I believe that existing calendar tools are not setting our meetings up for success.
Actually, I see a brighter future for our meetings with an inbox-driven approach.
Let me explain why and how it impacts our work at Hera.
Your calendar won’t make you productive
We are alike if this screenshot of a typical calendar makes you feel anxious.
However, it illustrates the misalignment between the core features of most calendar tools and what people need to get through their day efficiently.
A good meeting has a lifecycle:
- It has been set up for a purpose.
- Someone, if not you, is going to prepare what should be discussed.
- You are going to take decisions and assign next actions in this meeting.
- You might even send a summary of what has been said to a broader audience.
This lifecycle is fragmented across your tools and is not captured by your calendar. The tool is basically encouraging you to create vague and impromptus meetings.
A ridiculous fraction of the meeting’s lifecycle is visible in your calendar.
Meetings lack context
A great portion of our meetings are related to projects, teams, initiatives — non-ephemeral entities.
But because meetings are treated as isolated entities in your calendar, it’s up to you and your discipline to find back the context around them. Such practice quickly becomes unmaintainable as you get into back-to-back meetings.
You should find your meeting next to its siblings, like you find an email in a thread.
Even in “one-off” meetings, you are still meeting with people. Your calendar knows quite a lot about these people: the last time you met with them and what was the topics of discussion.
Without turning into a full-fledged CRM, the tool you use to operate your meetings should give you adequate context, at no effort for you, about the attendees.
Meetings are disconnected from your workflow
Try to remember the last time you created a meeting in your calendar and came back few days later to add a topic in the meeting’s description because it popped up in your mind? I guess it is pretty rare.
This concept of making your notes live next to the concepts they refer to is brilliantly explained by Julian Lehr in his article “A Meta Layer for Notes”. Making it easy and natural for users to attach thoughts to an upcoming meeting without interrupting what they are doing can drastically reduce the perceived cost of preparing a meeting.
If I am working on something and I think of a topic I should mention in an upcoming meeting, I just want to hit a keyboard shortcut and write down my thought. I shall find it back few days later, when joining my meeting.
To give you a concrete example, Todoist executed perfectly on this philosophy with their Task Quick Add. Regardless of what I am working on and which tool I am currently using, I can always hit ⌘+⇧+T and add a task.
Your calendar lacks actionability
Looking at your Calendar won’t inform you :
- on the meetings you have prepared or should prepare
- on which ones are important
- on the past ones that need follow-up
You can heavily invest on color coding the events to fill the gap but you can feel that you are twisting the product.
It has gotten worse now that we also use our calendars to block time for deep work or to record tasks to do. Our calendars are more cluttered than ever, impeding what we can efficiently do with them.
The conclusions are gloomy so far! Fortunately, we can leverage a well-known pattern to take back control on our meetings.
What else do you do every day, that needs context, follow-up and triage?
Email. The not-more-loved cousin of meetings, that you get everyday.
The similarities between emails and meetings are unsettling:
- You have a flow of incoming emails requiring your attention, like meetings.
- When preparing an answer to an email, you look at what has been said in the thread or your recent interactions with the recipient, like preparing for an upcoming meeting.
- Some emails need follow-up, you need to make sure some things get done. Many meetings lead to next actions.
- When you’re done with it, you archive your email knowing you can find it back anytime. I wish it was the same with your meetings…
- Your inbox is centered around what you need to do.
The inbox is as uncluttered as possible.
- You can snooze emails until you can effectively process them.
- You can use canned responses for your most frequent use-cases.
- When you answer an email, you are in a Thread, which means you have the full lifecycle of the email at your disposal.
- You can tap into past emails using search to get the right context to answer a new one.
These improvements are making it way easier to stay on top of emails and actually use these emails to get things done.
Do you see where it’s going?
There are no reasons not to bring these improvements to meetings.
I believe that integrating the entire meeting’s lifecycle in an inbox-oriented product would help us achieve more with fewer, shorter meetings, while reducing the induced mental fatigue.
Coincidentally or not, Louise and I are building a product to make this a reality for everyone!
We are building this missing piece in Hera
You can use Hera to take control back on your meetings.
Here is what our core loop, i.e. what our users do every day in Hera, will look like in 6 months:
The Inbox will serve as the operating and triage system for your meetings. The inbox is complemented by a meeting-centric writing experience to capture the key outcomes of each meeting and a quick add module for you to add context to a future meeting from anywhere, at anytime.
You get an Inbox for your meetings
When you sign-up in Hera for the first time, you land in your Inbox, with your meetings for the day.
You don’t need to onboard your colleagues, you can start processing your meetings right away.
We believe you should have a strong single-player experience in Hera and we want to provide value from Day 0.
With your Inbox, you get a clear view of what needs to be done:
You get to do two things in
- Join the next upcoming meeting in one click
- Check-in, i.e. prepare, future meetings. Check-in is not a big deal, it can be just jotting down 3 bullets points about the topics you want to cover or the person you are going to meet. It makes a great difference though.
We know how hectic days can be. If you’ve left a meeting in a hurry, you’ll find it back in
Work in progress view, where you can export the meeting outcomes or just archive the meeting.
Speaking of archive, at anytime you can search into your past meetings in the
Archive view. The search is contextualized. You don't get a meeting title in result, you get threads of meeting outcomes that you can consult or re-use as a preparation for a new meeting.
Never join a meeting without context
Most importantly, when a meeting lands in your Inbox, you automatically get a head start in terms of context: Outcomes of past related meetings, interactions you had with the attendees.
Said differently, your meeting now lives in a Thread!
The good news is that your meetings follow not so chaotic patterns which will enable Hera to proactively suggest you ways to fast-track your preparation.
Capture the key moments of your meeting
If you have the right context when joining the meeting, you will have a productive discussion.
If you have a productive discussion, your meetings will lead to outcomes — highlights, next actions.
We are obsessed with providing you the simplest writing experience to take notes during a meeting. You only write bullet points, that you can optionally mark as highlights or next actions.
These highlights and next actions then serve as a snapshot for this meeting, in your archive.
Like in any modern email client, you can use templates for recurrent meetings.
You can export the meeting outcomes to other tools — knowledge management, task management, where they will have impact, hopefully as easily as forwarding an email to someone else.
We are at the very first step of our journey towards helping users take control back on their meetings, but we can’t wait to show you what we can build on top of this foundation.
If you are as excited as us by what this approach could unlock, make sure to join our private beta!
We are hiring — If you work as a product designer and want to build with us the future for meetings, send us an email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org!