Is it me, or does it feel like our meetings consume our days? Yes, I know the meeting load was big in the before time, but it seems worse since the Pandemic started, and most of us decamped from working IRL to our living rooms and our sweat pants?
Don’t get me wrong; I know meetings are an essential aspect of our professional lives. So much so that when I overheard my then three-year-old daughter Stella advising her dolls that they were going to have a “Grown-Up Party,” complete with “all the things grown-ups like: beer, tools, and meetings,” I laughed but wasn’t surprised. “Out of the mouths of babes” and all that. Clearly, little Stella had often overheard Mom and Dad speaking about their various meetings. Surely something that grown-ups do that often must be fun! From my own experience as the Creative Director of Oxford University Press, I know that many of us in the management team were double and triple-booked with meetings all day long; it became a sort of badge of honor.
Enter the Pandemic, and things went from bad to worse.
The remote work model increased weekly meeting time by 10%, resulting in three additional meetings per week per employee.
All these meetings cause a decrease in productive hours and energy.
Reduce + Reconsider + Refine
If you want to get some of your productive hours back, you should first evaluate the meetings you currently have. Start by conducting a meeting audit to determine if your currently scheduled meetings are necessary. Meeting Audit: What kind of meetings do I have scheduled? When evaluating your meetings, it is good to keep the three different meeting types in mind: 1. Information sharing meetings: These are status meetings, check-ins, or one-on-one meetings, and tend to be smaller meetings between two or three people. Sometimes information sharing meetings are larger, including entire departments or divisions. Most of the time, information-sharing meetings can be eliminated, or their frequency can be reduced. Information can be efficiently shared by a written report, dashboard-type status trackers, asynchronous communication, or email. 2. Collaborative meetings: These might be described as “brainstorming sessions” or “blue sky.” These meetings have the goal of developing a creative solution for a problem. These meetings benefit from real-time engagement from the participants, virtually or in-person. 3. Decision-making meetings: These meetings require engaged and informed participants. Typically there is a time element involved in the decision-making process as well. Sometimes decision-making meetings are preceded by informational meetings. Although the decision-making meeting benefits from real-time engagement, the preliminary informational meetings can almost always be handled asynchronously. Once you know what kind of meetings you have, you'll be better able to determine which can be eliminated, reduced in frequency, or re-envisioned as asynchronous communications.
Ineffective meetings make professionals lose 31 hours every month, which sums up to 4 working days a year.
Clean up your calendar — get some time back!
People schedule meetings for many legitimate reasons, and some not so legit. The physical distance imposed during the Pandemic surely made the prospect of meeting with colleagues via Zoom a welcome distraction, and, understandably, the number of meetings increased during that period. As we emerge from our COVID limitations, let’s consider our productivity and take some of our time back. Not meeting is not a rejection of your colleagues, nor does it imply the meeting subject is unworthy of your time. Ensuring that we approach solving each problem effectively and deploying the proper tools appropriately is a sign of respect for your time and your fellow attendees. Remember that scheduling a meeting is easy; running a productive meeting is a skill. If you’d like to learn more about how to reduce, reconsider, and refine your meeting schedule check out my free webinar on Thursday May 12 at 12pm EST. And, if you’d like to hear more about how Design Strategy can improve your Business’ Operations, sign up for my newsletter “Thinking Design.”
Linda Secondari is the Principal and Creative Director of Studiolo Secondari, a design firm in NYC focusing on Book development and Design Strategy. An award-winning Creative Director and Design Strategist Linda integrates Design Thinking with critical business experience and by working collaboratively across teams, develops creative solutions to problems from workflow to brand relevance.