Leadership Insights

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When Meetings Drag You Down

My husband takes a nap everyday…at 5:15 pm when he’s done with all of his meetings for the workday.  It’s exhausting, and it has gotten worse. Okay, not everyday, but he’d like to! The full, packed days of “being on” have become exhausting, and it’s gotten worse.  

I am hearing this more and more. Working virtually has become meeting after meeting after meeting. Is it because we are virtualed-out that we are feeling so exhausted or is there something more to this that we need to explore?

I did a little qualitative research. When I asked the question, “why so many meetings?,” I got these answers (paraphrased):

  • If my calendar isn’t full enough, it will appear as if I’m not working. Perception is reality for my boss, and I can’t afford to be seen as a slacker.
  • It’s how I stay ‘in-the-know’. If I don’t schedule meetings or insert myself into them, I will be left out and might miss an opportunity.
  • I used to be able to stop by a co-workers desk to get a quick question answered. Since I don’t have that ability anymore, I schedule meetings with them. I’m afraid if I call, I might be interrupting their work.
  • What was once a phone call or pop-by or walk down the hallway is now automatically a Zoom, Teams or Video Call. I don’t need to be on camera all day long – it’s exhausting. 

There is some logic to these points, but folks – we have got to do better! Let me offer some counter arguments and suggestions.

  1. Meetings take time. Time costs money. How much of your company’s money is being spent on useless or unproductive meetings. Let’s do a quick calculation. 
  2. Think about the last meeting you were in.
  3. How many people were in that meeting (A)
  4. How long did the meeting last, in hours (B)
  5. On average, how much does this group get paid (C) – if you aren’t sure, start with an average figure like $28/hr (based on a $60,000 annual salary).
  6. (A x B) x C = the cost of your meeting

Was it worth it? If the answer is no, it’s time to evaluate how you do meetings and how proactive are you in making meeting time count?

  • Meetings take time away from focused work. Author of the book Deep Work, Cal Newport says ““Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.”  Focused, deep work is critical to meaningful progress. According to Newport, deep work needs to be done in 2-4 hour chunks of time. If your calendar is full of meetings, you are not doing the deep work you need to do to create, innovate, and real progress toward your organizational goals. Schedule in your Deep Work blocks of time an hour at a time.  Don’t let someone else’s priority get in the way of your need for concentrated work. 

  • Successful ‘Work from Anywhere’ models require trust and strong interpersonal relationships. If you find yourself manipulating your calendar to appear to be busy, perhaps you and your leader need to have a heart-to-heart. 

  • Not sure how you spend your time? Microsoft Teams is now providing a “A Look at how you Spent Your Time Last Week” to be reminded of your meeting time, your down time and your deep work time”.

  • The Most Effective Meetings begin with these questions: “What’s the best and highest use of our time together?”  and “What would need to happen to make this the best use of our time together – what really needs to be discussed, decided-upon?”

Let me help!

  1. Download our meeting guide tool to help map out your organization’s understanding of meeting time. Use this to start a conversation about the purpose and expectations around meetings.
  2. Invest in your organization’s ‘Work from Anywhere’ – model. You were likely thrown into this work environment and didn’t do the pre-work to lay the groundwork for success. Now that you are settling in, perhaps it’s time to go back and explore what you missed. 

We want to help! We have developed a whole set of workshops and programs around this exact topic and would love to offer them to you!

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