six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Easy group scheduling is only a Doodle away

Doodle is a web-based scheduling tool that I use all the time, and the other day I was shocked to realize that I’ve only mentioned it once on Six Colors. Let me rectify that.

Doodle is the tool I use to schedule all of my podcasts and meetings. At its simplest, it’s a free tool that lets you quickly find common times between disparate groups of people. I log into Doodle, create a new event, and pick a bunch of dates and times when I’m available. At the end of the process, I’m provided with two URLs—one that lets me administer my poll, and another that I send to everyone I want to participate in the poll.

Everyone I’m inviting to my meeting or podcast gets that second link, and clicks through to see all of the date and time options. (There’s a time-zone feature that automatically converts all times to local time—I wish it was on by default, because sometimes I forget to check the box.) My potential participants fill out their availability, and I’m sent a notification (via email or, once I installed the Doodle iOS app, on my phone) that they’ve entered their information.

Once everyone’s been heard from, I visit the administration link—or just log in to Doodle, where it shows me my recent items—and see the results. The site automatically highlights any events where everyone has answered in the affirmative. If there aren’t any, then I have to make the difficult decision about who’ll make it and who will be left on the outside looking in. Once I select a time, I can close the poll and notify my attendees about the final time.

Doodle has a bunch of other features that make it a more flexible scheduling tool than you’d think. I frequently make use of the “if need be” scheduling option, which lets people indicate that they can make a time but would rather avoid it if they could, which is surprisingly useful when no meeting time is perfect.

You can also limit the number participants in a specific slot, and limit a person to a single option. Turn both of those options on and you’ve got a sign-up service for appointments—if I were teaching a college class, I’d consider using Doodle for office-hours sign-ups, for instance.

Doodle is free with basic features, including some calendar integration. For $39/year, you get an ad-free version with more data collection and encryption. For $69/year and up, there’s a team version with a bunch of other benefits. It has made the job of scheduling podcasts and nonprofit board meetings—both of which involve wrangling a whole bunch of people with very busy schedules—vastly easier for me.

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