More thoughts on calendar management

I have three days left on my free trial of Timebridge, so I need to make a decision. Do I upgrade to the USD 8.95 subscription, which includes web conferences using Dimdim and phone conferences (toll numbers), or do I ask Timesvr or my other virtual assistants to handle it and let them worry about the back-and-forth email, or do I simply publish my free/busy calendar information somewhere and let people schedule themselves?

In the last month, I used Timebridge to schedule five meetings, one of which was with multiple people. I rarely need to schedule things outside work, and I rarely schedule meetings with multiple people. So I probably won’t renew until I feel a compelling need to do so–when I or my assistant find multiple meetings difficult to keep track of, and when my calendar isn’t being kept up to date.

On the flip side, what would life look like if I got to the point where a service like this would be really, really helpful? Timebridge and other calendar management systems would rock if:

  • I make an effort to reach out to lots of people for phone conversations and in-person chats
  • I spend most of my time interacting with people outside our Lotus Notes environment
  • Lots of people want to talk to me about something

I think I’ll take that USD 8.95 per month and invest it in getting to that point. =) Every little bit counts.

Virtual assistance process: Calendar management with Timebridge

Thanks to Ana Conception-Macatiag for documenting this process and including screenshots! =)

Setting up appointments:

  1. Log in to http://www.timebridge.com, see Accounts and Passwords section for the login information.
  2. The screenshot below shows an example of the personal Timebridge Home Page.  To set up an appointment, click on Schedule a meeting at the left side of the screen.

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  3. Fill in the fields.
    1. Type in email address of the attendees in the “Send Invite to” field.
    2. Indicate subject in the “Meeting Topic” field.
    3. Meeting Location (Note unless specifically specified on my meeting details, here are my venue preferences:
      • Lunch during weekdays
        • Ichiriki – Japanese – 120 Bloor Street E, Toronto – Hours: 11:45 – 2:30?
        • Camros Eatery (http://www.camroseatery.com/) – Vegan – Hours: M-F 11:30am to 7:30pm (no travel time necessary)
      • Weekends: Linux Caffe (http://www.linuxcaffe.ca) – 326 Harbord Street, Toronto. – Hours: M-F: 7am to 11pm, Sat 10am to 11pm, Sun 10am to 5pm
    4. Click the “More Meeting Options” and make sure the meeting reminder is set to 1 day before the meeting and that TimeBridge should automatically confirm the meeting time is also checked.

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    5. Click on the button “Propose Times” to propose meeting times.  The calendar as shown in the screenshot below is linked to my Google Calendar so you will know when I’m is available. Highlight available times or as instructed by me. (Orange highlights below are the highlighted proposed times.)

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      Additional Information in selecting time:

      • Offer 3-5 choices. Conflicts and double bookings will not be a problem with Timebridge because it is synchronized with the Google Calendar.
      • For in-person meetings, I prefer lunch (12:00 PM – 1:00 PM) or coffee/tea/hot chocolate (any time between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM), preferably on a Thursday or Friday
      • For work-related phone meetings, I prefer calls on Wednesday to Friday afternoons (3:00 PM – 5:00 PM).
      • For personal phone meetings, I prefer calls on Saturday or Sunday (9:00 AM – 9:00 PM), preferring Saturday afternoon

      My Google Calendar will be automatically updated as soon as invitees send back their confirmations.

    6. Click DONE.
    7. Check if the proposed times are as correct. Click Edit if you need to change anything.
    8. Make sure the cc myself on this invitation box is checked.
  4. For the personal message, refer to instructions below. Then click Send.
  5. Unless instructed otherwise, click No, thanks on the “Share Availability” message to be sent to meeting contacts.

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  6. You should see your created meeting in the home page as encircled in the screenshot below.

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Still looking for an awesome calendar management system

One of the things I do very badly is manage appointments. I can manage tasks.  I can manage time. But every so often, I write down the wrong times for a meeting, get frustrated by scheduling, or double-book myself. This is all the more embarrassing because people are involved. This should be something I can fix.

That’s why I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to manage my calendar and how to do it better. Web-based systems like Tungle, TimeBridge, and AgreeADate make it easy to find available times for meetings, although I still haven’t found the perfect tool.

  • I love AgreeADate‘s interface for handling appointments with multiple attendees and multiple timeslots, but it lacks integration with my Google calendar, and it cannot detect conflicts.
  • I love TimeBridge‘s integration with my calendar and tracking of tentative slots, but it displays too many pop-ups and pushes the social networking feature too strongly.
  • I love Tungle‘s interface for selecting slots and its integration with my Google contacts, but there’s no way to add slots to a meeting after an attendee says that none of the slots are convenient.

Every service is just a little bit off. My ideal calendar management system would make it easy for me to propose meeting times, and reschedule them to a something else comes up. I’d also love to be able to give people a link to my schedule, so that they can sign themselves up. Maybe someday. I can outsource the fiddly things to a virtual assistant, but it makes sense that this stuff should be mostly automated. For the peace of mind of knowing my calendar’s correct, I’d pay maybe $5-10 a month…

UPDATE: TimeBridge handles most of my cases, so I guess I’ll go with that.

Tungle for the win: kaizen and calendar management

Life just keeps getting better and better. =) So after I posted that quick note about Timebridge, Aidan Nulman nudged me about Tungle. I asked Ana to look into it, updating the calendar management process along the way. Based on a little exploration, I think Tungle wins in terms of calendar management. =) It can synchronize with my multiple Google Calendars, show all of my Google Contants on the left side, and automatically avoid double-booking. I’m in love. (TimeBridge, AgreeADate, I hope you’re listening – keep up with the competition!)

So in the spirit of sharing, here’s our newly refined calendar management process. Ana even went to the trouble of adding screenshots – how cool is that?

Setting up appointments:

  1. Login to http://www.tungle.com, see Accounts and Passwords section for the login information.
  2. The screenshot below shows an example of a personal Tungle Page. To set up an appointment, click on Schedule a meeting at the upper left side of the screen.
  3. Fill in the fields.
    1. Subject of the Event
    2. Choose from the dropdown list for the duration of the meeting/appointment.
    3. Meeting Location (Note unless specifically specified on Sacha’s meeting details, here are Sacha’s Venue Preferences:
      • Lunch during weekdays
        • Ichiriki – Japanese – 120 Bloor Street E, Toronto Hours: 11:45 – 2:30?
        • Camros Eatery (http://www.camroseatery.com/) – Vegan – Hours: M-F 11:30am to 7:30pm (no travel time necessary)
      • Weekends: Linux Caffe (http://www.linuxcaffe.ca) – 326 Harbord Street, Toronto. Hours: M-F: 7am to 11pm, Sat 10am to 11pm, Sun 10am to 5pm
    4. Click Add for every person added in the list of Invitees.
    5. The calendar on the lower part of the page is linked to Sacha’s Google Calendar so you will know which hours and days she is available. Highlight available times or as instructed by Sacha.
      Additional Information in selecting time:

      • Offer 3-5 choices, conflicts and double bookings will not be a problem with Tungle since it is synchronized with the Google Calendar.
        1. For in-person meetings, I prefer lunch (12:00 PM – 1:00 PM) or coffee/tea/hot chocolate (any time between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM), preferably on a Thursday or Friday
        2. For phone meetings, I prefer calls on Saturday or Sunday (9:00 AM – 9:00 PM), preferring Saturday afternoon
      • Sacha’s Google Calendar will be automatically updated as soon as invitees send back their confirmations.
    6. Click the RIGHT arrow beside Step 1 of 3.
  4. Step 2 shows a summary of the tentative dates you are proposing to the invitees. Click on X if you have entered an incorrect entry and go back to Step 1. If the details are all correct, click on the RIGHT arrow button to proceed to Step 3.
  5. For personal message refer to instructions below. Then click PREVIEW.
    • For phone appointments, include the following segment in the Personal Message box:

      Times are in your current time zone by default. If the timezone is incorrect, use the “Change” link above the calendar.

      Sacha Chua’s contact information
      Skype ID: XXX
      Mobile number: XXX
      Work number: XXX
      E-mail: XXX

    • For in-person appointments, include the following segment in the Personal Message:

      Sacha Chua’s contact information
      Mobile number: XXX
      Work number: XXX
      E-mail: XXX

  6. Check meeting details. Send invitation.
  7. A confirmation box will be shown to you after sending invites. See screencap below. Close.