Get Organized!

DR. FRANK BUCK: How to end 'Email Battleship' with Meetingbird (column)

Don’t you hate trying to schedule meetings by email? Let's look at a typical email thread:

Ben: “Can we get together to talk about the budget. How’s Tuesday at 9:00 for you?”

Jen: “I'm booked then. How’s Wednesday at 1:00?”

Ben: “Not good for me. Any chance of doing Thursday at either 9:00 or 3:00?”

Jen: “Sorry, no luck on either of those…”

It’s like playing a game of “Battleship” by email. Each person is trying for a “hit” on a calendar that can’t be seen.

Next comes the heavy artillery: “Let's try for the next week. I have Monday at 9:00, 10:30 and 4:00. Tuesday is good from 9:00 all the way through 3:00. Wednesday, I’m free from 8:00 to 10:00.”

Three days later, when the other person finally replies, the time slot picked is the one single option that has now been gobbled-up by something else. Back to square one! And so it goes … back & forth, back & forth.

Some great tools exist to put a stop to “Email Battleship” and allow you to take control of your calendar. Today, we are going to explore "Meetingbird" as a tool for scheduling one-on-one meetings.

Create a free account with either your Google or Microsoft 365 account. I created a video that walks you through the setup process. Come over to watch.

Back to Ben and Jen

When Ben wants to schedule a meeting with Jen, he creates a new email and sees at the very bottom a button labeled "Insert meeting times." Ben clicks the button, and up comes a copy of his calendar. He can see what's already on his calendar and what's free. 

Ben starts dragging the mouse over blocks of time he would like to suggest. From a menu, he chooses a length for the meeting and then clicks "Insert Meeting Slots." 

Ben's email now includes little buttons corresponding to all of the times he is offering. Ben adds any needed text to the email and sends the message on its way.

Jen opens the message and clicks on a time. The meeting and all needed details automatically appears on both of their calendars. Both receive a notification the meeting has been booked. If the time Jen chose was no longer available, Meetingbird would prompt Jen to select another time. With Meetingbird, "Email Battleship" becomes a thing of the past.

Ben has his meeting with Jen scheduled. However, he also needs to schedule 1-on-1 meetings with Ken, Len and Pen. Ben creates one email, puts all three people in the address line, inserts his available times and sends. Ben can get back to work and let Meetingbird handle the details of putting the meetings on his calendar.

Ben and his team

Ben manages a large team. 

He decides to set aside every Friday afternoon for anyone who would like a 15-minute 1-on-1 meeting with him. In Meetingbird, Ben lets Meetingbird create a "scheduling link." He designates the available day -- Friday each week. The time is 1:00-5:00, and the length of the slots is 15 minutes. Ben sends the link to his team. Anyone who wants a "Fridays with Ben" appointment clicks the link, sees what time slots are still available and chooses one. The meetings show up on Ben's calendar.

The scheduling link for "Fridays with Ben" worked so well he decided to let Meetingbird handle lunch meetings. 

Ben receives numerous requests for lunch meetings from vendors. He decided to create another scheduling link. Ben designated available days as Monday through Friday and hour-long time slots beginning each day at noon. When a vendor asks about meeting for lunch, Ben sends the link. The vendor sees which days are available and selects a time. The choice appears on Ben's calendar. Back-and-forth phone calls and emails become a thing of the past.

If you are spending too much time on "Email Battleship," take a look at Spend less time on the mechanics of scheduling and have more time for the creative parts of your life.

Frank Buck is the author of “Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders.” "Global Gurus Top 30" named him #1 in the Time Management category for 2019 and 2020. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.