Meeting Reduction Challenge
11 Tips to get Control of your Day
Updated: February 9, 2021 by ProfessionalProductManagement
The way we communicate at work has significantly changed compared to our in-the-office days a year ago, according to a study and working paper released towards the end of 2020 on the nature of work by the National Bureau of Economic Research. One of the key points to come from the study showed that people are having more meetings than they did in the office, but the length of the meetings on average is getting shorter. In the office, it's common to have weekly 30, 60 or 90 minute team meetings, but now 15 and 30 minute check-ins are more common across employees' calendars.
The number of meetings per person increased by 13% since employees started working at home. The number of attendees per meeting increased by almost 14%.
Photo courtesy of SOCIAL.CUT, Unsplash
More meetings have also found their way into our calendars due to the lack of hallway interactions. Short conversations once said over the cube wall, or at the coffee machine have now turned into multiple ‘quick 30 minute’ slots on our calendars.
Whilst these meetings have helped to ensure employees feel more engaged, these and other meetings that weren't necessary when working in an office are causing calendars to be fuller than ever before, leaving less desk time to get stuff done.
Today’s problem is now finding ways of carving out enough time in the day to get things done between those ever-increasing numbers of virtual meetings. When talking about working from home, phrases like ‘drowning in meetings’, ‘Zoom overload’, ‘meeting insanity’ and ‘productivity killing meetings’ have been applied to the amount of meetings that employees are attending now compared to before the events that caused many of us to work 100% remotely.
Various studies have been done on the effect of this increase in virtual meetings. Doodle, an online meeting vendor found that currently 38% of employees have a feeling of exhaustion after a week of so many virtual meetings. They also found that 30% feel stressed as well as exhausted with their virtual meeting heavy loads.
Photo courtesy of Chris Montgomery, Unsplash
Here are a few tips to get your desk time back and your productivity (and sanity) back up to the levels where you don’t feel stressed due to meeting time at the end of each week.
Schedule only the time needed
Think about what you are trying to achieve in the meeting. How long should it take? If you prime yourself for stating the agenda at the beginning, you can then make sure you act as host to keep it on topic and within the allotted time. Will 30 minutes be enough? Could it actually be 15 minutes, or 45 minutes? Not all meetings need to be one hour.
Ensure there is an agenda for every meeting
Once people get together, it’s easy for topics to get off track as someone thinks ‘whilst I have the team here’. At the start of the meeting, if you state the agenda and define what you’re trying to achieve in the meeting, this will help keep people focused.
Signal that the end of the meeting is coming
If you’re hosting the meeting, be confident in pulling the meeting to order if it goes off track. Towards the end of the meeting, use phrases like ‘In our last 10 minutes’ to further keep the meeting focused.
Make the end, the end
if meetings consistently go over the allocated time, this can become an accepted practice and normal, having a knock on effect for your and your colleagues' day. For some, if your meetings are well known for going over time, your colleagues may start not to be as enthusiastic to give you their time. Set a precedence that your meetings end at the end of the allocated time period and wrap them up.
Organizing your calendar
Put meetings together in one chunk of the day
Consider scheduling meetings back to back so that they take up one chunk of the day. The more times you get interrupted when working on an activity, the longer you will spend ramping back up to where you were in that activity. If you start working on something and start making good progress, but have to stop for a meeting, momentum is lost … it takes time to get back into the zone again later.
Schedule one on ones with direct reports back to back
If you’re a manager, no doubt some of your one on one calls go over the allocated time period. If you have another meeting right after each 1:1, you won’t be able to go over time, and expectations can be set with your report on how much of your time they have.
Keep meeting free afternoons, mornings or days
To effectively work important things, you need uninterrupted time to focus. Spending 10 minutes several times a day over a week building a roadmap plan is not going to be as effective as spending a focused few hours working on it. Keeping some focus time in two-hour chunks on your calendar will help you achieve more in one slot than you could in a multitude of smaller slots.
Tips for getting more free time on your calendar
Ask for clarification if you’re invited to a meeting and are not sure you need to be there
Don’t be afraid to tell the scheduler if you don’t think a meeting needs to include you. If you are invited just for ‘awareness’ of the topic, you can let the host know that you won’t join but would appreciate a meeting summary afterwards.
Divide and conquer
If there is someone else on your team attending a meeting that will be more engaged in the meeting than you, let them represent you. Your teammate can send you a summary then you don’t need to be there just to listen and be aware. Conversely, if you see that a team mate is invited and you know you will be more engaged than they will, offer them the chance to decline … “Hey Sam, I can represent for this meeting and send you a summary afterwards if you like”. If you do this, Sam will likely be accommodating to do the same for you another time.
Block off some dedicated time each day
To ensure that you stand a chance at getting through your day’s tasks, schedule at least a few chunks that no one else can take.
Review your weekly meetings
Recurring weekly meetings, whether they are for project check-ins, or for one on one’s of any kind are good candidates for reviews. If you are ramping up a project, perhaps weekly meetings are required, but once it is rolling, can you change it to every other week? For direct reports, likely your direct reports feel they have too many meetings too. If you can make one on one meetings biweekly, that will help both sides.
Doodle “Growing Client Royalty Remotely,” June 4, 2020
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