How to help humans succeed at scheduling

by | Aug 7, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments

“It’s never the other human’s fault.”

That’s become my motto for dealing with miscommunications around scheduling.

When my communication efforts fail for setting up meetings, I don’t blame anyone, certainly not them. Instead, I stop and think about how to change my behavior to elicit a faster, accurate response.

Reacting this way gives me the distance to view the problem more objectively rather than take it as a personal flaw. In other words, I view it as we’re experiencing a misinterpretation and/or implementation problem. My communication skills are not deteriorating, I tell myself.

Or am I losing my touch? Lately, several individuals’ reactions have stumped me.

Are they demonstrating the downside of distraction, stubbornness or just plain bad behavior?

Or am I being anything but clear, concise and compelling?

Or something in-between?

Here are my top 3 examples of miscommunication:

Exchange #1 via email:

Me: We’ll need an hour. My schedule is relatively open except for June 28 and the week of July 8 when I’m in NYC for a conference.

New coachee: Thanks Liz. I can meet 06/28 between 10:30-11:30 if that’s OK.

Exchange #2 via email:

Team leader: I want to know what day we three can meet to discuss a strategic plan for editing these stories. Are you available on Monday, Aug 12th at 4:30(ish)?

Let me know but please “reply to all” so we all will know what works best – should you need to throw out another day that week, please do –

Me: (responding about 10 minutes later) Hi, I can do any day that week at that time except for Monday. Wednesday and Thursday are the best; however, I can make Tuesday and Friday work.

Other meeting invitee: (responding about 20 minutes after me) Yes, I can meet at 4:30 on 8/12. At your office or somewhere else?

Exchange #3 via text:

Coachee: (Friday) Sorry to be a complete pain but could we reschedule this afternoon to next week? Next Tuesday looks great on my end.

Me: Yes, Tues. will work. I’ll get back to you with some suggested times.

Coachee: Thanks so much!

Me: Plz choose a 1-hr block starting between…..(etc.)

Coachee: (silent until Tues. morning) I am in back to back meetings today…Could we look at next Tuesday when my calendar opens up?

What’s your lesson from these exchanges?

My lessons learned is that even using the Platinum Rule is failing me. And scheduling has fast become a huge time suck.

For instance, I generally use the communication channel that the individual I’m working with uses or prefers. So I text if texted, emailed if emailed, and phoned if called. In my experience, individuals respond better when you mirror their go-to channel.

Then I realized when I was responding, I was taking the easy way out and making things simpler for me. When I gave dates and times, it was faster to provide all options except the ones that didn’t work when my calendar was open. However, when people read messages like this quickly, they tend to skip over the “except.” (See example #1.)

So now I’ve started to provide specific dates and times or blocks of times, but that doesn’t always work either. (See examples #2 and 3.)

When I’ve lamented about my scheduling challenge to others, they suggest using polling and/or calendar software. Those are great options for individuals willing to make the effort to use them. However, I’ve found corporate employees reluctant to do so, or even blocked from using these sites thanks to their company firewall.

Any other suggestions, please?

To paraphrase Chekhov, these days it’s not the work that’s as challenging as the day-to-day scheduling.

Scheduling is time consuming, painstaking and error prone. And that’s hard to turn around to make it a positive!


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