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.

Meekan on Microsoft Teams

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Meekan, the world’s smartest AI scheduling assistant, matches everyone’s calendars in seconds to help you find the best time to meet. He’s free to use and available on Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Hipchat. 

So how does Meekan work?

He connects everyone’s calendars and proposes the best time to meet all through a simple chat interface. Meekan learns everyone’s availability and preferences to pinpoint the best time to meet every time. It’s easy to work out schedule differences and preferences, even for the busiest teams.  

Add our bot to to Microsoft Teams, and just ask for a new meeting in plain english:

@Meekan, schedule a project kickoff before Friday with Dan and Marie

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Meekan handles everything: who, what, when, and where

Meekan will match everyone’s calendars and find the best time options. He even knows about time zones, and makes sure no one will have to wake up at 3am to make your meeting.

After you check Meekan’s proposed options, and book the meeting, Meekan will sync it straight into everyone’s calendars. It’s that simple.

Here’s how you can ask Meekan to manage your schedule. Keep in mind he learns new questions and phrases every day (thousands so far!) so this list is by no means exclusive.

Ask questions about your calendar: @Meekan, when am I free on Thursday?

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Or about other team members (requires their permission): @Meekan when is Dan free tomorrow?

Move around existing meetings: @Meekan, reschedule my 1pm

Quickly find an available room and book it: @Meekan, what rooms are free right now?

…or ask Meekan to locate one that matches everyone’s availability: @Meekan schedule “project launch” next week with Jane, and add a room

 

Meekan works right from inside Microsoft Teams

There’s no need to toggle back and forth between calendars or play email tag with all your colleagues.

He provides a real calendar view, daily and weekly summaries, and alerts if you double book. He can keep track of RSVPs, send reminders, and even check flights for you.

He’s the world’s smartest AI scheduling assistant and he’s ready to get to work.

Trusted by over 35,000 teams worldwide, Meekan is free to use, and works with with Office365 as well as Google, and iCloud

 

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Ask Meekan about free meeting rooms

 

Investment in Calendar Tools – Tamedia and Doodle Talk Strategy

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Tilman Eberle (VP Marketing at Doodle AG) talks to Samuel Hügli (CTO & Head of Ventures at Tamedia) and Gabriele Ottino (Managing Director at Doodle AG) about the future and the global expansion of Doodle. The aim is to break the 500 million user mark in the coming years while developing an attractive paid product.

Tilman: How important is Doodle to Tamedia, Switzerland’s biggest publishing house?

Samuel: Doodle is important to Tamedia on several levels. The tool is already being used by an enormous number of people – 200 million per year, to be precise. And Doodle is no longer just a leisure tool, which was its original purpose. Instead, it has become essential in many businesses.

“We believe Doodle has enormous growth potential.”

My assistant, for example, could no longer imagine life without Doodle, as it would take her so much longer to organize everything. And millions of professionals worldwide feel the same. Last but not least, Doodle is the only global brand in Tamedia’s portfolio.

All in all, we believe Doodle has enormous growth potential, particularly in terms of the number of users, new areas of application due to additional functions, and the overall value of the company.

Tilman: In what ways is Doodle’s international orientation evident?

Samuel: It starts with the team: Doodle has offices in Zurich, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Belgrade. As a result, there is a multicultural climate within the company, which is something we fully support.

“Our product development team is like a think-tank.”

I believe the Doodle team is special, not least because we combine many different ways of thinking. We receive frequent feedback from Berlin and Tel Aviv, which provides us with insights that we would never have gained by ourselves. This is a huge benefit to us. Personally, I believe that our product development team is like an international think-tank. And that’s important. After all, our users are also based in different parts of the world.

In Switzerland, Doodle is known and used by almost the entire internet population. But there are now many more users abroad than in the domestic market. However, there are some big differences between the countries, and not just in terms of the number of users; for example, we believe the US market is much more receptive to professional paid services. These insights will also help us with the internationalization of Tamedia as a whole.

Tilman: What plans are in place for Doodle over the coming years?

Gabriele: We will gradually increase the number of features that Doodle offers, in particular for professional users. Consequently, the tool will meet more and more application requirements for daily office life. Doodle already offers appointment scheduling in small and large groups, as well as text polls. Furthermore, calendar integration makes it possible to synchronize appointments and invite participants directly from the calendar.

“Things will start to get really exciting in product development in the coming months.”

Premium Doodle offers reminder functions and branding for companies, MeetMe supports 1:1 meetings, and the intelligent chatbot Meekan assists Slack and Microsoft teams. All these areas will become really exciting in the coming months and years.

Samuel: At the same time, we are aiming for massive growth and have set ourselves the target of reaching 500 million people with the tool in the next few years. This will also see us invest heavily in a new Premium Doodle tier alongside the free offering. Doodle is in the midst of transformation: from a media platform funded by third parties via advertising to an SaaS platform paid for directly by users. But users of the free module needn’t worry: the basic functions of Doodle will always be free of charge.

“We want to reach more than 500 million people per year with Doodle in the next few years.”

Tilman: How does Tamedia support Doodle financially?

Samuel: We have recently agreed to invest in Doodle on the basis of an ambitious and strategic growth and development plan. This shows just how much faith we have in its potential. We’re looking forward to the results.

Tamedia is taking a calculated entrepreneurial risk here – one look at our overall portfolio clearly shows that we are trying to break new ground with Doodle.

Tilman: What will the developments mean for Doodle?

Samuel: Doodle will experience dynamic growth and development at all three locations. This will be followed by further exciting moves. We want to take this opportunity to show that the time is right for paid use of productivity tools. And we are not the only ones who think so: Monday, Atlassian, Dropbox and Evernote have gone down the same route.

“We are proud that every single person at Doodle is able to make a real contribution.”

Gabriele: We have also managed to fill some key positions in recent weeks: Jack is responsible for the product in the role of CPO, and Jens manages our engineering team as CTO.  At the same time, we are expanding the data analytics and engineering teams considerably. We are fortunate to have so many top-quality candidates to choose from. And we are proud that people are able to make a real contribution at Doodle, instead of being just a small cog in a big corporate machine.

Tilman: How does this benefit Doodle users?

Gabriele: Users benefit from increasingly efficient functions for organizing meetings. Of particular importance are the modules based on artificial intelligence from our subsidiary Meekan in Israel, which can be used to schedule appointments much more quickly and easily. We call this ‘smart scheduling’. Users can choose between different solutions, all of which are geared towards making it easier to plan, create, and hold meetings.

“Calendar automation also opens up a vast array of possibilities for new applications!”

We, along with more than 10,000 users per day, use the Meekan solution for smart scheduling. It never ceases to amaze us how quickly and cleverly the bot finds the best time slot for a meeting. This opens up a vast array of possibilities for new applications, especially with regard to automated calendar management and the personalization of suggested time slots.

Samuel: The more than 200 million satisfied users – many of whom are real fans of Doodle – allow us to invest further in the development, design and support of Doodle and Meekan.

Tilman: Sam, you’re in charge of the Technology & Ventures division at Tamedia. Are there any plans to integrate other start-ups into the Tamedia portfolio?

Samuel: In Ventures, we’re always on the lookout for new start-ups. We want to support these companies with our expertise, our network and our financial resources. We are currently planning to invest in the fintech segment in particular.

“Alongside the existing areas, we are currently planning to invest in blockchain start-ups.”

In particular, the blockchain technology that is used at many of these start-ups offers us completely new possibilities as a media company in terms of content sales, licensing and even content packaging with other partners. We want to be on board early, in the hope that one or two of these seedlings will eventually grow into a big tree.

Berlin Company Run 2018

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The Doodle Berlin crew was excited to show off their running skills in this year’s Berlin Company Run.

The team was proud represent Doodle in the 5.5km race with thousands of runners from the city’s biggest companies.  

The run started and ended at the Brandenburg Gate with a long track around the famous Tiergarten. The route weaved around many of Berlin’s government buildings and monuments. More than just a 5k race, it was a complete sightseeing tour. 

With a fuel of bananas and bio muesli-bars, the whole crew completed the scenic run 30-45 minutes after the starting shot. When we checked later, the records showed that we all finished between 7,000th and 11,000th place out of 17,000. Not too shabby!

Check out the images of our Berlin team representing Doodle in the Company Run 2018.