Those Great New Calendar Tools Probably Won't Help You
They’re built for people who hate meetings, not for those who need to be great at them.
Photo courtesy of JEShoots.
There is a new movement around tools for managing your calendar. My favorite is Reclaim, but there are many others. They provide help running meetings, rearranging them, and avoiding them.
It’s great that these tools exist. The calendar is the least improved area in the average office worker’s life in the last few decades. My particular bugaboo is that calendar apps don’t know that you exist as a physical person, so they are perfectly willing to let you schedule two in-person events five minutes and 3000 miles apart. Any other kind of application would see that as a catastrophically brain-dead bug, but somehow the tools we use to arrange our lives don’t.
But… Something always struck me as off about these new tools. I didn’t want to use any of them. I’m a tool junkie, so this is pretty weird. Even Reclaim took me a while to understand and fit into my life. It was obvious these tools weren’t for me, but why not? Who were they for?
They’re for front-line workers: Developers, accountants, SREs. I used to be one of those. I’ve certainly been yelled at enough by them for putting meetings on their calendars.
But I’m not one today. I haven’t been in at least a decade.
My employees at Puppet used to say they hated meetings (I’m sure they still do, they just don’t work for me any more). I would tell them: Replace “meeting” with “collaborating with my team-mates” and say that again, eh?
So yeah, I have a different perspective on meetings.
Not that I think they’re all awesome. But for me — and most other leaders and managers — meetings are how we do our job. The life of a manager is built around communication. Much of it can be unscheduled, and ideally asynchronous. But a lot of it needs to be direct, synchronous, interactive.
That interactive time is much less efficient than, say, email, which means managers have to schedule their time carefully to ensure they get everything done. And of course, employees hate it when a manager shows up at their desk unannounced and asks for time. They want that meeting scheduled, too.
So a manager’s day is built around meetings, and there is a new crop of tools to help with them. What’s not to love?
Well. The tools are built by and for people who hate meetings, and often who aren’t very good at them. Instead, I want tools for people whose job is built around meetings, and who know they must be excellent at them.
Managers do need help. Not nearly enough of them are actually good at the mechanical parts of their jobs, including managing meetings. But these tools are mostly about avoiding or constraining them. They’re for the people asked to join, not for the ones calling them or running them.
I hope these tools do well. I want there to be a mature market of great tools in this space.
But even more so, I hope to see a parallel mature market for tools to help make better meetings. The average employee suffers from all the meetings they have. If managers were better, there would be fewer meetings, and the ones remaining would be better.
That’s a much better world.