The Problem with Meetings
I remember when I first graduated college and went into a job that had meetings, I felt like I was on top of the world. Not because these meetings were insightful or really had any purpose at all, but because they made me feel like an adult. The simple act of being at the table with others and speaking up meant that I was no longer a college student or kid, I had made it to the adult table. Little did I know how much I would come to dread the adult table and discover the many issues that come with having so many meetings in a day.
We have been conditioned to think that by having lots of meetings we’re therefore important or productive. Meetings are a sign of success. But are they actually a tool of the successful? While you will never get rid of all meetings, because there is value to them, it comes back to balance. No meetings mean we get off track, too many meetings mean we don’t get anything done.
When you look at your time and energy as a precious resource, you give it out with intention and thought. Meetings are a HUGE time and energy drain. This means that when you do agree to a meeting it should be one that adds value and is planned out with goals and questions to cover. Showing up to meetings without preparing only makes them last longer, taking more of your time and energy.
How Long Should A Meeting Be?
I don’t like to give hard and fast rules about anything, but my calendar automatically schedules meetings for 30-minutes. I’ve found that most attention spans don’t last much past this, it gives you a short window which pushes you to stay on task and focus on the topic at hand. If more time is needed you can always schedule a follow-up call after a few steps have been taken.
Now there are some meetings that will take longer than this. My 1:1 Brand Strategy calls with clients are always 60-minutes so that we can cover a lot more and provide tangible steps that brands can carry out. But we also have these meetings every other week so that more questions can be accumulated and tasks can be performed to see results. An end-of-the-year meeting might even go as long as 2-hours talking about what happened in the last 365 days and the goals for the next 365. These kinds of meetings are outliers, you shouldn’t have many long meetings within your average week.
Too Many Meetings
One of the many stumbling blocks for productivity is having a day packed with meetings. By the time you can start working on what you talked about in your first meeting, you’ve already forgotten all the tasks you’re responsible for. On top of that, you’re drained for a day filled with people and processing. Meetings are not your job. Take back your calendar and limit the number of meetings you’ll take in a day; For me, it’s 3. Whether they’re long or short, after 3 meetings I close off my calendar so no more times can be booked. I also don’t let anyone see my full calendar and provide calendar links where people can schedule times, but I can go in and turn days off or block of times. Most importantly any time scheduled has to be approved by me before it’s “set in stone.” This means that I am ALWAYS in control of my calendar because it’s my time and productivity that’s at stake.
When to Schedule Meetings
Every person is different and in some cases, you won’t have control of when a meeting is scheduled. I know that I am the most productive in the morning so I try to avoid morning meetings or at least push them to later in the morning. The majority of my meetings are after lunch. I also know that energy levels are based on your hormonal cycle (The female cycle being 28-days and the male cycle being 24-hours.) When you understand how your hormones work throughout the day/month you can better prepare yourself for what you’ll need to be at your best for a meeting.
The greatest gift I’ve ever given to myself is to not schedule meetings on Fridays. Every once in a while there is an exception but I use this day to catch up on work, to stay focused, and sometimes to cut out early for some self-care time. If you have the space to choose 1 day a week with 0 meetings, I highly suggest it!
How to Avoid Useless Meetings
Don’t start by thinking you need a meeting to get the answers you need. When it comes to avoiding useless meetings start with an email to see if you can get the answers you need. If it’s not possible to get the answers there or it just leads to more questions or uncertainty try a quick 5-minute phone call. After those two steps, if you still need more answers, it’s time to schedule a meeting. Here’s what should go into every meeting:
- Select of a time of day that isn’t interfeireing with your most productive time to get work done
- Limit the first meeting to 30-minutes
- Come prepared with questions and notes
- Turn off ALL notifications during the meeting so that you aren’t distracted and can focus on that task at hand
- Review who is in charge of what with deadlines
- Follow up a few days later with progress reports and decide if a 2nd meeting is needed
Escape For Meeting Culture
When we become intentional with our time we find that we become much more productive. Create boundaries, come prepared, and follow up. These are the key things to creating a balance of meetings in your life. At the end of the day, you own your time and get to choose how it’s spent. You are the only one who knows how you perform best, so make the space in your calendar to perform at your best. Block of deep work times, limit the number of meetings and their length, turn off notifications during these blocked off times on your calendar, and remember to take breaks to get some fresh air, move your body, and take some deep breaths.
Looking for more ways to find balance in your work + life. Download my guide to building an intentional brand and take the steps you need to build the brand of your dreams without losing yourself to it!
Katie Leigh is a brand strategist and photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. Her experience as a former graphic design and former marketing director provides a unique perspective when it comes to your brand. Whether you want ongoing brand strategy support with a 1:1 package or need to update your website with photos that tell your story, Katie Leigh will help you get clear in your marketing and create sustainable practices to build the brand (and life!) of your dreams.