Automating meetings

Track the time you spend in meetings every week [part 1]

Objective

The goal of this automation is to create a weekly dashboard that displays the amount of time each week spent in meetings. For this, I will use Airtable for the dashboard and Zapier to send data from Google Calendar to Airtable. Later on in the series, I’ll add statistics on who I'm meeting and automate the pre and post meeting note taking process! Automate all the (stuff around) meetings!

The automation

I'm bad at attending meetings. I find not doing anything for any amount of time extremely difficult. I fidget, get lost in my thoughts, and generally don't focus. Not to mention it takes me a good 15 minutes, if not more, to get back into the flow of the task I dropped to pop into the meeting. Adding in the time it takes to get prepared for meetings means three poorly spaced 30 minute meetings can end up swallowing my whole day.

Despite that, meetings remain an essential to my work. Client meetings, meetings with team members to get aligned.

In lieu of avoiding them outright, I aim to make my meetings as efficient as possible. Filling out pre-meeting notes for context, sharing notes with team members post-meeting and following up through slack to make sure action items are done. Whenever possible, get aligned asynchronously through Google Doc/Trello/smoke signals to avoid a meeting.

In this series, I'll go through a few automations that help achieve better meetings.

You can't tackle what you can't measure. So in this automation, I show you how to automatically track the time you spend in meetings. The output is a dashboard in Airtable that track week over week the total amount of time spent in meetings.


For the humans who prefer text

Step 1: Airtable base

The first step is to create an Airtable base. Every new meeting creates a new record in Airtable which holds the event's meta data: title, description, attendees, start time and end time. That table is what creates the meeting dashboard.

Airtable base available here.

If you’re not familiar with Airtable, check out The Essential Guide to Airtable. Yes this is a shameless plug.


Step 2: Send data to Airtable from Google Calendar

The next step send meeting data automagically from Google Calendar to Airtable with Zapier. Every time a new meeting is added to your calendar, Zapier will instantly send its information directly into our Airtable.

Use this Zap template to connect Google Calendar and Airtable.


Step 3: Create the dashboard using Airtable Blocks

Once Airtable and Google Calendar are connected, it's time to create your dashboard. For that we use the Chart and Summary Airtable Blocks.

Airtable base with dashboard is here.

Learn more about Airtable Blocks: Lesson 23 of the Essential Guide to Airtable.


Caveats/notes on the automation:

  • Cancelled/updated meetings are not reflected in Airtable. However, that can be done easily through the search Airtable record action in Zapier
  • If you already have meetings in your calendar (which is most probably the case!), Zapier will not pull in existing meetings. You'll need to copy those over manually.
  • Data on recurring meetings is not properly managed in Zapier (boo!).