The 434 most important meetings on my Google Calendar each year

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I live and die by my Google Calendar. One way to look at it is, if it doesn't show up on my Google Calendar, it doesn't exist!  I fall in the camp of liking to have everything scheduled on my Google Calendar, which includes things that are not meetings or appointments. I have blocks of time set aside for strategic thinking, reading, exercising, and even sleeping. Having my calendar blocked out helps keep me focused, on-task, and gives me a good resource to look back at if I ever need to see what I was doing at any point in the past.

Like many others, my calendar is comprised of a lot of meetings, and it is pretty mind boggling if you ever tally up how many meetings you have a year. While meetings with others in order to keep projects running smoothly are very important, it is actually the meetings I schedule with myself that are the most important.

434 meetings, to be exact

Yep, that's right, I book myself for 434 individual meetings each year. It might sound overwhelming, and perhaps a complete waste of time, but I assure you there is a lot of value in these meetings. These are the meetings that define my days, weeks, months, and even years to come.  Here are how the meetings breakdown and how they are structured.

5 different types of meetings make up the 434 total

The different types of meetings I schedule with myself are mostly based on when they are held, and in some cases, the theme/topic.  These 434 meetings are broken down into:

  • Daily

  • Weekly

  • Monthly

  • Quarterly

  • Yearly

I will start from the top and work down to explain why I have the meetings and what I look to achieve.

Daily

Every day, usually from 7:30-7:45 in the morning, I have a daily stand up meeting. I review my calendar, make adjustments where necessary, figure out what my most important tasks of the day are, etc. These are very quick meetings, that have a hard stop after 15 minutes. These meetings are very tactical in nature, not consisting at all of any type of strategy or longer term planning. The day at hand is the only thing on the radar. All told, this is 365 of the 434 meetings with myself, and I never miss a day.

Weekly

Those of you who are familiar with the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology will recognize this meeting right away. This is basically my “Weekly Review” time, and I pretty much follow the agenda David Allen outlines in his GTD book. First I process all my inboxes, organize to-do items, review my calendar backwards one week and ahead one week, update financial records, pay bills, plan out each day for the week ahead as much as possible, etc. This weekly meeting takes place each Sunday, sometimes in the morning but usually later in the evening. The meeting has a hard stop after one hour.

Monthly

As soon as possible (usually within the first five days) after a month comes to an end, I schedule an hour-long meeting with myself to wrap up the previous month. I look at achievements from the last month, put a bow on the financials, and make sure I am on course with my goals for the year. Because my weekly meetings on Sundays are so well planned, coordinated, and executed, the monthly meeting does not take long and really is just a summary. This meeting is capped at one hour, no more.

Quarterly

Since my fiscal year runs from September to August, here is how my yearly quarters breakdown:

1st Quarter: September 1 - November 30

2nd Quarter: December 1 - February 28

3rd Quarter: March 1 - May 31

4th Quarter: June 1 - August 31

At the end of each one of these quarters, I schedule a three-hour meeting to review all my big projects and goals. This is where I make course corrections as needed and start looking out to further down the road. Also, like companies do on a quarterly basis, I like to roll the last three months financials into one view, especially since monthly spending and income can fluctuate, a quarterly view can sometimes be more telling of trends. Because gathering quarterly data can be a bit more work, I usually try and schedule these meetings within the first 15 days after a quarter comes to a close. These meetings can go no longer than three hours.

Yearly

One of the 434 meetings I have with myself each year is done yearly. It occurs on a single day and lasts five hours, no more, no less. It occurs after my fiscal year is finished, which is on August 31st. So this yearly meeting is the closest available day I can book to September 30th each year.  During this five hour meeting, I look back to everything I achieved over the past 12 months, both personally and professionally. I look at my finances, house projects, work projects, relationships, etc. It is a complete look at the year gone by. Successes and shortcomings are documented and the year is closed out.

434 meetings, 172 hours

I know how 434 meetings in one year sounds like a lot, but the value I get out of them, as well as how well I have them structured, makes them a must have. As far as the actual time commitment, here is a quick look at the numbers…

There are 8,760 hours in a year. Subtract out 2,190 hours I spend sleeping, and then the 2,000 hours of work, and I have 4,570 hours left. All my 434 meetings with myself take a max total of just over 172 hours a year. That comes out to being just a little over 3% of my total available waking hours. 3%, that's it. When you look at it like that, it seems like such a small investment towards staying on track and achieving my goals.

Anyone else there book meetings with themselves? I would love to hear how you schedule and structure them, so please drop your thoughts in the comments below!

Tech Rewind: 22 Years Ago Today IBM bought Lotus Development

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I love spreadsheets. A lot, actually. I am a believer that just about anything can be done using a spreadsheet.  That is why for me personally, today's "Tech Rewind" is worth sharing.

On July 6, 1995, IBM purchased Lotus Development, the company most known for their Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program.  At the time, Microsoft was rapidly grabbing marketshare with Excel, so IBM's purchase was an attempt to keep their dominance in the workplace.  Well, it didn't work, as Excel (and really the whole Office suite) got more and more popular.  Lotus 1-2-3 just couldn't keep up, and eventually, in 2013, IBM officially stopped supporting 1-2-3.

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Lotus Notes (the other main product of Lotus Development that IBM got in the deal 22 years ago) fared a little better over time.  Even though Microsoft Exchange remains as a more popular choice in corporate America, Lotus Notes, which is now called IBM Notes, is still around and used at many big corporations.

Google's "Data Gif Maker" Data Visualization Tool

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Have data?  Need a visualization or gif to explain it?  Google recently launched their "Data Gif Maker" tool that can help you create quick and easy data animations that can aid in your data storytelling.  Perfect for journalists. bloggers, and digital marketers, the tool specializes in comparing two competing topics.  The visualizations are formatted to fit all device screen sizes and are easily shareable of social sites.

Here is Google's post on their "The Keyword" blog that talks about the new tool and how to use it. [Make your own data gifs with our new tool via The Keyword blog]

Currently Data Gif Maker is part of the Google News Labs, so hopefully 1) it sticks around and makes it out of the "lab", and 2) the Data Gif Maker product team continues to work on the tool and enhance it further because I am a big fan.

How I use 50 Google Apps and Services Every Day

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Every day, I interact with over 50 different Google apps, devices, and services. All of these Google tools make me more productive, organized, and entertained. Over the years, I have heard arguments that other app providers on different platforms (Apple, Microsoft, etc.) offer better tools to help manage your life, but as you will see below, it is completely possible, and extremely easy, to live in the Google ecosystem.

I know this is a rather lengthy post, but I thought it was important to highlight all the different moments during the day when Google products and services are helping me with personal and professional responsibilities.

A Day in the Google Ecosystem

Google Clock, Android, Android Smartwatch, Android Wear

My day starts bright and early, getting awakened by the Google Clock on my Android-powered Samsung Note 5 (I plan on upgrading to the new Samsung Galaxy S8+ in a couple of months). Sure, I could use the stock clock on my Note 5, but I really like the interface of the Google Clock app, and it integrates with my Android Wear-powered smartwatch.

Google Assistant, Google Calendar

Very shortly after waking up, I start a conversation with one of my new favorite Google Services, Google Assistant. All I have to do is hold down the home button on my Samsung Note 5 and Google Assistant is ready to help me out with just about anything. I ask “her” what the weather is going to be like for the day, give me the final score of last night’s Minnesota Timberwolves game, and read me off the events on my Google Calendar that I have scheduled for today. Google Assistant is incredible in terms of the different things it can do and questions it can answer, so if you have a Android device I highly recommend giving it a try. I interact with Google Assistant many times throughout the day to perform many different tasks.

Gmail, Android Messages, Google Voice, Google+

After getting ready for the day, I like to take 15-20 minutes to check up on some of my messaging platforms. I log into Gmail to check my emails and ready some of the technology newsletters I subscribe to in order to see what tech news is trending. Then I will open up my Android Messages app on my phone to fire off any text messages I need to. Google has had a very confusing messaging strategy over the past couple of years (see: Hangouts, Allo), but Android Messages appears (at this time) to be the app Google is focusing on for consumer use, so that is the one I will roll with for the time being. For professional projects, I use Google Voice, so I will log into that app to check on any new messages there. Finally, I open up Google+ to check up on some of the communities I follow in there. While Google+ has never panned out to be a Facebook-like/Facebook-killer app, it is a great place to connect with others who share similar interests as you through the “Communities” section of the app.

Google Fit, Android Pay, Google Play Music

Before breakfast, I like to try and get a run/walk in, and since the closest grocery store is only a little over a mile away, I like to sometimes run there, pick up a gallon of water I will drink throughout the day and a couple of bananas, and then walk back home. I use Google Fit to track my fitness, including all the steps and miles to-and-from the grocery store. When I get to the grocery store, I use Android Pay (which is tied to my U.S. Bank debit card) to checkout. Android Pay is awesome for this because it avoids me from having to bring a wallet with me on my workout. Sometimes I will listen to podcasts during my workout, but on occasion I will jam to my favorite playlist on Google Play Music. I do have the family subscription to Google Play Music, allowing me to stream just about any song I can think of.

Google Analytics, Google Play Books, YouTube, YouTube Creator, Google Opinion

On the bus ride into work, I use that time to cover off on some quick admin duties. I open up my Google Analytics app to review my site’s web traffic from yesterday. I will also spend a good portion of the day in Google Analytics’ web app as well, for work-related duties. I also will open up my YouTube Creator app to view any metrics related to my personal YouTube channel. Then I open up the Google Opinion app to see if there are any new surveys to take. This app is great for earning a few nickels here and there for answering really short surveys. The nickels add up fast, as I have not had to pay for a movie or gems for Clash of Clans in years, just for answering simple surveys! If I have any time left on the bus, I will either fire up my Google Play Books app to read a chapter or two of whatever digital book I have downloaded at the time.

Google Maps

Occasionally I will head out of the office for a lunch meeting, sometimes at a place I have never been to before. That is when I rely I on Google Maps to help me get there. Google Maps’ “Timeline” feature is also helpful for tracking my movements as part of my Quantified Self practice.

Chrome, Calculator, Gboard, Google Device Manager

Throughout the day, there are a number of Google tools I use for various, common tasks. For example, Chrome is setup as my default web browser, so any site I look up on the web is done through Chrome. If I need to do some quick math, I use the Google Calculator app (again, like the Clock app, I could just use the stock calculator on my Note 5, but I like how the Google one works better). While more and more of my interactions with my smartphone are done via voice, any typing I do on the device, or on my tablet, is done with the Gboard app. In the afternoon, I like to make sure the kids get home from school okay, so I will fire up the Google Device Manager app to get a location update.

Google Keep, Duo, Camera, Google Photos, Google Photo Scan

The evenings usually involve running errands and running around to kids activities. Google Keep is where I keep grocery lists or quick notes I may think of on the go (by the way, Google Assistant is great at putting notes directly into Keep). Sometimes I am bad at grocery shopping, so I use the Duo app to video chat with my wife who can confirm if I am getting the right items at the store right when I am standing in the aisle. At sporting events or school plays, I use the Google Camera app and Google Photos app to capture and share photos and video. Google Photo is one of the best mobile apps for managing photos and videos on both Android and iOS. It is definitely a “Bob Stanke Recommends” pick. Another app I use a lot that I highly recommend is Google Photo Scan, which does an awesome job of scanning in old physical photos and adding them directly to your Google Photos account, without all that annoying glare from bad lighting.

Google Admin, My Account, Contacts, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, Drawings, AdWords, AdSense, Snapseed, Cloud Print, Sites, Forms, Chromebook

After everyone is in bed and the house is quiet, I really enjoy working on my side hustle and blog. This time is usually from between 9:00 - 11:00 PM, and during that two hour timeframe, I interact with a handful of different Google tools. Here are some brief examples of what I do with all of them… I usually start with tasks that are more admin based. I log into my Google Admin account to manage my Google for Business account. Then I check on the My Account app to see if everything looks good and my account is still secure. Next I check on both my AdSense and AdWords accounts to see if my campaigns are running smoothly and if any adjustments are needed. That pretty much completes my administrative duties, and then I move onto development and content creation, and here are the Google tools I use… First I scan my emails for any new contacts I may have made and gather up any business cards I got throughout that day and add them to my Google Contacts app. All of my files live in Google’s Cloud, and Drive is the portal to everything I have in creation and storage stages. All my writing is done in Google Docs, including all of my blog writing. I use Google Sheets for a lot of different things, including managing the side hustle’s budget and the family budget. I prepare all presentations and some blog content in Google Slides. Quick mock-ups or visual elements are done in Google Drawings. If I need to do any photo editing, I use Google’s Snapseed app for that. I use Google Forms for building out forms for my website. I also have an intranet site for my side hustle, so I use Google Sites for that, and try to add a piece of content to it daily. Finally, I do quite a bit of printing, but personally and professionally, so Google Cloud Print is my main app for managing my HP Envy wireless printer. All of this work is done on a combination of my Samsung Chromebook, Samsung Note 5, and Samsung Tab 4.

YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Home, Chromecast, Google Play Store

As I wind down my day, I usually like to catch up on some TV, movies, or videos. For that, I like to use either the YouTube or Google Play Movies & TV app on my Samsung Note 5, Samsung Tab 4 tablet, or Samsung Chromebook, where I always have content loaded up and ready to go. If I want to get fully immersed in the show or movie I am watching, I will cast the content to my TV through my Chromecast device, which I can control via the Google Home app. When I am enjoying a TV show or movie, I like to cruise around the Google Play Store to look for new apps or games. Devices that the kids use, also include YouTube for Kids.

50 Apps and Services in One Day

That is 50 apps, services, and devices I interact with in the course of an average day. However, it is not just the number that shows the wide coverage Google provides me, but also that everything is so well integrated. One login gets me everything I need across five main hardware devices I use: Chromebook, Samsung Note 5, Samsung Tab 4, Android smartwatch, and a Chromecast. Apps work together seamlessly and are always being updated. For example, the announcement of Google Keep being added to the G Suite and getting the functionality of being able to be docked right inside of Google Docs. Using Google App Scripts, I can even build custom integrations I may need. Apple and Microsoft fans can say what they want, but I honestly can’t think of any other platform that allows everything I get from the Google lineup of apps and services.

You probably noticed there are a number of well-known Google apps that I did not list that some people use every day. Waze, for example, is a great navigation app, but I just prefer straight-up Google Maps. Google Earth, Android Auto, YouTube Music, YouTube Gaming, Allo, and Smartbox are several more great Google apps, but I just don’t have a use for them on a regular basis.

Whether for good or bad, I am all-in on the Google ecosystem, and it has never let me down. That is what makes me a diehard Google fan, user, and customer.

Google Sheets adds machine intelligence to "Explore" tool for instant data visualization

I use Google Sheets every single day.  I use it for analyzing web and social data for my day job as a digital marketer, at night to help me manage my blog and research, and personally to managing my budget and home projects.  Google Sheets is gaining new functionality all the time to complete with Microsoft Excel, and is everywhere I go on my Android mobile devices (smartphone and tablet).  In short, Google Sheets controls and organizes much of my life.

A while back, Google Sheets rolled out the "Explore" tool, which allowed you to get some recommended charts for your data.  It was a great add to Sheets, and I used it on a regular basis.  But now Sheets has up'ed its game by recently introducing advanced functionality of the Explore tool, but giving it machine intelligence.  Now all you have to do is click the "Explore" button on the bottom right-hand corner of your active sheet and you can type a question to have Sheets find the proper chart for you. No formulas, no highlighting cells, no formatting charts.  Ask, in plain language. and Sheets will build what you need.

Have all your spending and family budget in Google Sheets?  now you can simply type, "bar chart of car maintenance spending by month for last three years".  Sheets gives you a chart that shows your auto maintenance spending.  Have web traffic data in Google Sheets?  Simply type, "what are average page views on Fridays". Sheets pulls your data and graphs the results.  Now you get insights faster and with less work.  Incredibly awesome.  Below is a gif the Google Sheets team provided showing the new functionality.

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Instant Chart Syncing to Docs and Slides

Another great addition in this update of google Sheets is that if you have a chart located in multiple places besides Sheets, like in a Google Doc or Google Slides presentation, if you make a change to it in Sheets, it will automatically update everywhere else.

Launch Details

All Google Sheets users will get this update, but the Google Sheets team says it will roll out in waves and should be fully available to all users by June 15, 2017.

SOURCE: Visualize data instantly with machine learning in Google Sheets [G Suite Updates Blog]