You can save a lot of back-and-forth making appointments if you publish your calendar to the Web. It's not hard.
I've been publishing my calendar to the Internet for a couple of months. It really paid off yesterday, when I had to set up five interviews for an article.
In the past, there would have been lots of back and forth in e-mail. "Is this time good for you?" "No, I'm sorry, how about this time?"
Instead, I just pointed the interview subjects to my public calendar, and I had nine appointments set up within an hour.
Holy mackerel, that is one powerful tool!
I started publishing my calendar in December, when I saw a friend doing it and thought it looked potentially useful. At first I was worried that I'd be giving away too much of my privacy. But the calendar can be set to show only busy and free time, without revealing details of what you're busy doing. It doesn't hurt me for you to know when I'm busy, and the payoff is big in saved time.
Paul Gillin, a social media consultant and former editor-in-chief of this publication, is the guy who gave me this idea. "People tell me all the time that they love being able to see my calendar," he said. "I’m surprised more people don’t do it, because Google makes it so easy."
He added, "Having a public calendar had forced me to be more disciplined about how I schedule things. For example, if I’m driving into town for appointment, I’ll add a half-hour on the front and back ends to compensate for travel.... You learn pretty quickly how to make your availability clear when people start scheduling appointments with you for times that you’re unavailable."
I do have to be careful with making sure "busy" time is marked accurately. Often, I'll put information on the calendar without having an appointment -- like the dates of a conference I haven't decided whether to attend. In those cases, I don't want people to think the time is busy.
Paul uses Google as his primary calendar. I use BusyCal for the Mac. But BusyCal automatically synchs with Google Calendar, it's one of the reasons I chose it. You can also synch with Google using the standard iCal software that comes with the Mac. Here are Instructions for synching Google Calendar with Mac iCal.
Also, Google has instructions for synching Outlook to Google Calendar.