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May 2, 2022, 11 a.m.
Reporting & Production

Calendly didn’t pay me to write this post. It’s just a great tool for journalists.

On average, it takes about seven emails to find and agree upon a meeting time. I don’t have the brain space for that.

At some point during the pandemic, every task related to producing a Nieman Lab story felt like pulling teeth.

I love my job, of course (don’t fire me, Laura), but brain broken has been very real for a long time. The task that most triggered my existential dread was transcribing interviews, so I paid for Otter.ai to record them and transcribe them in real time.

The second-most annoying task was going back and forth over email (not even good email! Outlook!) to schedule interviews.

My last three braincells couldn’t go on being polite, scheduling based on my sources’ timezones, and then converting (often incorrectly) to Eastern Standard Time. And then creating a meeting in Zoom. And then creating a calendar event and sending it. If you’ve ever had to copy an email address from Outlook, you know my pain (such as it is. I mean, never forget this tweet).

I started wondering if the solution to this was Calendly, which I’d used a free version of for a few years to hold virtual office hours and schedule non-Nieman Lab chats.

I tried that free version for a few weeks earlier this year and loved it at first.

I was unbothered by the Calendly Discourse (“Is sending a Calendly link rude?”) that took place at the end of January (and so was the company, when that tweet drove tens of thousands of new signups).

But I sometimes found myself double-booked, forced to go back to email and reschedule. Under the free plan, you can link one calendar (my work Outlook) and Calendly automatically makes you unavailable during the hours that are blocked off. I keep all my personal meetings and appointments on my personal Google Calendar, though, and you can only link multiple calendars with a premium plan.

That mean $102 less in my Serotonin Fund (for stupid purchases that make me happy in the moment but are usually unnecessary).

When my internet-friend-turned-IRL-colleague Adriana Lacy said yes, I pretty much hit the “upgrade” button immediately and never looked back.

Calendly was founded by Tope Awotona in 2013 and has been profitable since 2016, according to a recent profile of Awotona in Forbes. It has over 10 million users around the world and more than 50,000 companies use the tool in their businesses. Calendly doesn’t share its number of paying users or the number of media companies that use it. A spokesperson said that since many journalists and media workers may sign up for free accounts, it doesn’t have data on the number of journalists who use it.

But it’s not particularly hard to find other media people who love it, too:

The Calendly spokesperson said that on average, it takes about seven emails to find and agree upon a meeting time. That could be over 10 minutes or over the course of days, depending on how fast people get back to each other. And if someone has to cancel or reschedule, even more emails.

Calendly has been a great tool for me to gain more control over my workday. I set my availability to Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays for calls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Calendly makes me unavailable during prior commitments on my other calendars (team meetings, virtual events, personal appointments, etc). Meetings are usually over Zoom and when someone schedules one, they get an email confirmation and a calendar invite. All I have to do is email them to introduce myself, let them know why I would like to speak to them, and send them the link.

Meeting are set to be 30 minutes and no one can schedule a meeting within less than six hours of the meeting time, which means that for the most part, I always know what my day is going to look like. This helps me make a more realistic to-do list and accomplish what’s on it. I typically don’t take calls on Thursdays and Fridays (unless it’s urgent or for a time-sensitive story) so I can focus on writing and filing stories for the following week.

This system isn’t perfect (spam events do sometimes happen) and often, things don’t go according to plan. A big part of being a reporter is being flexible. Calendly just makes it easier to get back on track. If someone cancels or has to reschedule, they can just pick another slot on my calendar that works for them instead of starting over at square one via email.

Truly, I wish this were a sponsored post, but it’s not. Awotona told Forbes that “employees sing the praises of our product to their higher-ups and it bubbles up. That’s the Trojan horse of how we get into companies,” which is pretty much exactly how Nieman Lab got a team plan once I told Laura how much a paid plan has helped me with work. [Ed. note: I started using Calendly after Hanaa’ recommended it and GUESS WHAT I loved it. I had never totally realized how much I procrastinated and dreaded scheduling interviews until Calendly removed the procrastination possibility. Now the interviews show up on my calendar and I just do them without the angst? It’s weird. Stressing again that we did not receive anything for writing this post. — LHO]

If only there was a tool to make writing easier, too.

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

POSTED     May 2, 2022, 11 a.m.
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