For my money, the twin scourges of the modern workplace are:
Those two things suck up so much time, and oftentimes they’re not even real work. They’re people talking about work — oftentimes without a lot of context — or messaging in huge groups about work — again, oftentimes without a lot of context. The remarkable thing is that a lot of leaders just do them — meaning they run from meeting to meeting or answer e-mails until 11pm — and never really stop and think, “Hey, is this truly effective? Am I actually focusing on key priorities by doing this?” I think a lot of that comes from “Well, that’s just the way things are!” All businesses fall into that, and many senior teams do too — that’s essentially the reason we can’t have four-day work weeks, even though they make a ton of sense.
So … you should want less meetings and less e-mails, because that will give you back time for real work and priorities.
How do you get less meetings, though? Here’s one idea.
Essentially, it’s a triage method. Your series of steps:
- On Friday — because Friday afternoons are a joke at most companies anyway — look over your meeting schedule for the next week.
- For each meeting, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this need to be a meeting?
- Is the purpose of the meeting clear?
- Would it make more sense if someone else from my team/area went instead of me?
- Could this be a walk-and-talk instead of a meeting?
- Could this be 20 minutes instead of 1 hour?
There are stats saying that 35% of employees have more than six meetings a week — that’s more than one a day — and that number is significantly higher as you rise up in an organization. Most senior executives often have 7–8 hours of meetings, consecutively.
If you do this triage and eliminate 1–2 hours/day — either by moving, turning them into something else, or sending another person — right there you have 5–10 hours of work time back to yourself. Make that into “Uninterrupted Work Time” by blocking off your calendar — fooling someone into thinking you’re in a meeting, HA! — and you might start hitting some actual priorities and targets, as opposed to just racing around talking about them.
The triage meetings approach is essentially a function of the ‘Stop and Think’ management model. Rather than rushing headlong into everything because “that’s how it’s done!” or assuming that always being on the go means you have value, you need to pause periodically, and stop and think about how everything fits together. Are you focusing on the right priorities and goals, or are you just spending time moving from A to B and back again?
My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.