Sanity Savers: Essential Settings for Online Scheduling Tools
If you use an online scheduling tool like Calendly, Accuity, Bookings, or Doodle then you know that having the ability to let people find a time that works with their schedule and automatically set up a meeting saves a TON of time. However, there are some settings to consider so that whether you share the link on your website or privately you will not become inundated with requests. You will need to practice some defensive calendaring, so this great tool works for you and those who book meetings with you.
Online scheduling tools make it easy to see your availability – based on criteria you define – and helps clients or staff get on your calendar. There are many tools available to accomplish this, often with free versions so you can see if they work for you. Paid versions add many options, including workflows that trigger reminders and follow up emails, integrations with video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams, and even taking payments. These tools typically synchronize with your Microsoft Outlook or Google calendar. Which means that you will need to carefully and judiciously keep your calendar updated so that you do not accidently double book yourself. You may also want to schedule time for deep work, the calendar equivalent to a “do not disturb” sign.
Create Event Types
Most online scheduling tools allow you to create multiple event types, though this is a paid feature in some platforms. You can create different event types for meetings like free consultations, client meetings, or status meetings. Each meeting type has its own criteria, its own set of custom questions, and is set up for specific times if you choose.
In most of the online meeting scheduling tools you have the following options to customize how your different event types work. Make sure to explore these settings to protect your calendar.
Days and Durations
For each event type you will define whether the meetings are available whenever you have free time or are only available on certain days and certain times. You can edit the default duration of the meetings – 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or more.
Make sure that you add buffer time. This determines how much time you have between meetings. If you typically need to drive to meetings you will want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time for transit, or just create a break to follow up, check email and voicemail, and stretch your legs. Edit this setting to allow for an hour (or more or less) between meetings.
Especially if you make your scheduling link publicly available, check the settings to control how soon someone can book a meeting on your calendar. For instance, you can set it so that someone cannot book an appointment the same day, though you can customize this to fit your needs. You do not want to find a new meeting appear in the afternoon, so the default is 24 hours, though you can extend that if necessary.
You can also control how far into the future someone can schedule an appointment. The default is often “indefinitely” so you may change that to something more appropriate, like 6 months or a period of rolling days (for instance, 14 days rolling).
Limit Available Slots
You need time for unexpected meetings and focused work, so make sure to limit the available slots per day. For instance, if you limit available slots to 3 then once you have three meetings on your calendar the requestor will not see available time on that day, and they will be directed to a different day.
When someone books time on your calendar, you construct a survey to gather information necessary to prepare for the meeting. You can ask as many questions as you need to, with a combination of text responses (alphanumeric), dropdown menus and checkboxes. If you need to convey information, like the phone number to call, Zoom link, or even a link to Drobox or OneDrive for the client to send documents, you can accomplish this by adding the information in the questionnaire and then add a checkbox to confirm “ok”.
Notifications and Cancellations Policy
In the paid plans for most of the online scheduling products (or “free” if you are using Bookings through your Microsoft 365 subscription) you have options to set up email reminders, text reminders and email follow-ups. You or the attendee can get reminders, reschedule meetings, and cancel meetings efficiently through the system and your personal Google or Outlook calendar will be updated.
If you have considered using an online scheduling tool, but feared losing control of your calendar, look at all the options you have in these systems. In fact, while these tools integrate with your calendar (and only show free/busy time), you can use them as stand-alone tools if you just need a way to book initial consultations with potential clients on one or two afternoons every week. There are lots of options to investigate, and you can leverage the automation to reduce the friction of scheduling meetings.