Meetings can be a curse can’t they ? Especially other people’s meetings !
I read recently that a large tech firm had calculated that, for their main exec meetings, their employees spent over 300,000 hours each year on preparation, reports, presentations, pre-meetings, pre-pre-meetings and so on. What could you do with an extra 300,000 hours each year ?!
I am guilty of letting myself get double booked or treble booked for meetings. Chances are that one will get cancelled or postponed beforehand any way I figure and if not I will have to make a decision which to attend and which to delegate or miss completely; their fault for booking something when they could see I was already committed, which I see as a bad habit.
I don’t book time for my work specifically in my diary but I do use tasks as my next actions list and always put a due date on them, whether its because they are actually time critical or for a contract with myself on when I want to get them completed by. This means they show up in the calendar view of Outlook which I have set to weekly view and hence when looking to see if I accept a meeting, I can see what work I also had planned to get completed that day. The advantage of the weekly view is that if I see a day filling up with meetings that might be OK if I see the next day is empty and will be good for getting real work done. I also sometimes leave a recurring monthly or weekly meeting in my schedule even if it no longer happens or I don’t attend any more – saves that slot from getting booked often. I will book time in my schedule as out of office, if I plan to be working from home to avoid distractions.
I certainly do not accept every meeting I am asked to attend, far from it. I also will regularly challenge if an hour is needed or if 30 minutes will do (everyone seems to default to one hour meetings 90% of the time) or even if a meeting is needed at all; what about grabbing 5 or 10 minutes at the coffee machine just for a quick discussion ?
Having one combined diary or schedule is a must. I have long kept most of my home and personal stuff on the work diary and anything I have personally on my gmail calendar is visible in one view with my work schedule on my iPad. This helps to avoid booking a flight on a Saturday when I wanted to be attending a sporting fixture that I have a ticket for or to avoid being out of town when my kids have something important to attend at their school. Got to watch that its not all about work.
One thing that is getting to me lately is that we are in the UK and many of our offices or sites are in Asia, so that means when our UK office opens officially at 8:30am, we have meetings or conference calls booked every day almost at 8:30am and more often now 8:00am as well because all the 8:30am slots are full. Its now moving to 7:30am calls as well. Thats OK for an emergency but not to become the norm. Give us a chance to get in, get a coffee and our laptops booted up ! So I am starting to have to reject a few of those invites each week now and hold my ground on that. I could do it at home but what abut the 8:30am meeting in the office afterwards and the 1 hour drive to get there ?!
And if you are actually the person booking a meeting remember; is the meeting really necessary ?, only make it as long as it needs to be, only invite those who need to come and will have an input, have an agenda you stick to and issue minutes / actions afterwards or you will be having that same meeting again soon !