Scheduling a meeting with academics is like herding cats, which is why Doodle is magic. Use doodle.com to schedule meetings rather than sending an endless chain of emails. It’s free and very user friendly. Here are tips for doing it right:
1. Designate 30 minute timeslots rather than time chunks.
9 am 9:30 am 10 am 10:30 am 11 am 11:30 am 12 pm
9 am -11 am 11 am – 1 pm 1 pm – 3pm
The latter is very inflexible. I could be available 10-12 but have no options in the second poll that work for me. It is very unlikely with teaching schedules, meetings, etc., that you are going to find a great deal of overlap for a particular 2 hour time slot.
2. Use the “If Need Be” function, especially if you are trying to get several people in one place at one time.
In the advanced options, you have the option to give respondents 3 choices: Yes, Yes if need be, and No. Giving the “Yes if Need Be” option is crucial when dealing with professors, who are very keen time managers. If you ask me if I am available on a writing day when I am working from home, I will likely say no. Or, if I have a meeting already scheduled, I’ll say no. If there was no other possible option, though, I could come in or switch the other meeting—I would just prefer a more convenient time if at all possible. People have the power to indicate that with “Yes if need be.”—i.e., I’d rather not, but if you get desperate, here’s an option. This often prevents having to send out multiple polls.
3. Consider the “hidden responses” option.
This is all about modeling and imitation. If one person sees that someone else has only selected 2 options out of 30, they may think, “Oh. I can be really picky with my times as well.” Or, they may assume it’s pointless to indicate any availability other than what previous people have entered, so they see their options as just the 2 out of 30 that worked for the person before them. To avoid any bias from other respondents, you might want to choose to hide poll responses.
Alternatively, you may be running a study, holding office hours, or some other instance where you don’t want others to see who has participated in the poll. In that case, hide others’ responses.
Just note that you have to be sure to keep the administrative link Doodle sends or you won’t be able to see the responses either.
4. Multiple attendees or one.
In the advanced options, you can also decide if you want to let everyone indicate every possible timeslot, or if you want to treat the poll like a signup sheet (i.e., after X amount of people sign up, that timeslot is closed and no one else can sign up.) This is very convenient for scheduling student meetings or research study participation.