where they can see my availability and book an appointment on the spot.  I cannot tell you the hours this has saved me over the last year and a half and I get lots of positive feedback on how easy it is to use.

I researched several tools for automated scheduling, and tried one other before settling on Timetrade.  Here are a few things I like about Timetrade:

  • You can set up multiple types of “activities” that people can schedule and when you send them to the page for that activity they can only schedule that activity.  In other words, if you are working with someone in half-hour phone sessions they can only schedule a half-hour session not more or less time and not an in-person meeting.
  • Your guest does not need to create an account to use your scheduler.  He or she will be asked for an email address for the purpose of an email confirmation.
  • Your guest sees your availability in real time but does not see any details of your other appointments.  Timetrade syncs to Outlook and Google calendar (my choice in calendars) so once you schedule an appointment on your own calendar your availability is automatically updated in Timetrade.
  • Once your guest books his or her appointment, it is confirmed for both of you so that there is no need for back-and-forth communication.
  • Time zone differences are handled automatically based on the settings on the computer used by each person.  Each person gets the time in their own time zone.

Getting used to an online scheduler took some time and effort.  People can book appointments with me any time, so I always have to be on top of that.  If I want to go to the gym on Monday afternoon, I have to put that in my calendar so nobody can book an appointment in that time.  If I’m done an appointment at 3:00, the scheduler sees that I’m free at 3:00 and may offer that time to someone.  I have to remember to put in some extra time so that I don’t have another appointment until 3:30 or so.  I don’t always like last-minute appointments or jam-packed days, so I have to remember to close my day if I don’t want any more appointments.  Overall, the adjustment was not that hard and the payoff has been huge.

Timetrade is just one of several dozen resources I share in my Solopreneur Success Rolodex.  You can get a copy of my rolodex as a bonus with my system “The ABC’s of a Successful Solopreneur Business.”  Grab your copy here.

How do you handle your scheduling?  Do you use an automated scheduler?

Comments

  1. Jessica says:

    Appointment scheduling! Ugh. Easily my least favorite task and the one I quickly shuffled off to my assistant when I hired her. Especially because then you have to add in time zones and the like which makes things even more complicated (every so often, someone does their own time zone wrong!). And then there’s the keeping track of what number someone will be at at such and such a time. Blergh.

    Having someone else manage my calendar has worked really well for me, but it’s great to know there are automated options out there as well. Thanks Michele!

    1. Michele says:

      Jessica, that’s a great idea to outsource your scheduling. Was it hard to get your assistant up to speed? I would imagine it would be difficult to convey to someone all the details of your schedule like how much time between appointments, how to get a lunch break in, how much time for moving place-to-place, etc. The schedule does have a drawback compared to a person in that you have to set rigid rules.

  2. Gary Zaydman says:

    Hi Michele, I use http://www.tungle.me
    I have it setup so someone submits a form for a request. They get to select a few times and I confirm one. It’s easy, fast, and super amazing. Saves me tons of time with back and forth.

    1. Michele says:

      Hi Gary! Nice to see you here! I hope you are doing well. Tungle Me is a great product too that has a lot of the same features I like. I too love how using an automated scheduler saves time and going back and forth .

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