I’m often hearing from people who say they have “too many meetings”. And this is starting to happen to me, too.

However, it’s possible to take control, reduce the number of unnecessary meetings, and make time for the meetings that matter. Here are a few tips that work for me.

Block out time for yourself

It sounds obvious – but I’m surprised how many people don’t give themselves a regular lunch break.

I have a recurring 1 hour lunch booking at 12:30 every weekday. Occasionally I’ll change the time slightly, as I don’t really mind when I take lunch – but it’s important to take a proper break.

Days off should be blocked in the calendar – in Google Calendar, choose the “Out of office” option, and you can auto-decline meetings – either any new ones, or the existing ones too.

Focus time is good to book, too. If your days are filling up with meetings and you aren’t getting much else done, reclaim some of the time for yourself.

Follow the etiquette you want to see from others

There’s no point saying you have so many meetings if you’re not following best practices yourself. Lead the way with a few general tips:

  1. Try to ask questions or share information asynchronously (such as via Slack or email). A meeting might not always be needed.
  2. Limit attendance to only the people who really need to be there. Add others as optional – give them the choice to opt out.
  3. Use the meeting description to say what you want to get out of it. Write a goal, or an agenda if you have a few items.
  4. Don’t let scheduling tools dictate the length of a meeting – often 30 mins or 1 hour. Choose 15 mins if that’s all you need, or 45 mins if it’s a longer meeting but not quite a full hour. And don’t worry if it doesn’t fit neatly into calendars! Embrace 15 min gaps (at a minimum).

Not all meetings are equal

Sitting in a weekly update where each person speaks in turn is quite different to a workshop where you’re gathering information.

Think of discussions, presentations, regular updates, and workshops differently. Label the type of meeting you’re setting up. That will make it easier to see how much time you’ve spent in each type of meeting, instead of lumping them together.

Certain types of meeting may be more valuable to you. If you’re feeling overbooked, look at the types of meeting you’re attending, and see if there’s a type of meeting you’d like to be in fewer of.

How about you?

Do you feel overwhelmed with meetings? What else could you do to take control of your calendar? Send me your ideas – I’d love to hear them.

Photo by Janice Lin on Unsplash

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