Gmail wants to help you eliminate “Email Battleship.”

Trying to schedule meetings via email is like playing Battleship. Each party is trying to hit a calendar they can’t see. I’ve written about this topic before. That’s one reason I use Calendly.

If you use Gmail, there’s now a Calendly-like feature built right in.

Let’s say you’re trying to schedule a time for you and a friend to get together but you can’t reach your friend by phone. So, you send an email. You would suggest a couple of times you are free. Your friend responds that those times aren’t good and suggests a couple of times. Those aren’t good for you. Back and forth it goes. You’re both trying to hit an open spot on a calendar you can’t see. It’s classic “Email Battleship.”

Gmail allows us a way around this puzzle

“Set up a time to meet”

At the bottom of the email, click the three dots and select “Set up a time to meet” and then “Offer times you’re free.”

A panel appears where you start clicking times you are available and the length of time for the appointment. On the next screen, you can choose if this meeting will be in person, a phone call, or an online meeting. You can input the location. If it’s going to be an online meeting, a Google Meet link is generated automatically.

After you have selected a few times, click “Add to email.”

The times appear in the email as clickable buttons. When your friend selects a time, it asks for a name and email.

The completed appointment generates a calendar invitation for both of you and puts the event on your calendars.

In experimenting with this feature, I see a drawback. Let’s say you offer several possible meeting times. Before your friend acts on your email, one of those times becomes taken. The system would still allow your friend to select that time, and now you are double-booked. Calendly, on the other hand, would throw up a message for your friend saying that time is no longer available and to choose another time.

Appointment Schedules

There is a second Calendly-like feature. You’ll see this one in Google Calendar.

Would you like to have a single link you can give to anybody and they will always be able to see when you are available? That’s what “Appointment Schedules” does for you.

In the upper left, click the “Create” button, and you’ll see “Appointment Schedule.” Here, set the times you are generally available. This way you can have weekends blocked off. Perhaps you aren’t going to let anybody schedule a time with you on Wednesday. You’ll designate an earliest time and latest time, and those can be different for each day of the week.

When you go to any view, you’ll see the block of time for that day that has been designated as available. So how does anybody know about your availability? Click on any of the time slots and then click the “Open Booking Page” button. Click the “Share” button, and you’ll see a link. Anybody with that link can see your availability and book appointments with you.

They go to that link and select a time. It goes on your calendar and sends you an email.

There is something I don’t like. I primarily use the monthly view on Google Calendar. If I am using an “Appointment Schedule,” an entry shows up on every single day even if nobody has scheduled an appointment. With only four time slots visible on Google Calendar on the monthly view, I don’t want one of those taken up with a placeholder for the block I have available for appointments.

Personally, I am sticking with Calendly. But if you want something that’s already baked into Gmail and your Google Calendar, what we’ve covered may just be your answer.

Calendly Resources

If you are not familiar with Calendly, I highly recommend it. I use it in three ways:

  • To provide select people with a link to my calendar (like the feature you saw in Google’s Appointment Schedule
  • To offer individual people select times (like the feature you saw in Google’s “Set up a time to meet”)
  • To find a common time when an entire group can all meet. This feature is called “Meeting Poll.

To learn more about Calendly, and in particular the Calendly Meeting Pool, come over to the post on “How to Use the New Calendly Meeting Poll.

It’s time to stop playing “Email Battleship.” Whether it’s Calendly, the tools you saw in this post, or another similar product, let technology do the work for you.

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