Online schedules put time back on your calendar

By Laura Haight

The question of whether technology is a time saver or time waster is still open to discussion for many people. We see tasks taking a long time to accomplish and wonder why tech doesn’t make it any easier.

It’s a complex question and there are many factors, but two keys are a) having the right applications and b) learning how to use them to do what you need done.

The biggest time waster I know of is scheduling meetings - and I do a lot of this. Has the explosion of email and the addition of mobility made scheduling easier? Actually, no. There are metrics that suggest it can take at least seven emails to schedule a meeting that involves more than two people. Whether it's the boss or an assistant, that's a big waste of staff time.

But there are tools to streamline and automate the process. And in many cases they are free or near-free, which I define as something that costs less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Doodle vs Timebridge
Doodle (www.doodle.com) and Timebridge (www.timebridge.com) are both strong online schedulers. Timebridge is free and Doodle has a free level but to compare to Timebridge's functions you must upgrade to a pro account for $39 per year.

The primary function is to enable you to send a selection of times from your calendar to as many invitees as you want. The application keeps track as each person responds with availability and then allows you to select the best time for all participants. Your tentative times are all added to your calendar so you don't overbook and when a final time is selected, they are deleted.

You send one email - the applications do the rest.

There are some differences.

  • Doodle synchronizes with any calendar you use; Timebridge works with Outlook and Google Calendar.
  • Timebridge automatically confirms the best meeting time when the last invitee has participated in the poll; Doodle notifies you that all participants are in and you make the final selection.
  • Timebridge notifies you of upcoming meetings automatically (via text on your phone or email); Doodle does not.
  • Timebidge includes options to add a free conference call to your meeting invitations; Doodle does not.
  • Doodle (although suffering from an unfortunate name for a business tool) seems to be a very stable platform and offers a mobile app for iPhones, Android phones, iPads and tablets; Timebridge has had some scary outages in the past.
  • Doodle has a mobile app. Although it is not as full featured as power users like myself would probably like to see, it is useful as an advisory tool. Timebridge does not have any mobile app and using Timebridge on your mobile device is clunky and aggravating.
  • Both services give you your own online calendar so that people can see your availability and propose meeting times with you. Even if you don’t want to create new ways for meetings to get on your calendar, it’s a nice feature to help partners, collaborators and clients get an overview of your schedule, which will save you time as well.

As with all productivity apps, know what is important to you. Features can sound very cool, but if they aren’t tools you use, they’re superfluous not super. But if you schedule a lot of calls and meetings, either of these two tools are worth a close look.