Reclaim Your Calendar By Rethinking Your Meetings
Do you wish you had one less meeting to go to today?
Studies have shown that calendars full of meetings can lead to a decline in employee satisfaction and happiness. With some companies claiming that it can take almost a month to get meetings scheduled and others eliminating them altogether, it’s worth giving your work calendar a second look.
And we get it; it can be hard to do your best work when most of your time is spent in meetings that should have been an e-mail, so it might be time to try something new. Guru isn’t just a tool designed to help people seek and share knowledge, it’s also designed to help people work more efficiently and effectively.
Re-thinking meetings at Guru
Trust us, we know from experience that reducing meetings can take some work. We’ve taken the time to evaluate our own approach to internal comms to see how we can work more efficiently and lessen the cognitive load. From there, we’ve been able to enact a lot of changes.
We conducted a leadership calendar audit to reset expectations around meetings for the entire organization. We rethought our approach to internal communications by implementing our “golden rule” and setting standards around creating meetings. We established “No Internal Meeting Wednesdays” and other initiatives to increase focus time and give people more of their day back.
Despite all of these positive changes, the work still isn’t done. We’re constantly refining our workplace strategy and want to help others enact positive change in their own offices and organizations.
Reduce unnecessary meetings at work
We embrace the “joy of missing out (JOMO)” at Guru because of our reliance on knowledge management. When companies embrace knowledge-driven cultures and asynchronous communication, people are able to work more efficiently and autonomously. Being able to document and store knowledge makes it easy to summarize project updates, monthly reports, next steps, and anything else you could need to review in a meeting. Suddenly hitting “decline” on certain meeting invites doesn’t seem so taboo.
The right company wiki and communications strategy can do a lot to manage full work calendars. If you’re feeling overwhelmed when you look at your schedule for the week, we have some tips to follow.
Evaluate your current meetings
It’s time to take a critical look at your 1:1s, stand-ups, kick-offs, and check-ins. Ask yourself how each person on the invite adds value (yourself included) and what the end goal should be. If you’re having trouble understanding how certain people and outcomes fit in, that’s a good sign that it’s time to rethink the guest list.
Managers trying to cut down on meetings should take things a step further and ask meeting attendees how useful they find them. Ask whether they help people do their jobs more efficiently, if the meeting frequency makes sense, and to share feedback on changes they'd recommend.
Once you have that information, you can start to think about your meeting cadence. You may find that you’re having certain meetings too often and other meetings not nearly often enough. Don’t be afraid to cancel recurring meetings if you feel like they don’t serve a purpose, and consider combining others to make things more efficient.
There’s a big difference between not attending a kick-off meeting for a project and choosing to sit out of a daily stand-up when you don’t have an update. The truth is that not every meeting, message, or email you come across will need your immediate attention.
When you think about things through the lens of urgency, your calendar and day-to-day become much easier to manage. Take upcoming deadlines, team/organization goals, and your own workload into consideration when you’re debating if attending a meeting is worth it.
Defining the urgency of certain meetings and matters can be tricky. If you’re having trouble determining if something is truly worth your time and attention, talk to your boss or the meeting planner. You may find that you can sit certain ones out or that you simply needed a refresher on your current priorities.
Are you confused about why you’re on a meeting invite? Have you read the meeting description three times and STILL aren’t sure what its purpose is? Are you dreading the upcoming meeting where someone wants to “pick your brain” about a subject?
A little pushback and communication can go a long way. Start by asking for an agenda or what the predicted outcomes of a meeting are. Getting people to think critically about your inclusion or what they want to achieve can help determine if a meeting is a must-attend or something you can skip.
Are you concerned about an intentionally open-ended meeting? Ask people to come prepared with a few questions or topics they know they’ll want to cover. This can give a “shapeless” meeting a little structure and help get you in the right headspace.
Decline with proposed alternatives
You don’t have time to attend this hour-long meeting with the entire team, but a 15-minute chat with key stakeholders can work. Offer to send over documentation that can clear up some questions people have. Say that you need to do some work on your own before you can move forward, but once you finish things up, you’re happy to contribute.
Remember, the purpose of any meeting should be to help everyone work together more efficiently. If you offer alternatives that still get people towards the end goal of more efficient work, everybody wins!
Put productive meetings on the calendar
We mentioned before that we implemented our own rules around planning effective meetings. If you want to ensure that each meeting you add to the calendar is necessary, take a page from our playbook and follow the 4 Ps.
When we talk about 4 Ps, we’re talking about knowing the Purpose, Product, People, and Process (agenda) when you schedule meetings. It’s also important to note that the 4 Ps are for everyone—not just the person planning the meeting. If everyone knows exactly why they’re attending and what the expected outcomes are, you can use your time together as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Increase your productivity by decreasing your meetings
Meetings will always be a part of work, but it’s important to remember that they shouldn’t be the only part of work. Sometimes you’ll need that element of real-time collaboration that a meeting can bring. Other times you need to see that 2 PM re-group drop off your calendar so you can get some focus time back. When you give yourself the time to rethink the way you approach meetings, you may find that a little extra space on your calendar is just what you need.