You have been tasked to schedule a quarterly meeting between all of the department heads in your business… what process are you going to follow in order to find a time that works for everyone?
If you are ambitious and have a lot of free time, you could personally call or walk to the desk of each leader to ask their schedule. Or, if you are like the majority of people, you may send out an email asking for everyone's availability. While this is a little more efficient than the one-to-one visits and calls, it's still a very daunting approach. You have to hope everyone replies and still try to puzzle all the available times together. Maybe, instead, you just ask a few people and then set a time and it's up to the rest to make it work.
Over the years, I have learned that people have MANY different methods of handling this common administrative task, but very few actually love the process they follow. I think oftentimes people spend more time deciding when to meet and trying to schedule things than actually meeting. I am writing this post in hopes of changing that!
There are a few ways Office 365 can make scheduling easier, and just improve your overall office productivity. In this blog, I will share a few options and recommendations that have helped save many other users a lot of time and headaches!
If you are on Office 365 (read more about Office 365 benefits here), and only attempting to schedule with your internal employees, I would recommend using Scheduling Assistant. Scheduling Assistant is a tool in Outlook that helps you find the best time to schedule a meeting or room usage by displaying times when a person or room is busy or free. By default, free and busy schedules are shared across the company. Users can share additional calendar details if they chose to, such as titles and locations. Scheduling Assistant is an easy means to invite attendees to a meeting and also see in advance if they are available at specific times without the trouble of having to spend time making calls or sending and receiving multiple emails from each attendee until a time to meet is agreed upon.
This solution has worked great for many users, but others have called attention to the limitations. User's free/busy times and details displayed through Scheduling Assistant are only reliable if the user is actually utilizing their calendar and keeping everything up-to-date. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are still a lot of people who do not use their work/outlook calendar religiously... so their calendar only has events that others shared with them and is not completely up to date. In addition, if colleagues only show free/busy, then you don't know if the times blocked busy are close by or off-site and requiring drive time. Therefore, the success of Outlook's Scheduling Assistant depends heavily on your colleague's habits and training.
In addition to these possible internal shortcomings, in today's world it is common to have to schedule meetings with people outside your organization. Scheduling Assistant does not work for that unless all of the users you are scheduling with share their calendars with you manually. My coworkers and I like to use "FindTime" to poll and schedule meetings. This third party application is available through Outlook add-ins and has been proven to be valuable for scheduling our internal company parties and events, as well as meetings with external clients.
FindTime is an Outlook add-in available in the Office 365 store that helps you come to a consensus on a meeting time. FindTime shows what days and times work the best for people within your organization. The meeting organizer proposes selected times to all attendees and allows everyone to vote. Once a consensus is reached, FindTime sends out the meeting invite on behalf of the organizer, eliminating the time-consuming back-and-forth usually required to find the best meeting time. My clients LOVE this add-in and many have raved about how much it has improved their workday!
There are many other valuable plugins available in the Office store that can really increase the value of Outlook and give you many daily productivity gains. Adobe, Asana, HubSpot, Salesforce, Smartsheet… the list goes on. Many third-party applications that have add-ins available and can be integrated right into your Outlook e-mail. These tools can automate tasks and help you get things done right from your inbox!
Learn about more features to increase your O365 productivity by attending one of our free monthly workshops. Visit www.trustedinsite.com/events to view a schedule of upcoming workshop dates and RSVP.
Want to learn more about changing your Calendar sharing settings… Check out this Microsoft Support article: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/share-an-outlook-calendar-with-other-people-353ed2c1-3ec5-449d-8c73-6931a0adab88