Back in 2008, I posted a selection of calendar and scheduling bad habits. I recently updated the list for another publication, and I now declare that these irritations are worthy of an entry in the Hall of Shame.
My Outlook-based calendar is a temple. It’s pristine. I refuse to let it be riddled with other peoples’ bad spelling, bad grammar, bad punctuation, bad capitalisation and bad habits. I freely admit that I will edit entries created by other peoples’ invitations if they don’t meet my high standards. And then I remove reminders (and I’ll explain why later).
If I were to subtitle this it would be ‘several annoying things to avoid’ but actually there are some things you should do, such as #1 on the list…
- Perform a free-time search – I know it’s not perfect, and sometimes there are reasons why that slot appears to be free but actually it’s not. However, a free-time search does increase your chance of finding that mutually-acceptable time-slot for everyone, and not just when it’s convenient for you. And if you don’t perform a free-time search, don’t get annoyed when other people tell you they’re already busy.
- ‘Invite’ is a verb. It’s what you do. You ‘invite’ someone to your meeting or conference call. You send them an ‘invitation’, which is a noun.
- When creating your invitation, don’t put the date of the meeting in the subject field. There’s no need to. When I look at the appointment I can see what date it falls on due to the unique design of the calendar which displays the month and the day of the month in a sort of grid-like arrangement.
- Don’t add ‘invitation’ or (even worse) ‘invite’ to the start of the meeting subject. It’s redundant. It’s like placing ‘e-mail’ at the start of the subject line of e-mails you send.
- Don’t put the location of the meeting in the subject field. There’s a special field for that. It’s called ‘Location’. The clue is in the title of said field.
- Don’t add the word ‘placeholder’ to the start of the meeting subject. There’s no point. I guess ‘placeholder’ is used when someone thinks the meeting will occur at this time / date but isn’t 100% sure, and for now they’re reserving the time. That’s okay, if you send the invitation and the meeting goes ahead at that time / date, fine, leave it where it is. Once I’ve accepted the invitation, that place is held. If the meeting is going to take place at another time / date, reschedule it. I’ll get over it.
- When you invite me to a conference call, I don’t need every phone number on the entire planet. If you’re based in England, I’m based in England and the rest of the attendees are based in England, we don’t need the local dial-in details for Venezuela. [This is admittedly a throwback to the days when we joined conference calls by dialling a phone number and is really no longer an issue].
- Don’t put every phone number on the entire planet in the location field.
- Don’t feel that you need to place a reminder on every invitation. Personally I remove them as soon as the meeting invitations come in – I have four computers and a phone, and I don’t need to dismiss calendar alerts from all five of them seven times a day. More than that, I just think reminders are mostly pointless. Let’s say someone has invited me to a meeting in London, or maybe even Edinburgh. A 15-minute reminder is pointless. If I’m not already in London (or Edinburgh) a 15-minute reminder isn’t a big help. I can’t get from my home or our Reading office to London in 15 minutes, so I’m already irredeemably late. If I am already in London (or Edinburgh), the chances are that I’ll have travelled to that city in order to attend the meeting… it’s the reason I’m there. So I don’t need a reminder.
- Calendar etiquette can be tricky, so some people just don’t bother. I have been invited to ‘Monthly catch-up with Darren’ – the originator sees it in their calendar as ‘Monthly catch-up with Darren’. Unless I modify the text of the appointment I have accepted, my calendar entry also says ‘Monthly catch-up with Darren’. But I’m not having a catch-up with myself, I’m having a catch-up with Bob (name changed to spare the feelings of Tom). Bob, however, didn’t consider this.
- “SAVE THE DAY” – okay, almost the same as #6. If I accept the invitation, the time is set aside and you have it as long as something more important doesn’t come along.
- “MANDATORY” – oh right, because you know my priorities better than I do? I would be tempted to press the decline button out of spite.
- “I found a spare slot in your diary” – oh good, you have obeyed rule #1. For that, you deserve some goodwill. However, the reason that slot is free is because it’s LUNCH TIME. I’m a carbon-based life-form and I need to eat at some point, preferably before I begin to digest my own stomach. Decline.
- Do not type the subject in uppercase letters. And do not add exclamation marks – we’re scheduling a business meeting not a child’s birthday party.
- And a follow-on from #14… calendar entry subjects obey the same basic rules as the rest of the English language. Uppercase letters belong at the start of sentences and at the start of proper nouns… that’s pretty much it. There is no need for every word in the appointment subject to start with an uppercase letter.
- Don’t needlessly re-issue invitations – as we have already established, if I’ve had to correct your bad spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, etc, I’m going to have to do it again if you re-issue the invitation for no reason at all. If you invite someone else, there’s an option in Outlook to send it only to the new person(s) – I don’t need the invitation again if I’ve already accepted it (unless some fundamental detail like the date or time has changed).
- If you need to schedule a follow-up meeting, don’t reschedule the one we just attended – that will remove it from my diary and place it in the future, and I won’t be able to look back and know when we had the original meeting. A lazy practice that needs to be stamped out.
A final word – THE worst calendar and scheduling bad practice I ever observed was this… I was invited to a recurring meeting along with about twenty other people. The list of attendees was added to the subject field. Hang on, it gets worse. Every time someone accepted or declined, the chairperson would re-issue the invitation and update the subject with that person’s decision. Every time. EVERY TIME. I asked them if this was necessary and they said it was.