Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?
“I’ve been in meetings every day the past few weeks from 8 am to 9 pm and the fatigue is overwhelming.”
“Because of all my meetings, I can’t get my work accomplished!”
“It seems like we have a meeting to have the meeting to prepare for the real meeting.” (my personal favorite)
I wish I were making these up, yet they’re all actual statements from conversations these past couple of weeks. The theme is rampant with many leaders – there are too many meetings. Is there a better way? Can the very thing that’s designed to generate greater communication, create buy-in for the next big initiative and bring value contribution to the organization be handled more effectively?
Yes, it can.
How to Master Your Meeting Madness
Of course, many meetings are necessary and help to avoid the litany of communication challenges all too familiar from the infamous email vortex. If the following conditions exist, a meeting may be in order (Forbes: Merrill, 2012).
· There is a defined purpose and agenda that ultimately links to a bigger goal or strategy. In one organization, each meeting requires a PAL (Purpose, Agenda, and Limit). No PAL, no meeting.
· Everyone at the meeting has a voice and something they can contribute. If the purpose doesn’t affect each attendee directly, there’s probably a better use of their time.
· Each person walks away clear about next steps and how the purpose was accomplished.
If you’re on meeting overload, here are some considerations:
· “Just say no” to meetings where your presence isn’t necessary, especially if it creates an opportunity cost for you in a more strategic or pressing area. Ask for meeting minutes instead.
· Create transition time for yourself between meetings. In planning your calendar, try to take at least 15-30 minutes between meetings. This allows closure from the last meeting and some mental shifting and preparation to occur for the next meeting.
· Start to question and challenge the internal status quo about how much time is truly needed for the purpose and agenda. Does every meeting need to be an hour? How about 15 or 30 minutes instead? If the time allotted is always an hour, then inevitably Parkinson’s Law applies and the “work [meeting] expands to fill the time available.”
· Don’t hold or attend meetings simply held as a way to update the team on timelines or progress on a project. Use collaborative software instead. If someone isn’t meeting their milestones, that’s a 1:1 conversation with the team leader.
· Use a block schedule. Carve out and honor “no meeting days” weekly – individually or even across the organization. The more you get control of time and make available space, the easier it is to say no, reducing frustration and meeting fatigue.
With a few purposeful steps, you can marshal meeting madness into meeting mastery.