The hardest part about scheduling appointments (or lunches, or office hours) is all the back and forth trying to find a mutually convenient time. I’ve recently discovered a lovely, free, web-based tool that makes the whole process a lot easier.
Calendly will let people self-schedule their own appointments!
The catch? It only syncs with Google Calendar.
It’s easy to set up. The options are flexible and powerful: it’s possible to (for example) define Tuesdays 2-4 pm for 15 minute appointments and Fridays, 11am-noon for 1 hour lunch meetings. Or any other combination that suits your needs. If you want 24 hours notice before any appointments, or a 5 minute buffer between all appointments, you can.
Then, Calendly uses real-time data from Google Calendar to prevent double-booking. Calendly only peeks to see whether you’re busy or not. The actual events on your calendar stay private.
When someone makes an appointment, Calendly automatically adds it to your Google Calendar and sends emails (which can be customized) to both parties.
For step-by-step screenshots of the setup process for use with students for office hours, I recommend this blog post by Sue Franz over at Technology for Academics.
What will you do with all the time you save?
Update: As of September 1, 2014, Calendly will start charging a monthly fee for premium features (which they define as more than one appointment type / length, removal of branding, customized emails, and appointment reminders).