3 Time-Saving Tips for Scheduling Stuff via Email (or other written communication formats)

How many times have you witnessed an email exchange like this:

Person 1: “Do you have time this week for a call to discuss?”
Person 2: “Yes, I’m available all week, let me know what works for you.”
Person 1: “I’m available Tuesday-Friday, except for Wed from 2–5 pm, otherwise completely available.”
Person 2: “Ok, let’s do Tuesday at 1 pm.”
Person 1: “Sounds good. East Coast time zone?”
Person 2: “No, I’m Central. Time will still work, though.”

I love time. Time is one of the most valuable things I have in my life. I respect time intensely, and I really appreciate people who respect my time. That being the case, I want to make the most of it and be as efficient as possible, in as many ways as possible.

I can‘t tell you the amount of conversations I have been looped into, or cc’d on that look just like the example above. As obvious as it may seem to be more efficient in communication like this, many really smart folks are wasting far more time than they need to. This isn’t a shaming of folks I work with or have worked with. I believe most folks communicate like this innocently enough, out of the sheer desire to be accommodating and flexible. In doing so, however, we’re wasting our time and the time of the person we’re communicating with. We have a beautiful opportunity to demonstrate some efficiency in exchanges like this with a couple very small tips that will cut the amount of back-and-forth in half.

  1. BE SPECIFIC, IMMEDIATELY
    If you’re asking someone if they have time to talk, include the times you’re available along with your initial request. 
    If you are on the receiving end of a request that does not include date and time options, take the wheel, offer specific days and times of your preferred availability in your first response.
  2. TIME ZONE
    Always include time zone, every single time you communicate about time. Even if the person you’re communicating with is usually in the same time zone, who knows if they will be on the scheduled date and time. Always include this detail from the start, it’ll never be a question or point of confusion later.
  3. INCLUDE ALL THE INFO
    Close the conversation loop with definitive confirmation of date, time, time zone, and format (conference line, Skype, phone call, in-office visit, etc.), if there is dial-in or address info, include that in the closing confirmation. Don’t start another conversation loop with “what number blah blah blah.” And definitely do not wait until three minutes before the call time to figure it out and open a new conversation about how the call will take place. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t do that. Ever. 
    Be the proactive person. If they need to offer an alternative to what you’ve served up, the ball is in their court to do so, but be sure you’ve given a very clear starting point.

If we are always following these tips, the 6-email exchange above would look like this:

Person 1: “Do you have time this week for a call to discuss? I’m available Tues-Fri between 9a-2p Central Time”
Person 2: “Ok, let’s do Tuesday at 1pm.”
Person 1: “Sounds good. Please call me at 555–555–5555 on Tuesday February 2, 2016 at 1pm Central. I look forward to talking!”

Seconds or minutes here or there may not seem like a lot, but when you make your messages more efficient up front, you are:

  • saving time through clarity
  • reducing inbox clutter and the mental interruption patterns of repeatedly jumping to and from the topic with every new email that pops up about it.
  • demonstrating that you are organized, easy to work with, and you communicate well.

Time adds up. Respecting time means a lot. People appreciate it.

Go forth and be efficient!

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Jaimee Newberry is a professional experimenter, speaker and writer who lives, learns and fumbles out loud. She’s the founder of tinychallenges.com and co-host of the tinychallenges podcast. She’s also the independent mother of two girls and two cats, and girlfriend of a beautiful, shy man who likes to remain mostly anonymous. More at jaimeejaimee.com

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