Find an Extra Sixty Minutes a Day: Schedule Meetings Quickly and Efficiently

If you’re never able to clear your to-do list by the end of the day (and feeling stressed about it) this is part of the continuing series on how to gain a few minutes every day.

Scheduling meetings with a number of participants can be maddening. Someone proposes several dates and participants chime in as the email correspondence multiplies with “reply all.” Emails cross, people change their availability, and it turns into a logistical nightmare for the hapless organizer.

Fortunately, there’s a simple online solution that lets you schedule a meeting and get consensus with just a few clicks – and no back and forth.

Doodle is a free online app that radically simplifies the process of scheduling events. The free version just requires a simple registration. Premium versions allow you to customize the look and feel of your surveys, which might be nice for a sales professional or someone who manages a busy appointment schedule. Individuals pay $39 per year and the business version is $69 annually.

At Doodle, you set up a survey with the name of the event (Planning meeting for Ten Year Anniversary) and add a location (Google maps is connected) and event description If you want. On the calendar, click the dates you’re considering for the event, then add time options (or duplicate the time for all possible dates.)

The end result is a poll with a link you can email to your attendees. As the administrator, you’ll receive an email every time an attendee logs in to state her preferences. Participants can choose “yes,” “no,” or “if need be” for the available dates. You can set options that allow just one choice of dates or close off scheduling options once a certain number of people have chosen that date.

You just paste the link into an email and send it off to the group. When you log in, you can see how many have replied and what the best date and time will be for the most participants. Then you can inform the group of the consensus and set up an Outlook meeting. Done.

Timetrade is a business scheduling software solution that offers a free personal version. A single user can schedule up to five events a month using a similar polling technology to Doodle. Timetrade emphasizes its mobile-friendly setup and sets appointments on Outlook, iCal and Google calendars with just one click.
If someone asked you to schedule 10 busy people for one of five available dates six weeks from now, you’d probably quit the committee. Now you can just doodle your way to calendar nirvana.

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