Stop playing calendar tag, save yourself 3 weeks

By , June 09, 2014
Stop playing calendar tag, save yourself 3 weeks

Does the following email conversation sound painfully familiar:

User: "Do you have time this week to meet and discuss __________?"
Contact: "Yeah, I'm free later in the week. Thursday or Friday would work best."
User: "I've got some time from 3-4pm on Thursday, does that work?"
Contact: "Sorry, I've got a meeting during that time, does 12:30pm work?"
User: "Could we do a half hour later?"
Contact: "Sure, send me a calendar appointment."

OUCH. I used to have conversations like this day in and day out. The sad thing is, most of these conversations were much longer and/or didn’t result in a meeting at all. What a time waste.

Actually, according to a recent study by, the average knowledge worker wastes 33 minutes a day attempting to schedule meetings. That equates to over three weeks of work a year per user being wasted playing calendar tag. DOUBLE OUCH.

Let’s set aside personal productivity for a moment, what does that lost three weeks look like across an entire organization?! If you're like most organizations trying to do more with less, this is a problem that cannot be ignored.

The good news for all of us is that with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange we will never have to take these shots in the dark again. Let me share some time-saving tips that we (BrainStorm, Inc.) share with the users and organizations we've worked with.

Internal Sharing

I think most of us know how to view our colleagues’ calendars. If you're still playing calendar tag with colleagues inside your organization there are a number of tools at your fingertips to keep the corporate machine running smoothly. These tools include the Scheduling Assistant and shared calendars.

Because most users have got internal sharing covered, I'll skip to the juicy stuff, but if you're looking to learn more on this topic QuickHelp is the perfect teacher. Here's a sample:

Watch this 2 minute video: Sharing Calendars with a Microsoft Exchange Account

External Sharing

This is the big one for me; every day I'm working with external vendors, partners, and/or clients on various projects. Rarely a day goes by when I'm not involved in scheduling some type of meeting or phone call. The ability to externally share my calendar saves me countless emails and hours every month. Let me show you my two favorite ways to quickly share my calendar without too much technical fuss.

Inserting Your Calendar

This is the fastest and easiest way to give external contacts a static look at your upcoming availability. When composing an email message (make sure you "Pop Out" the message), navigate to the "Insert" tab on the Ribbon and click on "Insert Calendar". A dialog box will launch and you'll have the ability to edit date ranges and details that will be visible to your audience.I recommend you mark the check box to show only your working hours. This focuses the displayed content to only your working hours so that there's no confusion on when you can meet.

Once you click ok, your calendar will be both attached to the email and inserted into the body of the message. Your external contact will now have visibility into your calendar for the specified date range and can suggest a time when you are both available.


  • Fast, one-off emails
  • Convenient for your contacts, they don't leave their email client
  • Easy to use


  • Design of inserted calendar is a little dated
  • The inserted calendar can make your email very long
  • Provides only a static snapshot of your calendar, not a real-time view

Publishing Your Calendar

This method, my favorite,allows you greater flexibility over the content of your email conversation by actually displaying your calendar via a URL. This published calendar is a dynamic look into your calendar, meaning it doesn't become outdated as you add new appointments to your calendar, while providing the same flexibility to restrict permissions and date ranges.To share your calendar, you'll need to insert the link to your published calendar into your emails. To get this link, access your calendar in Outlook and within the "Home" tab in the Ribbon and you'll see the "Publish Online" button in the share group. Click it, edit your sharing options, and then generate your link.

You'll now have a link that you can share that gives your external contacts the ability to see your calendar in real time to make scheduling decisions that fit for you both.

From here, I recommend setting up a Quick Part in Outlook, and voilà, you've got a super easy way to insert a link to your calendar for anyone.


  • Dynamic (real-time) view of you calendar
  • Nice online view of your calendar with viewing options
  • Shortens your emails messages by using just a URL


  • It requires some initial setup
  • Contacts are required to leave their email to view calendar
  • URL can be ugly if you don't use some text and then hyperlink

Productivity Powerhouse

By leveraging features like these in the Microsoft suite you and your organization can be more productive. I know it's saved me not only huge amounts of time, but also quite a bit of sanity. Shrink that 33 minutes wasted to virtually nothing, and say good bye to those infuriating games of calendar tag!

To learn more time-saving tips and how to make your organization more productive, contact BrainStorm. Our comprehensive and customizable software training and adoption solutions will turn your organization into a productivity powerhouse.

Categories: Microsoft Software
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