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Stop Saying ‘Let me know when works for you’ (viniciusvacanti.com)
107 points by dwynings on Jan 24, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

  What you actually just said: “Hey, why don’t you spend
  some time going through your schedule, pick out some times
  that work and email them to me. I’ll then sit back and 
  pick one that I like.”
1) When you suggest a bunch of possibilities yourself, they will still have to go through their schedule to see if they are free at any of those particular moments.

2) Going through your schedule hunting for specific moments takes longer than just finding the first empty spot that they might want to fill with your particular request.

3) Since they are in demand and their schedules are full, it is quite unlikely that any of your chosen times will fit them. As a result, they will still have to do the same work to make a 'counteroffer'.

Any arguments in favor of the thesis are lacking. It's just someone venting an opinion.

One argument against saying "whatever works for you" is that it makes it appear that you don't have anything else important to do. This can lower your status, particularly with alpha male top gun types (VCs, I'm looking at you) whose minds naturally slot people into a pecking order. If you want a hierarchical-thinking person like this to respect you, you have to convey that you too are an important person with important things to do and other important people to see. So consider the context: say "whatever" to your friends but never say "whatever" to status-obsessed people you need to get money from.

It's not just VCs and alpha-male top gun types. You're correct about your friends, but I think it's more that they've already determined your place in the pecking order. For instance, how many times have you been in a discussion with another programmer that devolved into "My project is so much cooler than yours"?

> For instance, how many times have you been in a discussion with another programmer that devolved into "My project is so much cooler than yours"?

Not many actually

You could always just make up some days you're not available, and then make an 'exception' to fit them into your 'schedule'.

1) Working with a few possibilities is easier than 40 hours of openings. Especially if those possibilities are pre-selected.

2) Not if they have a busy schedule.

3) If their schedule is that busy, their counteroffer will be the only time they have free, and that will be that.

I think it's more that someone at somepoint is just going to have to choose a time and probably by some arbitrary means. Why does it need to be the other person? If you just say "Whatever" it makes it seem like you're disinterested in meeting with the other person and/or indecisive. Worst case is that it makes you look unconfident - they're obviously so much more busy and important than you are that you just want to let them make the decision.

Whenever someone tries to schedule something with me, my response is usually "Sure, why don't we do 2 PM on Tuesday? My schedule is wide open though, so feel free to let me know if there's a more appropriate time." That shows the other person you're interested, flexible, and willing to make a decision.

I like giving broad times - like, "any time morning Singapore time 5AM to 9AM, or suggest something that works for you if that doesn't."

I don't mind "whenever works for you", as long as the person is really likely to take any time. If you get 1-3 times back after "whenever" and none work, then the burden is really on you to nail down exactly when you're free. But a general best times works better anyways and narrows things down a lot.

Here's a google calendar gadget that searches your calendar and makes a list of open times suitable for copying. So that takes care of point #2.


Good for tungle-challenged.

By suggesting several possibilities, you're saying "these times really do work for me, so if you pick one, we're set, you can put it on your calendar". When you say "let me know when works for you", you're still leaving open the possibility that you're not actually available at the time they choose, possibly leading to more scheduling emails.

Plus, when I'm on the receiving end of a "let me know when works for you", I feel a little presumptuous assuming that I really can pick any time and that person is going to clear their schedule for me.

You also have to wait for the person to confirm before you can really put it down on your calendar definitively.

I disagree. He really IS being flexible. Yes, there's that initial moment of 'Ah, I have to pick!?' but after that comes the realization that he probably just saved you several days worth of emails trying to actually pick a time that really will work for you.

I'm sorry. Maybe the generation gap just clicked a little wider and I'm missing something.

Let me know when WHAT works for me???

The sibling thread of my comment seems to imply this is proper grammar. And, English not being my mother tongue, I won't disagree. (and I'll be happy to be corrected)

However, it doesn't sound quite proper to me and I haven't heard it before. Instead I use and hear/read "Let me know what time/day works for you".

Thanks for this. Will update the post to explain that the main reason people should stop saying it is because it might be grammatically incorrect.

"when" = "what time"

Thus: "Let me know what time works for you."

In what language?

English. You did mention the generation gap. Languages evolve, it's ok.

Well, you can argue that English devolves.

When a non-word like refudiate merits the title of "word of the year", we all lose.

  Well, you can argue that English *devolves*.
I'm writing that down as a quote.

Let I know when work for U.

Languages evolve, it's ok.

I think I actually saw that one on a cover letter.

I have to assume you're trying to either be sarcastic or trying to make some point that eludes me. The language is really pretty clear for anyone with grade school education. This being a generation gap thing is insulting to both the younger and older generations. Just being dim isn't something that should be blamed on age.



when At what time. They were told when to sleep.

If when = "at what time", then you can't say "Let me know when works for you" because you can't say "Let me know at what time works for you". By saying "when works for you", you're trying to use "when" as a noun phrase. But "when" is not a noun, "time" is.

Would you also use "how" in this way? "Let me know how works for you" instead of "Let me know what way works for you"?

In my 40+ years of speaking English, I've never heard this phrase used this way. Call me kooky. And I've been through a very nice set of elementary, secondary, and undergraduate schools.

Maybe it's the "works for you" that throws off my grammar sense.

I'm also a native English speaker, and I also presumed that a word had been omitted in the title. It was easy enough to figure out from context once in the article, but from the title alone I didn't even try to guess.

Disclaimer: I'm not getting this from a rulebook. This is just about what makes me cringe.

- "Where froze over?" (bad)

+ "What place froze over?" or even "What froze over?" (good)

+ "You went where?" (good, if emphasized)

+ "Where did you go?" (good, official version)

- "When works for you?" (bad)

+ "What time works for you?" (good)

Question form vs. "Let me know ..." "I wonder ...":

"What time works for you?" ("Let me know what time works for you.")

"When do you want to X?" ("Let me know when you want to X.")

"When can we X?" ("Let me know when we can X.")

"When are you available for X?" ("Let me know when you are available for X.")

"Do you X?" ("Let me know if you X.")

"Where did you come from?" (Let me know where you came from.")


it isn't anything particularly new.


when (interrogative) What time; which time

"Since when do I need your permission?"

No way. You can't use when as a direct contraction or substitute for "what time" when it's the indirect object of a sentence.

Look, I'm all for efficiency in communications. It's a hackish thing to do. But this is just plain silly. If you're so convinced this is a real and usable form of English, call 10 customers or clients and try to use it.

It is a real form of English. If it weren't, I wouldn't have immediately known what it meant. It's prescriptively not very fancy even in dialects where it exists, but it is how people talk.

You know immediately what "I can haz cheezburger" and "All your base are belong to us" mean. Does it mean they're valid English?

I think his point (and I'm not attempting to dissect the original phrase in question either) might be rooted in some frustration over a perceived decline of the English language.

It does seem as though we have gotten to the point where common usage of a word or phrase often becomes acceptable as correct usage.

An example: Everyone knows what a person means when he says he's nauseous, even the right word was nauseated. It doesn't mean the dictionary should be changed to accommodate that usage, right? I believe at least one American English dictionary now accepts nauseous as a synonym for nauseated. (Yuck)

To be fair, we got to the point where common usage of a word or phrase often becomes acceptable as correct usage about 50,000 years ago. That's how the English language came about in the first place. If we were strict linguistic prescriptivists from the beginning, we'd still be speaking flawless Ooga Booga.

I agree that some changes make the language less clear and might be ill-advised for that reason, and I also agree that some usages are not appropriate for all crowds, but let's not pretend the English language as it was taught in American schools in the late 20th century is the pinnacle of verbal communication.

Agreed. But lets also agree that given the ever-growing tidal forces of SMS and Twitter that we try to retain some legibility in our language and communications.

For example: Everyone one of you reading this has probably encountered someone using "U" instead of "you" in non-SMS business or technical correspondence. Is that laziness or extreme efficiency? Maybe they're still a Prince fan. Does it even matter to most people anymore?

Or what, the Grammar Police will lock you up?

It's a perfectly understandable turn of phrase, and trying to insist that it's "not in my English" is pretty silly.

What's up with "turn of phrase" anyway? What are you turning?

You don't need to worry about the grammar police. You need to worry about the person with whom you are trying to make an appointment. Saying "let me know when works for you" is about like saying "let me know where you would like to meet at." The former is at best an example of bad style. There is no good reason to intentionally risk making a bad first impression. No one is going to say "I really like this guy's stance against the grammar police. Let's meet with him as soon as possible."

Sure you can, as in "Let me know when your flight leaves" or "Let me know when this discussion becomes extremely dull".

we use it around the office, i've used it with clients, and clients have used it with me. perhaps its regional. on the research i did, it seems to be a brittishism that migrated across some time ago.

What time.

Yay Hacker News. I come for articles but I stay for the endless sarcasm.

Disagree completely. Please do this if you want to schedule a meeting with me. That way I can pick a time when I'll be in the best mood and least busy.

A meeting with me Monday at 9AM is very different from 2PM on a Friday.

Heh. That's something I dislike about dealing with the public. You suggest 2-3 slots, you're an a-hole for being hard to reach. You don't, you're an a-hole for putting the onus on them.

This problem only exists in most circumstances because the vast majority of people don't use adequate calendar software, much less set them up so the information can be shared with random-person-X, much less in a safe manner (public/private/busy time display options). Not that I think any calendar software out there now is particularly nice to use, but that's a different issue (though it may be the cause of the first).

USE CALENDAR SOFTWARE. The problem goes away. Just share links, overlay, and look for gaps in the method of your choosing.

More on topic: entirely disagree. Which is more annoying: me listing off time after time after time that of course is unlikely to fit into their clearly-busier schedule, or asking if they have free time soon? Prior to getting a job, I could just start asking about hour after hour, endlessly, until they say yes, or I could say "any day, between midnight and midnight".

If your schedule is busier than theirs, yes, it's rude, because you'll have to say "no" a whole lot. That's rude because it's a waste of time. But when you're trying to meet up with "(potential customers, investors, biz dev partners, employees, journalists)", ie, people you probably will take time out of your day to deal with, offering them the choice is closer to a compliment, as you're basically saying they're more important than you.

My goal is usually to get the meeting scheduled in as few emails back and forth as possible. Proposing an initial date, time and location gets us there faster.

On the receiving side, I also find that I'm a lot less likely to procrastinate on finding a time that works if you offer specific suggestions. I'll usually check my calendar right then and there and respond. Otherwise, I might stick it on my todo list and forget about it.

I usually would say both ... hey, let me know what's a good time for you. How about Mon around 5, or Tue around 7? Gets them thinking.

I always politely suggest at least one definite possibility when scheduling is required. I append it with "I am also free between ---" so that other options are available.

The reason I do it this way is because if you say "whenever," especially over email, you can get into a trap of back-and-forth where you gradually narrow down scheduling over 3 or 4 additional emails - adding friction and cognitive load to all your communications. You should be trying to move the ball forward as fast as is safely possible, and giving a definite time right off the bat usually reduces the back-and-forth to "That works. See you then."

An additional benefit to imposing constraints on potential meeting times like this is that you appear to respect your own time, which conveys to the recipient that you may be in demand rather than desperate for a meeting.

Another thing I would like to point out, is that if you say “I’m pretty free the next two weeks, let me know when works for you.” it allows the second party to keep pushing it off if they are busy.

If you give them a couple of times within the next few week, their choice is shifted from (speaking from second part POV) "Whether I should meet you or not" to "Which day works best for me to meet you".

This is even more applicable to personal relationships. It just doesn't seem like you care about meeting if you suggest hanging out then don't follow up with a time.

If you say, "Let's hang out this week" and leave it at that, unless they really want to meet up it won't happen. If you say "Let's hang out, how about Thursday for lunch?" then it likely will happen.

I usually suggest times and in addition depending upon who is the person and how hungry I am to meet, I add "Here are some of my current open time windows that I prefer. If none of these works for you, please suggest the day and time that works for you and I will be able to shuffle my existing meetings to accommodate this" So far working well.

ISTM that whoever has the more constrained schedule should state their constraints first, to save time searching the space of possible meetings. I think of telling the other person to tell you a time as stating, I expect your schedule is the more constrained one, so you should state your constraints first.

All good points, and I live by them when setting up meetings. The author recommends freeconferencecall.com, and I use them as well. Just be aware that your calls will be preceeded by an advertisment unless you specifically request it be removed.

I've found some of the busier people I've met with use http://www.tungle.me/ to good effect.

What a cynical way of looking at things.

When I use this I mean "I will adjust my schedule to fit yours, because I am the one asking for your time."

When consulting I used to ask this of clients when they asked to meet. It would end up with emails back and forth with me only me proposing a vague timeframe and them just giving a yes or no answer.

After a little change in attitude about myself and my worth overall, I just lead and send them a time. Most of the time it ends up working fine and saves emails. And I think makes me look better in the end.

Maybe my brain is going (long day), but that makes no sense.

First paragraph: you send them a time ("me proposing a vague timeframe"), they say yes or no.

Second paragraph: you send them a time ("I just lead and send them a time"), they say yes or no.

I can see how picking a specific time could work better, as then they're more likely to bend to your time than if you're vague. Being vague implies you have other open times too, so they're freer to say no while still getting the meeting. But how is the first about letting them choose a time-frame?

If I am vague, they seem to come back with the same vagueness. Me picking a time from the start puts them more on the spot and their no is normally followed with a concrete suggestion of their own. (I never seem to get that when giving a timeframe or options)

Even though that is the case, you can also start things off by suggesting a couple times. I find it more of a linguistic construct that's harder to get out of.

Let's face it, you only care about this stuff if there is a chance the person might not meet with you. In that case, it's better to use a little psychology and set the "frame of the interaction" -- meaning you determine how it's going to go by starting a well-known formula that everyone has been conditioned to follow, and they accept. It's like a handshake in the west, vs in Japan. You initiate it, chances are they will follow through even if they aren't that interested.

I can understand your point of view, but I think OP is saying that it will be interpreted differently, regardless of your intent. People's prior experiences put words in your mouth.

Umm, it's pretty trivial to click "Accept/Decline/Propose new Time" in Outlook. Gmail seems to do the needful for Outlook appointments that get sent to Gmail addresses. So no sweat there either.

I see absolutely no problem in going back and forth a couple of times before settling on the time.

Btw, I personally always give people a list of times instead of saying "whatever".

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