Just about everyone uses a digital calendar, whether it is in Outlook, the calendar app built into Windows or OS X, or Google Calendar. And if you use a digital calendar, you should use calendar invites. Used well, calendar invites keep everyone on the same schedule and make it easy to ensure everyone has the information they need for the meeting. Used poorly, they are just annoying.
Here are some best practices for using calendar invites.
Describe the Purpose Instead of Listing Guests
When creating a title for an appointment on your own calendar, it is natural to use something like “Coffee with Jane Doe.” But when you are sending a calendar invite, that is not helpful. Jane isn’t having coffee with herself; she is having coffee with you. “Coffee with Jane Doe” is not a helpful description for Jane to have on her calendar. It does not help Jane remember what you intend to talk about, either. When you have scheduled a meeting well in advance, you do not want to appear scatterbrained by starting out by asking “why are we meeting, again?”
The better practice is to use a title that describes the purpose of the meeting. For example:
- Coffee to discuss referral opportunities
- Meet in Joan’s office to outline litigation strategy
- VLN board budget committee meeting and happy hour
If other people don not use helpful titles on calendar invites they send to you, you can change the name of the appointment on your own calendar.
Use Real Start and End Times
Do not use a default appointment duration, like an hour or a half hour. If you are scheduling a meeting that should last 15 minutes, make it 15 minutes on your calendar. It helps set expectations.
Here are some suggestions:
- Schedule most meetings for 15 minutes, and use an agenda to be efficient. Go longer only when you really need to.
- Take your time with clients, however. An hour is a more reasonable default.
- For a networking coffee, put 30 minutes on the calendar but do not schedule anything else right afterwards. Thirty minutes is about as long as you can stretch a single cup of coffee and it isn’t too painful if the conversation isn’t going well. You can always go longer if your schedule allows.
- Give yourself an hour for breakfast and lunch.
- For dinner or happy hour, give yourself 90 minutes (and do not commit to dinner or drinks unless you are willing to linger).
Include the Address
If your appointment is going to be somewhere physical, include the address. It is annoying when you open up your calendar app to get directions only to realize you do not have the address.
Most people will be checking their phone on their way out the door, and if you have been considerate enough to include the address, they can smoothly transition to driving (or biking or walking) directions. If not, they may have to Google the location and copy and paste the address to their map app. Including the address in the first place avoids this bit of hassle.
Include Contact Information
You can add notes to calendar appointments for a reason. Use notes to add contact information like phone numbers, Skype IDs, or web meeting information and access codes. You cannot have a meeting if you do not know how to start it. And make sure everyone knows who is responsible for the call. A simple “(Anne will initiate)” in the title or notes should be sufficient.
Notes are also useful for parking instructions if they aren’t straightforward, or for giving directions to a location inside a building.
Set an Appropriate Notification
Notifications are not shared; everyone has the chance to set their own defaults and add their own notifications. But when you create a new calendar invite, make sure the notification on your end is reasonable. If you need to be all the way across town, 15 minutes may not be enough of a reminder. If it is a phone call, 15 minutes may be too much.
Being smart about your calendar invites will make you look considerate and organized — and help you stay on schedule, of course.