Whether it’s for work or play, getting together is often the best way. Yet if you’re the one who organises meetings for your company, sports team or club, or even tries to arrange a party or a meal, you’ll know how fiendishly difficult it can be to find a time that suits everyone.

How many times, after sending and receiving countless emails, have you received a message from the one remaining participant telling you that the date favoured by everyone else isn’t convenient? If you find yourself thinking there’s got to be a better way, you’re right, there is.

It’s called Doodle and it’s an online utility for arranging meetings or social gatherings without all those emails going back and forth. Here we show you how to use it to find a mutually acceptable time and date without all the hassle.

Step 1. Head over to www.doodle.com and sign up for a free account. If you don’t want to register, you can still organise a meeting but you’ll have to send links to your contacts yourself instead of Doodle doing it automatically. Click on the blue ‘Schedule an event’ button.

Doodle step 1

Step 2. Provide a title for the meeting, your name and your email address. There are spaces to also enter a location for the meeting and a description and, while these are optional, it pays to provide your contacts with as much information as possible. Click ‘Next’ when you’re done.

Doodle step 2

Step 3. Using the on-screen calendar, click on any dates you’d like to offer. Use the arrows in the blue bar at the top of the calendar for other months. As you click on a day it’s highlighted in green and listed on the page. Click ‘Next’ to move on.

Doodle step 3

Step 4. Enter any times you’d like to offer for each of your dates. If you want more than three options on some dates, click on ‘Add further time slots’. These are freeform boxes so you could enter, for example, ’12:00’, ’09:00 – 11:00’ or ‘All day’. Click ‘Next’.

Doodle step 4

Step 5. Click on ‘Settings’ to see the various options (e.g. a hidden poll in which your contacts can’t see each other’s responses) and select any that you want to apply to this particular meeting. Again, click on ‘Next’.

Doodle step 5

Step 6. Under ‘Doodle sends the invitation’ enter the email addresses of everyone you want to invite to the meeting. It’s a good idea to also check the box labelled ‘I would like to track whom I have invited and who is still missing...’. Click ‘Send and finish’.

Doodle step 6

Step 7. You’ll be told that the poll has been sent, your contacts will each receive an email with a link to provide their preferences, and you’ll get an email when each responds. You’ll also receive an email with a link for you to view responses to date – use it as responses come in to check on progress.

Doodle step 7

Step 8. Having followed the link you received in Step 7, either when everyone has responded or when you can’t wait any longer, click on the ‘Administration’ tab, then ‘Close’, select your chosen date based on the responses, followed by ‘Save’ and ‘Send’. All you contacts will be notified of the date and time.

Doodle step 8

Next page: how to use Doodle on an iPhone or Android smartphone