A question for you: ’Pencil In’ or ’Mark Available’: Why do you mark yourself as ’Available’

Mat Newman  June 30 2012 07:00:00
Had a really insightful discussion with some users this week that centred on Calendaring and Scheduling inside Lotus Notes.  The focus of the training was Meetings and your Calendar.  During the training we discussed almost every preference within your Mail database that affects how the calendar works, and what the options actually mean and do.

Personally, I use the Pencil In  (Notes <=7) / Mark Available (Notes 8+) setting in a Lotus Notes Appointment/Meeting/All Day Event entry types because I know when another user invites me to a meeting they will check the 'Find Available Times' and see that according to my schedule I am 'Free' to attend their meeting. Reminders and Anniversaries do not have the option, since those entries aren't supposed to block out any of your time, they are simply there to inform you that something is happening.

Figure 1: Are you free?
Mat Newman - Are you free?

The discussion exploded when two of the attendees indicated that they accept most meeting invitations using the "Tentatively Accept" response option.  What this option does is to add the entry to your Lotus Notes calendar, but it also activates the 'Pencil in' or 'Mark Available' option for that calendar entry.  Subsequently, if another user invites you to a meeting and uses the 'Find Available Times' feature, the meeting invitation the user has 'Tentatively Accepted' will not be blocked out as 'Already Scheduled', and the person inviting you will assume that you will be able to attend their meeting.

The users in question then suggested that the 'Find Available Times' feature in Lotus Notes should actually have a new option that would indicate a calendar entry exists in the other users calendar that was flagged as 'Mark Available', eg:

Figure 2: I might have something else on, should they show up?:
Mat Newman - I might not be free!

What do you think? If you purposefully use the 'Mark Available' feature in your Lotus Notes calendar entries so others can invite you to a meeting, do you think this option could create confusion?

1Lars Olufsen  06/30/2012 8:18:03  
A question for you: ’Pencil In’ or ’Mark Available’: Why do you mark yourself as ’Available’

I think it is perfect as it is. I 'Mark Available' if things have a low priority, or if I know, that there might be something else coming at the same timeslot. Idea being, that I open up the calendar for more important things.

I only use 'Tentatively Accept' on invitations that I can only attend if making other changes to my calender. Reasons could be overlapping timeslots or travel time between appointments. Idea being to send the message that I wish to attend but need to adjust other appointments. If I can't adapt to fit the tentatively accepted invitation in, I ask to reschedule.

Using 'Tentatively Accept' for everything I would feel as an insult and lack of respect. Something like "yeah, we'll see if you're important enough'.

The difference is what the sender recieves back, and that's the important thing, not some technicality about what the default behaviour is. :-)

2David Schaffer  07/01/2012 0:12:09  
A question for you: ’Pencil In’ or ’Mark Available’: Why do you mark yourself as ’Available’

I agree it works pretty well as is. A third category would be confusing. As it is "mark available" is a challenge for some mobile calendars.

I regularly see users who make a reminder or zero duration appointment to show where they'll be rather than using an all day event with "Mark available". I think it's because it's harder to manage on iOS.

3Joachim Laicher  05/07/2013 20:27:44  
A question for you: ’Pencil In’ or ’Mark Available’: Why do you mark yourself as ’Available’

If you are invited for information only ('FYI') and decide to add the entry to your calendar, why does Notes automatically mark your calender 'unavailable' for the duration of the event? Although nobody will expect you to show up everyone searching for free time in your calendar will find this time slot blocked. iOS on the other hand offers all three options ('Tentatively Accept', 'Accept' and 'Decline') to all FYI invitees and will mark the appointment respectively without sending a response to the originator.

In my opinion an FYI invitation should rather automatically be marked 'available' when added to the calendar. Alternatively more options should be offered for FYI invitations such as 'Add as available', 'Add as unavailable' and 'Ignore'.

4Natalie W  10/22/2015 3:11:31  
A question for you: ’Pencil In’ or ’Mark Available’: Why do you mark yourself as ’Available’

My supervisor had me create a 2-day meeting to reserve a conference room for corporate visitors. I don't want this calendar entry to block my meeting schedules. If I click "mark available", will that also mark the meeting room available, or will the room reservation stand?

Mat Newman

THE Notes (formerly IBM/Lotus Notes) Guy. Productivity Guru. Evangelist. IBM Champion for IBM Collaboration Solutions, 2011/2012/2013. Former IBMer. HCLite. Views are my own.

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