10 tips for respectful — and effective — shared calendaring

Shared calendars, like shared documents, push our boundaries in the workplace. Shared calendars let other people see and touch our time in ways that have limited equivalents. Having a staff member, usually an assistant, manage your calendar used to be a status signal and implied that your time was important. But shared calendars instead open your time to the world — a huge benefit for our evermore collaborative work. Unless they are effectively managed, however, they can be a major drain on our time.

My 10 tips cover three important dimensions: Technology settings and strategies, our developing calendaring etiquette and norms, and broader organizational practices.

My Tungle.me screen

Technology settings and strategies

1. Set up appointment slots. Many systems (I’m most familar with Tungle.me and Google Calendar) let you choose the times others can book you.
2. Make your wishes known. Many systems let you add comments on the page where people would schedule you, so use those comments to share your preferences for scheduling meetings. On my scheduling page I ask that people request at least three options, across multiple days.
3. Set your default meeting time to a smaller increment. This great tip comes from Thursday Bram. I just changed my default meeting time to 15 minutes. She also challenges us to:
4. Schedule your own time so you can get some work done. My own technique is to schedule my required events (with prep, travel, and assimilation time added on), block time for work, and then negotiate the shared aspect of my calendar. You may not have that kind of control, but as you’ll see in the the organizational practices category of tips, you won’t have this kind of control unless you ask.
5. Check the other person’s schedule first. Before asking someone if you can book some time (see next tip below), search the system for times that might work. You’ll get an better idea of the how busy the person is and be ready to book using their technology of choice.

Etiquette and norms

6. Get an OK before you set the meeting. Don’t book someone else without prior correspondence, unless it is standard operating practice, or the person’s scheduling page says you can.
7. Offer multiple options. If your calendar system allows it, suggest a few different meeting times, spread across multiple days — you never know where the person will be and whether or not they’ll have access to a computer, good wifi, or whatever else the event might need.
8. Don’t schedule back-to-back events. The person will be more likely to be on time and have your agenda in mind if you give them some breathing room. Try and schedule for an “odd” time so others are less likely to schedule immediately before or after your meeting.

Organizational practices

9. Talk about calendering and meeting ideals. Come to agreement around norms for booking each other, how personal time can be blocked, and assumptions about meetings. Agree on when it’s ok to say no to a meeting.
10. Enlist IT’s help. See if your information technology gurus can adjust the calendaring system to defaults of 15, 25, or 55 minutes, to help shorten meetings (or at least allow 5 minutes’ breathing room between them). If this isn’t a standard setting, see if IT can ask the vendor to implement it as a new feature.

Certainly, we’ve had shared calendars inside organizations for years. That doesn’t mean we’ve done calendaring well or that we’re prepared for public calendar sharing.

Would be great to know how these tips have worked out for you. Please share other tips you’ve found to be valuable.