Tech & Work

8 tools to help streamline scheduling meetings

Waste less time going back and forth about meeting availability with these 8 options for scheduling.

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Scheduling a time to meet is like opening Pandora's Box. Once the lid comes off that sucker, there's no escape and no relief until it's been decided 12 emails later that yes, Monday at 3:30 p.m. does indeed work to discuss next year's budget. And yes, my office is fine.

In short, scheduling is a pain point. And that's true for many of the founders of the tools below.

"I tried tool after clunky tool to speed up the process, but nothing really solved the problem. Most looked like they were from 1995," said Tope Awotona, CEO of Calendly. They took a lot of time to set up, were difficult for the invitee to navigate, or didn't sync with existing calendars.

For Michael Selepec and Ryan Mindigo, founders of Pick, part of the reason they decided to come up with a scheduling solution was because things got a little out of control.

"The tipping point was when the company we worked for at the time, Yammer, was acquired by Microsoft. Recruiters started reaching out to us often and many of them would write out blocks of times they were available for a call — this seemed like such a waste of time," Slepec said.

And as both Assistant.to's CEO and co-founder Jonathan Wolf and Slepec said, these days you can summon a taxi or book a room with a few taps. Scheduling should be as easy.

Professionals have better things to do. Check out these 8 scheduling tools that might help you reclaim some of your lost time.

x.ai

x.ai really is a virtual assitant. Users can set up an account and avoid the back and forth of schedule negotiating by CCing "Amy" or "Andrew." The assistant takes over and finds a time and location that works and then sends along an invite. It can even pass along a phone number or conference number. Amy can schedule meetings for a group of up to 5 people. The service is in public beta.

Pick

Pick, which is relatively new to the App Store, is both a desktop app and a mobile app that compares calendars in real-time to find a meeting time that works for everyone. It suggests a time, and then books the time in everyone's calendar. "Pick changes things by surfacing what we like to call the "white space" of your calendar, or the availabilities, rather than displaying days full of blocked-off time" Selepec said. They offer a mobile app and personalized URLs to quickly share availability. Pick made no. 1 on Product Hunt after launching.

Doodle

Doodle is a web-based tool. It lets users check boxes to indicate what times on a day or several days they're available to meet. The basic Doodle account is free, but there's also Premium Doodle, which is ad free and geared toward professionals and businesses. Extra features include things like automatic reminders, calendar integration, and end-to-end encryption. There's also a free Doodle app available for iOS and Android.

Calendly

Users go on Calendly and designate preferences for meeting times. They share their personal Calendly page with clients, or whomever they want to schedule with, and those people can pick an available time. Users then get a calendar invite. Folks can sign up for free with a Google account. There's also a premium version that come with better support, personalized notifications, different event types and lengths, and automated reminders. "We lower the barrier to entry of appointments being booked, because it only takes about three clicks on an invitee's part, and requires no signup or registration from them beforehand — it's inviting, not overwhelming," said Calendly's marketing director Claire Suellentrop.

SnapAppointments

SnapAppointments caters to small and large businesses. Clients or customers can view users' availability and book. They can also view their history. SnapAppointments is online appointment booking with more of a bent toward maintaining and building customer relationships.

NeedToMeet

NeedToMeet users essentially fill out a form with meeting details and available times, and then send out a link or invitation so others can designate their availability. It's also available through the App Store, Google Play, and for Microsoft Outlook, and offers a mobile app. Also, the service is free.

ScheduleOnce

ScheduleOnce is more specifically an enterprise product and covers a multitude of scheduling-related tasks like accepting team appointments, making appointments for others, and handling bookings for rooms and locations.

Assistant.to

Instead of copying available days and times into an email, Assistant.to does it for you, and includes links so when the recipient decides that Thursday at 3pm ET works best, Assistant.to schedules the meeting and sends an invite. It's free, and according to the website, will stay free, though they might introduce a premium version at some point. They also would like to add the capability of scheduling with more than two people. CEO and co-founder Jonathan Woolf said they noticed that the scheduling exchange often originated within email, and disliked having to move off email to some other site or app. "Worse yet, it felt awkward to shift the burden and subject my recipients to a clunky, unfamiliar website, so keeping the experience in email felt most most natural and effective," he said.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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