Coordinating schedules can be a challenge, this is exacerbated when calendars are not shared. As a consultant, my company calendar has to be my one source of truth. Scheduling meetings within our company isn’t a challenge since we can see each other’s availability. This is not true when you are trying to coordinate across most companies.
There are options that can help with inter-company scheduling which I’ll outline in a later post. I’ve used one or more of these for the last few years. Additionally, and what triggered this blog post is a feature I recently discovered in Outlook for iOS . This feature has been very helpful in quickly providing meeting options.
Microsoft acquired a company that created an email application called Accompli a while back which became Outlook for iOS. I gave Accompli a whirl before the Microsoft purchase and eventually came back once improvements were made. They also acquired a calendaring product called Sunrise which they have started to integrate into Outlook for iOS.
Outlook for iOS is my go to email client for my iPhone. I won’t go into the reasons why but I do want to discuss one feature that really has been very useful in scheduling meetings.
Providing Meeting Times with Outlook for iOS.
Often I will receive a request to meet via email. With Outlook I can quickly provide options in an email response. In the example below, I’m creating a new email in which I want to provide availability. When you start to compose the message you will see three icons on the bottom left.
They are used to attach files, images, or provide calendar availability. To provide calendar availability, just tap the icon that looks like a calendar with a clock superimposed on it.
Once tapped you will see a pop up menu with choices for Send Availability or Create Invite. Pick Send Availability.
You are presented with your calendar and from here you can just start to tap on times you want to make available. Each tap marks a 30 minute block. You can tap on any 30 minute block including those that you may already have events scheduled. I really like this ability to select over providing full access to my free time as there may be things I’m focused on but not necessarily scheduled on my calendar. If you need to pick times outside of the current view, just swipe to the right to move to the following week.
Once you have selected the blocks of time you want to provide, just click the checkbox on the upper right to send your availability. At this point Outlook will insert into your message a nicely formatted view of your availability.
You now have provided availability options. In the past, I would have created an email on my laptop, looked at my calendar, and then start to type in open time blocks. That was time consuming and Outlook has made this super simple and super fast. This is something I do frequently, almost daily, and it has saved me a ton of time.
I will cover some of the other calendar scheduling tools that are available in a later post. Just recently the Mac Power Users podcast had an episode on calendars and calendar sharing was one of the sub-topics. I would encourage you to check that episode out here.
As for Outlook for iOS, if you’ve not tried this then I would encourage you to give it a whirl.
I would also note that Outlook can be used for almost any email account you can imaging. I’ve used it for Exchange, Gmail, IMAP mail providers, and I know there are other account types supported.