Recurring Meetings with Meekan

Meekan, everyone’s favorite scheduling chatbot, just added a great new feature to his rapidly growing list of abilities. Daily, weekly, and monthly meetings!

In case you didn’t already know, Meekan is the world’s smartest AI scheduling assistant. It matches everyone’s calendars in seconds to help you find the best time to meet. And it’s totally free to use and available on Microsoft Teams and Slack.

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He’s always so friendly 🙂

All you have to do is ask Meekan in plain English to make you a meeting, and Meekan finds the best time, sends the calendar invites and even reschedules a meeting in seconds.

 

So what’s new?

Ask Meekan to schedule a meeting just as you’d ask anyone, ‘Meekan, schedule a meeting with the Sales team sometime next week,’ or ‘Get everyone together for a team meeting’ (see below). Then you can select daily, weekly, or monthly from the drop-down menu and Meekan will check everyone’s availability for the next 7 meetings. He’ll propose a few options and give you a percentage availability for all your participants so you can get a good sense of the best time slot for your recurring meeting. Tell Meekan to book one of the options, and it’ll sync with everyone’s calendar.

Meekan will also keep you posted on all activity after you make the meeting. You’ll get RSVP notifications letting you know the status of your meeting and who’s coming.

Once you start scheduling with Meekan, you’ll wonder how you ever did it without him.

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Meekan knows around 7000 ways (and counting) to request a meeting

 

Meeting Pitfalls You’re Probably Making (and How to Avoid Them)

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Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

It almost goes without saying that meetings are a vital part of any organization- but it’s also true that meetings are often the biggest time suck for any organization, too. When done right, meetings can unite teams, fuel innovation and inspire trust and company loyalty. But when unsuccessful, they can waste time, lead to disagreements and even ultimately harm employee satisfaction.

The path to making any meeting more efficient starts with identifying a high-level purpose – and that can be as simple as defining what type of meeting you’re holding. Once you have a clearer idea of the purpose, you can get smart about optimizing your meeting to make it as beneficial for all participants as possible. Below you’ll find the five key types of meetings, and our “hacks” for getting the most out of each of them.

 

Status Updates

Status updates can vary greatly in terms of scale- but whether you’re giving everyone an overview of the company roadmap or meeting to discuss updates on a specific project, the broad objectives and purposes of these meetings remain the same.

Peer review. Although these meetings might seem straightforward, there’s one key way these meetings often go sideways: confusion. If you’ve been working closely on a project, what makes perfect sense to you might be confusing for someone who’s not directly involved. Additionally, you might miss giving essential background information which seems obvious to you, but might be vital for others. Overcome this by running through the meeting with someone outside of the project first, and filling in any gaps or clearing up any confusions ahead of time.

Information Sharing

Training employees and skill-sharing among teams are two of they key ways business grow together- and that’s where Information Sharing meetings come in.  Whether that’s a seminar, a training session, or a less formal research-sharing meeting, information sharing meetings are a great opportunity to educate and empower employees.

Hold these meetings in the morning. Most people experience their optimum time for cognitive thinking in the morning– so take advantage of this by scheduling these meetings for times your team are at their sharpest and most receptive.

Be ruthless with the invite list. In an ideal world, it would be wonderful to give everyone in your organization access to information-sharing meetings- but in reality, every meeting means hours of productive working time lost. Think about who would benefit from this meeting the most, and try to balance value for the employee with value for the organization.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming meetings are often make-or-break for companies. This is your chance to innovate, to come up with creative and new approaches, and also to give every member a stake in how you move forward together. As such, it’s important these meetings are constructed to let everyone’s brightest ideas flourish.

Hold these meetings in the late afternoon/evening. Although cognitive thinking is best done in the late morning, several studies suggest creative thinking is improved by fatigue, and that open-ended thinking is best done later in the day. Everyone’s rhythms are different, but try a later meeting slot and see how it works for your team.

Decision Making

Whether you need to decide how to move forward with a project, solve a problem, or decide who to assign a project to, if there’s a question to be answered, it’s a decision making meeting. These meetings are one of the most vital types, but can often devolve into heated debate, going around in circles, and flat-out stalemate. Luckily, there are a couple hacks to help make decision-making as efficient as possible.

Come armed with research. Wherever possible, participants should come to the meeting with relevant data and research to support the decision-making process. Not only will this help you to make smarter decisions, but it will also minimize the risk of the meeting devolving into back-and-forth between competing opinions with no clear outcome.

Assign ownership for who makes the decision, and who will implement the project. Before the meeting begins, it should be clear who’s going to make the final judgement call- whether that’s a vote, or the decision ultimately falling to one person. If there’s a clear path to implementing the decision, you can also avoid further unnecessary meetings by delegating then and there, so you can put the verdict into practice smoothly and efficiently.

Client Meetings

Even in companies who have internal meetings down to a fine art, best practices are often overlooked when meeting when external clients. All of the key tenets of successful internal meetings still apply here: research, set agendas, and be strategic about who is invited to the meeting.

Make the meeting about the client, not your sales pitch. Preparation is key, but don’t bombard a client with a slick, rehearsed sales pitch the moment they sit down. If they’ve done their research, they’re probably fairly familiar with your broad offering: the client meeting is about building a relationship unique to them. Focus on their company, their needs, and how your product or offering can help in their unique use case.

 

 

Eileen McNulty-Holmes is a writer and content specialist based in Berlin. For the past ten years, they have written, edited and strategized for companies and publications spanning tech, arts and culture.

UPDATE: Calendar invitations

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From the second you realize the need to organize a meeting to the handshake at the start, Doodle guides you on your way. Our newest feature smooths out the way to that handshake by allowing you to send calendar invitations.

You use Doodle to find the best date and time for a meeting and you can even send reminders to those who’ve yet to participate to make sure you can get the results in time. Once all the votes are in and you choose the final option you can share the the results in the most convenient way with your participants. A calendar invitation.

You can add the event instantly to your Google or Outlook calendar so you or your participants will never miss the date. This will save everyone loads of time and possibly errors because it’s all automatic. If your participants haven’t connected their calendars to their account (which they should btw), don’t worry they’ll also receive the calendar invitation in their inbox so they easily add the event to their calendar with just one click. Just one more example of the work we do to ease the pain of meetings and scheduling.

Here’s how it works

Previously when you closed a poll you had two options to share the results with your participants. You could send them a link to the poll so they could check or you could send them an email. Now when you choose the final option you’ll have a third option which sends the calendar invitations and adds the events to your calendars.

Keep in mind that this feature is only for Doodle Premium users.

If you’re curious you can start a trial here, free for 14 days.  

The Original Back to the Future

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Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash

Once in a while, the calendar gets us: you think it’s Wednesday, but someone casually breaks it to you that it’s actually Thursday. Yet what if someone told you you‘d have to “jump” 10 days ahead? All those meetings you had planned, all those deadlines you thought you didn’t have to deal with just yet?

That’s what happened on October 4,1582: it was followed by October 15, 1582, and everybody, no matter what deadlines they were about to miss, had to accept it. Well, not everybody, but more on that later.

When you think switching to summer time is inconvenient

It was the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one, which is what the vast majority of countries use nowadays. The Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory XIII who ordered to commission it, was an attempt to correct the inaccuracies on the Julian calendar that, due to excess of leap years, had been falling behind with solar years. The new calendar was finalized by a prominent mathematician and astronomer Christopher Clavius, and required 10 days to be dropped to “catch up”.

The new calendar, however, wasn’t welcomed equally enthusiastically, or even equally early, around the world. Since it was the Pope’s decree to adopt it, the Catholic countries made the switch first. The Protestant countries saw it as an instrument to expand the Catholic sphere of influence and decided not to swallow what they saw as a bait. When crossing the border, wanderers were going forth (and back) 10 days in time in Europe for many decades. Imagine the situation in Germany where countries in those times were sometimes just as small as today’s counties.

Is today…today?

Long story short, the inconvenience of having different calendars – not just the Julian one, but various others – did bring most of the countries to adopt the Gregorian calendar in the end (thank you, international trade!). What was the inconvenience, you say? Simply keeping records of different events, tracking birthdays and, thus, doing genealogy research was a bit of a headache, not to mention double-checking meeting dates, making sure they are indeed on the same day.

Finding a meeting time convenient for all can be one frustrating task, and now imagine finally agreeing on it, only to discover later the date you had in mind means a different date for your companions. And although you might be thinking, “Wait, wouldn’t that mean I could potentially get birthday presents twice a year?”, probably the inconveniences experienced on other occasions convinced the country leaders that not even a double birthday is worth it. That’s how bad it was.

Calendars are complicated constructs, and switching from one to another, as history tells us, can be one interesting experience. Let’s hope we don’t need to live through another one of these rides anytime soon. Let’s enjoy the fact that we can plan our meetings without confusion, and think of other ways to trick people into giving us birthday presents on two different days.

By Justina Poskeviciute

Justina is an awesome writer living in Budapest.

The Fine Art of the Follow-up

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Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

The Fine Art of the Follow-Up

It’s easy to see why meetings with no clear objective, too many participants, or an overstuffed agenda are ultimately unproductive. But what about great meetings that go nowhere: meetings where the brainstorming is brilliant, the strategizing is on point, and the synergies are off the charts. And then….nothing. By the time the next meeting rolls around, you and your team are back to square one. It’s a corporate groundhog day scenario and it can be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved. The good news is there’s an easy fix. Put simply, a great meeting isn’t a great meeting unless it has a great follow-up. Here’s how to elevate your follow-up technique, and ensure all the momentum of an effective meeting doesn’t evaporate by the end of the workday.

The Number 1 Rule for Following-Up

The best way to follow-up after a meeting is…to follow-up after a meeting! It sounds basic, but this is one necessary step that’s often overlooked. Make a point of reaching out to your team with a summary of what was discussed and a list of next steps. It can be as simple as that — even a rudimentary follow-up is better than none at all.

Stay on Target

But if you really want to get the most out of your follow-up, your work starts before your meeting kicks off. Make sure your meeting has a tight agenda and a clear objective. Maybe you’re trying solve a client’s problem or efficiently scale up a project — this objective should guide your meeting but it should also guide your follow-up. Meetings can go off-topic but your follow-up should not.  During the meeting, pause to agree upon and assign action items. When a meeting’s going well and the ideas are free-flowing it’s tempting not to interrupt, but without agreeing concrete next steps, it’s likely nothing will be accomplished at all.

Encourage Ownership

Assign each action item to an individual rather than a team or department. You might be amazed at the results — if it worked for Steve Jobs, it can work for you too! Jobs famously nominated a DRI (that’s a Directly Responsible Individual in Apple-speak) for every action item that came up in his meetings. And, according to former employee Gloria Lin, people loved this system. ‘The benefit here,’ says Lin ‘is more ownership than accountability. When you feel like something is your baby, then you really, really care about how it’s doing.’ Agree on a timeline for each task, but do it thoughtfully. The traditional ‘by-the-next-meeting’ deadline won’t always work: some tasks will require more time to execute; easy-to-finish or time-sensitive tasks should have a tight deadline.

Fine-Tune Your Follow-Up

After meetings, publish and circulate minutes within 24 hours. Make sure your minutes include action items, broken down into steps or stages where necessary. Each item should have a DRI and a timeline. But your follow-up doesn’t end here: use the coming days or weeks to check-in regularly with your team and ensure action items are on track for completion. While minutes are normally circulated over email, consider changing your medium when it comes to these personal follow-ups. The average worker receives 120 emails a day and a follow-up email can easily get overlooked in a full inbox. Try adding action items to a calendar or task management app. If you’ve used Doodle to schedule your meeting, try using the direct message function to reach out to participants afterward and keep everyone on track. Don’t feel like you’re micro-managing — checking in on ongoing action items is an important part of supporting your team.

Remember the Big Picture

Finally, follow-up on your meetings as well as after your meetings: set time to debrief with colleagues about your meeting processes. What’s working? What needs attention? Is it time to invite fewer participants to your strategy meetings? Are you holding a standing meeting on an issue that would be better handled by a task force? If you’re smart about following-up on meeting style as well as meeting substance, you might just find yourself with a few extra hours in the day to tackle all the action items on your own agenda.

Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin.

Help Your Brain Form Productive Habits

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From not being able to roll out of bed to jumping out of it before dawn to do some early-morning meditation? From being horrible at keeping up with friends to updating each other weekly? Whatever habits you’ve been wanting to have, it’s not too late. The magic word here: neuroplasticity.

Got to love that brain

Neuroplasticity is, in short, awesome.

It is a remarkable ability of our brain to form new neural pathways regardless of age. Although it might take more time compared to our childhood and teenage years, we are definitely capable of learning new skills and forming new habits at literally any age. In other words, it’s definitely good news for all those old dogs who’ve been discouraged from learning new tricks!

So your brain is certainly capable of changing. Now, are you willing?

Neuroplasticity invites us to ask a potentially irritating but important question: what are the habits, the conditions in which you work productively or simply function better as a human being? What are the ways you’d like to change your routine? The habits you’d like to form? Whatever it is – hydrating more, going to bed early, exercising in the morning – neuroplasticity has your back. And there are several tips that can help you put your action plan, well, into action.

Help your brain help you

Let’s look into three simple tips and one factor that ties everything together.

Create a system of accountability. Depending on the habit you’re trying to form, think of finding a partner in your quest. Check on each other and encourage each other. For example, a weekly update on how that quest is going can be good opportunity to reflect on what may be inhibiting your progress (if anything, it can be a good opportunity to laugh at yourself for having thought that progress would be quicker).

Establish  a healthy reward system (‘healthy’ is key). Reward yourself for a substantial task accomplished (‘substantial’ is key). Basically, an hour of Netflix for each page written might be a bit of a stretch, but small rewards shouldn’t mess with your ego too much.

Remove temptations, get rid of distractions: surely you’ve heard about this one. From keeping your desk uncluttered, your fridge junk-food-less, to closing all those 20 tabs on your browser (it’s time to admit to yourself you’re not gonna watch that TED talk you’ve been saving for weeks). By simply asking “OK, what are the potential obstacles to me sticking to my new habit?” and then eliminating at least some of those obstacles you can help your neurons make that new pathway more quickly.

Finally, we’ve reached the Big Thing, the Real Deal.

In the end, it’s very much about internal motivation. Research shows that, not surprisingly, we are more likely to achieve a behavioral goal when that goal is determined by us, and doesn’t stem so much from external pressure. As so many fitness trainers ask, what is your reason behind doing this? What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Find your reason and remind yourself of it.

If you can clearly imagine the benefits this new habit will bring to your life, and if you already have that motivation, you’re sort of halfway done. The second half is definitely a lot of work, but remember: your own neurons are cheering for you!

Let’s all get equipped and go form some productive habits. And then reward ourselves with a Netflix marathon, of course.

By Justina Poskeviciute

Justina is an awesome writer living in Budapest.

To-Do: Find a Better To-Do List

Whether you write it out with pen and paper, or use an app, you probably use some kind of to-do list to keep on top of your work. After all, the to-do list is one of the best-known and most frequently used productivity tools – but does it actually make us more productive? Sure…if we’re smart about creating and using our to-do lists. But it’s a big ‘if’:  all too often our to-do lists are over-long, over-ambitious, poorly prioritized, and guilt-inducing. If you’re starting to feel like your to-do list is controlling you, rather than the other way around, here are some alternative to-do lists that might change the way you plan and prioritize your time:

The If/Then List

Here’s something we’re all guilty of: writing unrealistic to-do lists that start with a 5am workout session and have us filing taxes, drafting crime thrillers, and getting down to inbox zero all before the end of the day. Sometimes it’s possible to tick off all the items on lists like this, but other times life gets in the way, and our carefully constructed to-do lists fall apart. Enter the If/Then List:

  • If the meeting goes long, then I’ll draft one report chapter instead of two.
  • If I get in early, then I’ll take 10 minutes to organise my desk.
  • If a client cancels, I’ll use the time to follow up on invoices.

This list ensures you’ll have an achievable task on your agenda no matter how badly, or how well, the rest of your day is going

Tip: Brainstorm a wide range of ‘if’ scenarios when you make your list. That way you’ll have more bases covered!

The 1-3-5 List

1-3-5 – three small numbers that could make a big difference to your workday. Working with the 1-3-5 list, each day you should identify and plan to accomplish 1 big thing – say, preparing a presentation, 3 medium things, like working out the agenda for an upcoming meeting, and 5 small things which can be as easy as sending off an email. By narrowing your day down to 9 tasks, the 1-3-5 list forces you to identify essential tasks and focus your time on them. Working with lengthy to-do lists means you’re more likely to switch between tasks without ever finishing them. With this whittled-down list you’re far more likely to cross off each item.

Tip: If you work in a dynamic environment where tasks often arise unexpectedly, factor that into your 1-3-5 list and leave a few items blank each day.

The Have-Done List

There are two key differences between the to-do list and the have-done list. Typically, you’ll write your to-do list at the start of your day, whereas you should aim to write your have-done list at the day’s end. And, while the to-do list consists of tasks yet to be finished, the have-done list notes down the tasks you completed and shows what you’ve accomplished. Doesn’t that sound nicer than looking down a list of mounting chores yet to be done? But it’s not just a feel-good exercise. A have-done list can not only reflect what you have achieved – it’s an excellent tool for evaluating what still needs to be done. If your have-done list shows you’ve completed a big project, for example, then it’s time for the next step – passing it on to a client for feedback, for example.

TIP: Revisit your have done lists at the start of the next day. You can take stock of what you’ve achieved and plan accordingly.

By Jessica Miller

Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin.