Make most meetings short.
Here’s the premise to that suggestion: Most meetings are too long.
There can be delightful consequences to lingering and meandering and synchronicity and spontaneity, and making most meeting short is one way to bump up your chances of seeing some of them. Yup.
As a former employee of various companies I was struck by how much time we all sat around tables. Occasionally we had useful brainstorms and productive collaborations, and yes, some decisions got made with people at tables, but so many meetings seemed unnecessary, and most of them were too long. People showed up late, meetings lacked clear agendas, organizers were unprepared, and because a room was booked for 60 minutes, everyone seemed to take on extra ballast in their butts till the clock swung its big hand near the 12.
As an independent, I see it less often, probably because I don’t use Microsoft Outlook, The productivity tool that allows other people to steal your time.™
Don’t get me wrong. I think face-to-face meetings are extremely important, and spontaneous side-tracks are occasionally illuminating and useful, but when meetings become habitual and regularly brick up your days, and when spontaneous side-tracks are frequent and distracting, Boredom’s evil brother Meaninglessness has won a major battle against you.
Sothis week’s hint is all about gaining freedom, reducing stress, and opening up your schedule for what’s most important in your work. Take a look at your week’s calendar. Examine each meeting you have scheduled and consider…
Is it absolutely necessary for me to be in this meeting?
Does it help me be better at what’s most important to me?
Can I help it end more quickly?
Can I get out of it?
If you answered, No, No, Yes, Yes, then you know what to do. It’s when the answers are fuzzy that your real work is cut out. Even if you aren’t overbooked, I suggest you take a crack at canceling or shortening as many meetings as possible. Just try it this week.
Some nudging tidbits
If you aren’t in control of the meeting, try asking the organizer this:
“I have something very important I need to get to. What part of the meeting do you really need me to attend?”
How did that feel? When you feel trapped in an unimportant meeting that’s out of your control, it’s a very good thing to make the most of it.† How to do this is up to you, but just bringing a notebook can give you a way to look attentive and still get your shopping list in order, write thank you notes, or craft the agenda for your own really short, focused meeting. (If you need some ideas about how and why to get out of meetings in the first place, read: Get 80% Done with 20% of the Work.)
Stay alert, every day.
Then each day this week, before anything else starts and also before you say yes to any meeting, ask yourself:
What is the most important thing I want to do today?
What is my best chance at making this a great day?
What small step will move my life more toward the life I love?
And make a meeting to do that!
† How do you make the most of meetings in which you feel trapped?