Meeting Mistakes to sabotage your week

by Feb 5, 2015Productivity

In corporatelandia I worked for a company where I would sometimes have meetings back to back, without any break, for a stretch of six hours at a time.
This is the same for many of my clients.
Dear Corporatelandia, would you please stop scheduling useless meetings?

This week I spent twenty minutes with a client looking through her calendar trying to find time to complete her tasks. Tasks she was given during meetings that she attended.

Meetings that she attended all day long.

Once, she even did a meeting at 6:30am because it was the only time they could all meet. Did it shorten her day since she started so early?

Of course not.

In four days she had about five hours total that wasn't taken up by meetings. Basically her company is saying this:

“In order to do your job, you must complete your tasks on your own time, outside of your work hours.”

This is basically what she had been doing for several months. She had no GSD time to really focus and work on her projects.

However, when we looked at her calendar, we found 3-4 meetings that she had scheduled, that she had automatically defaulted to an hour. This is a big mistake that most people end up doing. If you give yourself an hour for a meeting, you will take an hour. If it needs to be done in 30 minutes, you'll get on with the show. She changed these to 30 minutes and freed up a couple of hours.

She also found a couple of meetings that she didn't even need to attend. People get invite happy and recipients get accept happy. Consider if you really need to attend the meeting. If it's long, ask if you can just attend at the beginning or end. If you are able to multitask and check your email during a meeting, than you do NOT need to be on that meeting.

Yesterday I asked a group of 25 people if they read email during meetings and 3/4 of them raised their hands. These two tasks can't be done simultaneously because they are using the same cognitive channel.

The dumb part of your brain is either listening on the phone or checking your email.

Don't be dumb.

boring-meeting

What companies and people can do:

  • Stop scheduling recurring meetings when you don't need them.
  • Stop defaulting to an hour.
  • If you just need to touch base with someone, schedule 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Try to end meetings at 1:50, 2:50 etc. This gives people a chance to actually stand up, use the bathroom and get a drink of water. It also keeps you from waiting for five minutes for people to join the call.
  • Only invite people that need to be on the call. The Rule of 7 states that everyone in a meeting over seven people reduces your ability to make decisions by 10%.
  • Tell people you have a hard-stop at X time.
  • Do standing meetings. That speeds up meetings considerably.
  • Don't allow laptops or phones during meetings. This creates better engagement and focus.
  • If you have non-urgent questions before a meeting, such as a 1:1, keep your inboxes clean by starting a list and saving them for your meeting. I used to ask my staff to come to me with a list at every meeting instead of emailing me every thought that popped in their head.
  • In my current business, I try to meet with people first by phone and then determine if it is worth my time to meet face to face. Owning your own business results in a lot of ‘meeting over coffee'. I found that meeting over coffee was $ in money and time as it only led to something that couldn't be done over the phone maybe 15% of the time. I know I have offended some people by saying I don't have time to meet face to face but if I had all the time that other business owners had, I wouldn't be able to actually work ON my business! Not every networking opportunity is fruitful. Be choosy.

 

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jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects