Leveraging google calendar features for meeting happiness

Google Calendar! Did you know that this product has features?

It does!

If you use google calendar, and especially if you use it for work, and especially if people are upset about “meetings”, you may find some of the following to be useful.

Speedy Meetings

Speedy meetings is a setting you can turn on or off that automatically makes any 30 minute meeting end 5 mins early (e.g., 25 minute meeting) and any meeting of an hour or more end 10 mins early.

This is really useful especially if there are issues with meetings “going over” and conference rooms are booked back to back.

Everyone loves when a meeting ends a little early and they “get time back” so go ahead and give them some time back in every meeting!

To enable speedy meetings, go to the Settings, and look for the “Default event duration”. Click “Speedy meetings”. Done!

Shared Calendars

You can share your calendar with teammates, your boss, your mom, or anyone who thinks you don’t do enough work and needs PROOF that you are super busy.

In the list of calendars in the sidebar, you can click a drop down arrow for any calendar (including your own) and then enter the email address of the person(s) you wish to share with.

Team Calendars

A team calendar is useful, especially for people on many teams, or for making all the meetings visible to everyone on the team.

In general I think there shouldn’t be “secret meetings” because it tends to feel like bad things are happening in that meeting.

To make a team calendar, go to Settings and click on the “Calendars” tab. Click “Create new calendar”.

Once you have created your calendar, you can share your calendar with all your teammates, and decide who should be able to edit events or manage sharing.

If you are crazy like me, you may find it a great idea to let everyone manage the calendar. What this means is that people can add/remove other people, or change meetings that other people create. I find this really useful because sometimes you notice someone is missing, and it’s a lot easier to just invite them yourself rather than sending an email to whoemver made the event saying “Hey can you please add so and so?” and hoping for the best.

Making people optional

If you want to encourage everyone to come to your meetings, but don’t want them to feel “forced”, you can just make them all “optional” by clicking on the person icon next to the person’s name or email address when you are creating events.

I find that by inviting more people (so they are aware the meeting is happening) but making them all optional (so they do not feel like you are making them do meetings which they hate) strikes a nice balance between inclusion and too many meetings.

Always add a hangout

Add hangouts to every meeting, even if you don’t have remote people.

Why is this a good idea? Two words: FLU SEASON.

Sometimes people have to wfh, sometimes people are sorta having a cold, etc., it’s a lot easier to just slap the hangout link on there and then not worry about anyone not being able to join because you weren’t paying attention to the slack room right before the meeting.

No muss, no fuss, just don’t blame me if google hangouts acts weird (it does that sometimes and it’s not my fault, I don’t write that thing).

Add an Agenda and a link to documents that will be discussed

Every good meeting has an agenda! Even if the agenda is just “Today we will begin the annual airing of grievances”.

If you don’t have any expected outcome for the meeting, or any things in specific you can think of that will be discussed that you could make into a little agenda, then you probably don’t need the meeting.

Meeting Notes

Ok, this isn’t a google calendar thing, but it’s a good idea.

If you have a lot of meetings, especially if they are long or have important agendas, you should probably have at least one person taking notes.

I like to keep running meeting notes for various topics in google drive as a document shared with everyone on the team (I even let everyone edit my documents, even though they have upset me greatly in the past by introducing garbage into my perfect note documents, it’s just how I roll).

An easy way to format running meeting notes is:

Title of the document that explains why it exists at all

Name of Meeting, Date

Attendees (optional: sometimes this is always the same people, and I don’t bother)

Agenda:

  1. First thing to talk about
  2. Second thing to talk about
  3. A thing we are looking at and a link to it

Notes:

Whatever notes come out of the discussion.

Action Items: (optional, sometimes you don’t need to do anything afterwards)

Person name to X Y Z by date

Other person to A B C

Myself to do a lot of documentation (inevitable)

Summary

Many people don’t like meetings (cough, developers), but nobody likes feeling like they are not included in “important discussions”.

By leveraging a few features of Google Calendar you can easily make all meetings visible to the entire team, even if you don’t think they will be interested.

You can also hopefully make meetings more useful by preventing common issues (like running between meetings or not having a way for remote people to easily join) and ensuring that people are able to prepare for meetings by telling them what they are for and linking them to anything that will be reviewed during the meeting.

Notes are important but many people don’t take them, so make sure someone on the team can dedicate some time to the care and feeding of “shared notes” in case they want to look things up later. (Or ruin your notes on ya).

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