I’ve been working at my new job for a month now , and the one takeaway I have going from working from home to working in a collaborative environment is… there sure are a lot of meetings.
Meetings are pretty much necessary to achieve my goals at work, whether I’m working with one of the students or meeting with a client about their marketing needs.
But it can definitely be hard to get anything done on my to do list when I’m in meetings for a few straight hours, and I know the other people I work with and have worked with feel the same.
I am a big proponent of not holding meetings just for the sake of having meetings, but you can’t avoid them completely.
Don’t let meetings kill your productivity
I am definitely not the master of this, because I still get to the end of a meeting-packed day with a full to do list and absolutely no energy. But every week I’m taking a few small steps to get better about how I handle my heavy meeting days.
1. Set rules about your schedule and when you’ll schedule meetings.
I’m still mastering my own calendar, but I only schedule meetings after 11 a.m. unless absolutely necessary. This means I only propose times after 11 a.m. to people who want to talk to me, and I’ve blocked off my Calendly to show me only available after 11 a.m., too.
That’s my only rule about when I’ll schedule meetings, but it has already made a big impact on my daily productivity and output.
I come into work around 9 a.m. and am able to knock out one or two major priorities before my first meeting, if I have one scheduled at 11 a.m.
2. Block off time for actual work every day.
At the beginning of every week, I try to block off one to two hours every day for getting work done, in addition to the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. period where I don’t take meetings.
This prevents me from filling my calendar with meetings for 8 straight hours – which I could totally do, if I didn’t hold myself back. I also try to block off 30 minutes between each meeting, if I can. This gives me 30 minutes to refresh my mind and gather all of the action items that came out of my meeting.
3. Choose healthy, energizing options at breakfast or lunch meetings.
I love meal-based meetings (mostly for networking, brainstorming and catching up, less for getting work done) and am trying to schedule more cups of coffee, breakfasts or lunches when one of these opportunities come about.
For example, a colleague and I are planning to get breakfast once a month to talk about our very similar jobs working in college media, since both of us started our jobs at the same time.
The most important thing about the meal meeting, though, is to choose something energizing – not draining.
I don’t know what sorts of foods energize you and what drains you, but I know I need to avoid heavy carbs (no pancakes in the morning, no pastas or big sandwiches at lunch) and look for healthy fats and protein-packed options instead. So, for breakfast, I might do an omelette, and for lunch, a salad with avocado and salmon.
4. Finish the biggest tasks on your list first.
Whether you decide to block off a specific time every day, or if it’s different from week to week, make sure you go into every day knowing what your top priorities are… and focus on them first.
It’s so easy to say, “I’m going to start my morning with my unread emails, because that will warm me up to working today.”
In fact, that’s counterproductive, and you’ll end up in a black hole of emails. By the time your first meeting is about to begin, you maybe won’t even have considered the top priority on your to do list.
5. Take advantage of downtime between meetings.
If you intentionally block off downtime in between meetings, that’s great. If that’s not really in your control, that’s OK too. But try your best to get just a few minutes between each one, or else it really starts to feel like a marathon.
I try to always be on time, but if a meeting ends at 2:57 p.m. and my next one is at 3 p.m., I won’t hesitate to tell the person I’m chatting with, “Don’t mind the noise – I’m getting a little fresh air while we chat! I hope that’s OK!” or “Hey, do you mind if we take a quick walk while we talk? I just wanted to stretch my legs!”
Also make sure to document any important action items that popped up in your last call during the time in between meetings.
If a client asked for a specific deliverable or I promised them something, I add that to my to do list or request some help from one of the students I work with. If a question popped up that I want to ask my boss, I make a note to ask her or send her a Slack message.
Take advantage of any minutes you have to wrap up one meeting before going on to the next, or you’re likely to forget important things you promised to do!