The Single Best Thing I've Done for My Productivity in 10 Years
My least favorite kind of email is one I receive about fifteen times a week, every time someone wants to schedule a meeting, phone call, lunch, or coffee with me:
"Send me some dates and times that work and I'll see if they work for my calendar, too."
That simple sentence inevitably sets off a cascade of emails back and forth, suggesting different dates and times, finding matches but then losing them because someone else already took that time slot, etc. It is a giant waste of time and makes me not want to ever agree to having a meeting with anyone outside my own company (and I only meet with them because they can see my calendar and don't have to ask if I'm available.)
One solution for this insanity is to have an assistant, and to delegate this time-wasting to him or her. I've done this in the past, with varying degrees of success. Even with an assistant, I'd occasionally get overbooked or double-booked, and then they'd have to go back and start the whole scheduling dance again. And even if it went well, I'd basically be paying someone to be frustrated and have their time wasted in my stead. Not exactly a job worth $20 an hour.
A Better Solution
About a year ago, however, I found what has turned out to be the single best productivity app I've ever used. My marketing coordinator at Legion, who also ran a soccer program after-hours, saw my frustration and told me about something he'd been using for the past year to help schedule his soccer meetings more efficiently. If a parent or a coach needed to meet with him, he just sent them a link to his calendar, and they picked their own time slot and it was done, with no more work on his part. I signed up immediately.
The app is called Calendly, and it has honestly changed my life. (That's not an affiliate link, by the way. I just love the app so much that I refer everyone I know, to no benefit of my own.) At first, I just signed up for the free version, where you can connect your calendar and just have one type of meeting that people can use, but after about two weeks of that, I'd forked over the $99 annual fee and spent about an hour creating all the types of meetings I needed—phone calls, lunches, etc.—and copied the link into my email signature.
Now, anytime I get one of those dreaded "send me some days and times that work" emails, I just fire back with my Calendly link (either the general one, or one that's more specific, so I can control how long the meetings should be), and it's done. No volley of emails, no phone calls punctuated by either party scrolling their calendar and naming days and times, just one email and a scheduled meeting. It's beautiful.
A Truly "Productive" App
And it gets at the heart of what's important in a productivity app. Too often, we add apps to our lives that don't actually save time, they just take the same amount of time to do something in a snazzy digital format that you could do in the analog world. Even worse are the technological solutions that take longer than it would to just do something low-tech. (I've fallen prey to those, as well.) But a scheduling app (there are more than just Calendly, it just happens to be my favorite) takes something that doesn't require tons of human interaction—scheduling a meeting is really just aligning times on a calendar and setting the appointment—and moves it into the digital world where it belongs. After all, my calendar is digital, why shouldn't my scheduling be, too?
Since I've made the move to using a scheduling app early this year, I honestly believe I've saved about a week's worth of work, and all the attendant frustration that goes along with multiple, fiddly emails. Plus, it makes a fantastic impression on everyone who sees it. At least once a week, I hear from someone that they absolutely loved working with the app instead of emailing endlessly. I'm pretty sure Calendly has made some money off me by this point (oh how I wish the DID have an affiliate program). Also, as I've gotten busier in my work life, it has kept me from needing an executive assistant, saving my company tens of thousands of dollars in payroll. Not a bad deal, at the end of the day.
The best part of having a scheduling app, though, is that I'm no longer tempted to just say I'm too busy to meet with people. I've become more open to scheduling a coffee or a phone call or a lunch because it's so much less work for me now. Instead of demurring, I'm able to build my professional network and deepen the relationships I already have, with little to no effort on my part.
And boy, do I like putting little to no effort into things.