Can you relate to this e-mail thread that Jack and Jill exchanged below?
Jill: Can we chat Monday?
Jack: Monday doesn't work for me, unfortunately, when else are you free?
Jill: How about Weds or Thurs in the afternoon? I'm open those days- let me know what works for you.
Jack: I will be away those days- only that Friday works for that week.
Jill: I am open on Friday from 3-5 PM... name your time?
Jack: Can we talk at 4 PM on Friday? Let me know.
Jill: 4 PM Friday works great- talk to you then!
What a waste of time and effort! If you're tired of having these type of back and forth conversations, there are tools that can help. My personal favorite is Tungle.Me.
Tungle works via a calendar link that you can send to your contacts (see my Tungle page). Upon visiting the page, they're shown a snapshot of your calendar (availability only, the names of the events are kept secret, of course). The viewer can propose one or more meeting time/place options right there on the screen. You then get an e-mail from Tungle displaying the dates/times your contact has requested, and then you pick one (or decline the invitation altogether if you wish). The both of you get an e-mail confirming the date, time, and place of the meeting- and as an added bonus Tungle puts the meeting directly into your calendar.
Using Tungle without Losing Control of your Calendar
It feels like you're going to lose control of your schedule, right? Tungle has a number of ways to help you come to grips with this:
- You don't have to publish your entire calendar availability- you can set what's called an availability template that restricts meeting requests to only certain times/days. For example, I usually schedule friendly meetings and phone calls for afternoons, leaving my mornings free for meetings with my staff and other matters. By setting up my availability template in this way, I can keep my mornings free for things that I will schedule without Tungle.
- You can require that your contacts choose multiple options that work for them, giving you some flexibility after the request has been submitted.
- You can also require a minimum amount of notice (ie: don't allow anybody to suggest a meeting time sooner than 2 days in the future)
One Hesitation about Tungle
While I feel it's a fantastic product, I am somewhat uncertain about the future of the product since it was acquired by Research in Motion (or RIM, the company behind Blackberry). I am not familiar with RIM's future plans for the product, but given their recent struggles in the handheld market and the lack of development since the acquisition, I'm guessing things are going to pretty much stay as is, and eventually the product will be swallowed up into another Blackberry offering or killed off altogether. (Again, highly speculative on my part, and I would invite anybody from RIM or Tungle to reach out and correct me if I've got this wrong).
Even considering that, it's still a solid product and I'll continue to use it until something better comes along (there are other products with similar features, but I've yet to find one as flexible and easy to use as Tungle.Me).