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Schedule Meetings Efficiently by Using the Outlook Calendar


                                                            by Phil Lyle


Everyone knows of the existence of an Outlook calendar, and many utilize it to store and share information regarding meetings and appointments.   Used properly, the Outlook Calendar can allow efficient meeting scheduling without the traditional "Are you available on Tuesday?" email chain.  Read on for tips on how to make your calendar more valuable to you, your teams, and everyone else at RSCCD.

Are you Free or are you Busy?

By default, all of your calendar items are only visible to you.  However, our email system provides a feature called Free/Busy Information that shares your general availability with anyone looking to schedule a meeting.  They won't be able to see what you are doing, but they can tell whether you are free, busy, or out of the office.

This information becomes invaluable when scheduling a meeting.   After creating a New Meeting, simply add all of you attendees on the "To" list.  Next, click the Scheduling Assistant button.

screen print with new meeting, scheduling assistant, and to fields  highlighted

screen shot of aample canendar 

You can now utilize the horizontal bars next to each person to determine their availability.  Use the top bar next to All attendees to quickly determine which timeslot will work for everyone in your meeting.  To automatically pick the next available time for everyone, click Options – Autopick – Required People.  

Decoding the Free/Busy Information color scheme

When scheduling a meeting, "White" means Free, "Blue" means Busy, and "Purple" means Out of Office.   There are a few other variations shown below which are less common.

free/busy color scheme 

Tips for getting started!

Here are some tips for getting started with using the Outlook Calendar for meetings:

  • Set your work schedule.  If you come in at 7 AM and leave at 4 PM, change your schedule within Outlook to reflect these times by clicking File – Options – Calendar, and modify your work hours.

  • Convince your local team to start storing all meetings and schedule variations in their calendar.  If you have to leave early for a doctor appointment, enter it on your calendar to ensure that nobody tries to schedule a meeting during that time.

  • Hit the Accept button on meetings you are going to attend.  This lets the organizer know that you will actually attend the meeting. 
  • When changes are needed to an existing meeting, the Organizer (original person who created the message) can modify the meeting and send out an Update to all attendees. 
  • Attendees who cannot make your meeting can utilize the Propose New Time button to suggest an alternate date and time.   The organizer receives the suggestion and can accept and automatically notify all attendees of the new date & time.

  • The Outlook meeting process is not perfect, and depends on everyone doing their part to populate their calendar.  You'll find the best effectiveness within your local teams initially, which will grow more as everyone becomes more familiar with the tool.   

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