It’s not something we ever really think about, but 20 years ago, scheduling a meeting with someone required their consent. Because you couldn’t simply shoot over a calendar invite, meetings were a lot more deliberate and thought out. With the internet, things changed. Outlook and Google Calendar meant that we could invite colleagues, teams, even strangers, to meetings with the click of a button. With this, norms also changed. When you’re invited to a meeting, you’re expected to attend and if you don’t, you’re expected to have a good reason not to.
With this in mind, one unintended consequence of the “future of work” is a whole lot of meetings, which is leading to meeting fatigue. It’s probably not realistic to expect that you can fundamentally change the culture of meetings as an individual employee at a company (even if you’re an executive, it can still be a challenge). Small things can help, like inquiring about the meeting agenda or occasionally pushing back when your attendance is completely unnecessary, but these have been discussed at length, and unless you have leadership buy-in, you’ll probably only see incremental improvements.
I believe the biggest way to overcome meeting fatigue is instead to hold your meetings in the right way, and more importantly, at the right time. By creating blocks of dedicated meeting time in your schedule so that you leave room for uninterrupted blocks of focus time, you can tremendously impact your productivity — and sanity.
When you’re in meeting mode, you’ll collaborate, contribute and discuss a variety of topics and jump from one idea to the next as you go from meeting to meeting. Then, the rest of the day is yours to spend as you like, whether it’s working on a big writing assignment, coding, designing, or even taking an afternoon to run errands or pick up the kids.
When meetings are scattered throughout the day, you’re forced to constantly context switch, which can be both overwhelming and frustrating as you struggle to get work done. By blocking meetings together, you may find that, possibly for the first time, you’re able to get work done on schedule, have time for deep thought and reflection, and you may no longer feel like your day is at the mercy of others.
We came up with the idea for the calendar assistant Clockwise as one way to help people do this and the feedback has been great so far, but whether you’re using tools to help you out or not, it’s worth giving this strategy a try.
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