The world changed in many ways in 2020 as a result of so many people working remotely. We learned a lot about how to remain productive while relying on technology to help us do our jobs. Virtual meetings were used by almost everyone. Organizations used these remote video team meetings for everything from check-ins and roll calls to project updates and client presentations. It was— and still is— handy to be able to virtually connect with almost anyone on a team!
Having a full calendar loaded with meetings is nothing new. That said, with so many people working remotely, meetings can be extra draining for some employees—-especially when they don’t leave room for the work to get done. A packed schedule can leave you feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. So many people these days get stuck in a never-ending cycle of one meeting after another, which leaves no time for actual work and can potentially cause burnout.
Meetings have become an essential part of our work lives, and they can be great for collaboration and decision-making. Too many meetings, though, can drain our time and productivity. But companies are taking note and looking at ways to help get rid of meeting burnout.
Here are some ways to overcome the challenges of having too many meetings:
- Prioritize Your Time
When a ton of meetings come in and book up your calendar before you even have a minute to think, it can be very overwhelming. Take some time before your week (this cold be the Friday afternoon prior to your next work week) and select which meetings to attend. Review each meeting invitation carefully and make sure your attendance is necessary. Ask yourself, "Will my attendance add value to the meeting?" and decline invitations when appropriate. Send a quick note to the meeting organizer letting them know why you feel it will be more efficient to skip the meeting.
- Set Your Agenda
To make meetings more efficient, it is important to have clearly defined objectives and agendas. Before accepting or scheduling a meeting, ask for an outline of what will be discussed. This allows you to determine whether the meeting aligns with your priorities and if it would be better served through an email or a quick chat. It also allows you to stay on topic during the meeting and get rid of any sidetracking that can disrupt your time and productivity.
- Be Mindful of the Time
One common challenge with too many meetings is the time they consume. Try making your meetings more efficient by setting a time limit for each one. This goes hand-in-hand with creating a meeting agenda. Go over the content you need to cover, and try to schedule shorter meetings to encourage productivity and meaningful discussions. Look at what tools are available to you to ensure punctuality, such as timers and calendar alerts. When a meeting only has a few minutes left, let the team on the call know so that everyone can quickly wrap up and remain mindful of the time allotted.
- Get Tech-y
Technology offers many solutions to streamline our meetings and help with meeting overload. Use video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet to conduct virtual meetings, which help to save valuable time on commute and provide flexibility when you need it. Explore apps that help with meeting documentation, note-taking, transcribing and task management, such as Evernote or Trello. Explore alternative communication methods, too. If you have your meeting in-person, consider implementing “stand-up” style meetings, where discussions are kept short, concise, and held while standing to encourage brevity. Alternatively, use communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to exchange ideas, provide updates, and seek feedback, reducing the need for frequent face-to-face meetings and keep projects moving without taking up too much of your time during the day.
- "No-Meeting" Days
To manage meeting overload at work, try having one "no-meeting" day each week. This dedicated time block allows you to focus on important tasks, deep work, and strategic thinking without interruptions. Communicate your "no-meeting" day to your team and stakeholders, ensuring that they respect your time. Some businesses have implemented company-wide no-meeting days to help steer employees toward specific days for their meetings, and have seen positive results.
- Share the Load
Attending every meeting is not always doable. Consider delegating to a coworker who is able to stand in for you. Share your agenda, goals, and any other important details so they are prepared. That way, you can free up your time, encourage collaboration and still stay informed of the meeting outcomes.
- Regularly Re-Evaluate
Improving the meeting culture within your organization isn’t going to happen overnight; regularly evaluate your meetings and if they’re actually making a difference. Adjust things when needed. Gather feedback from employees and coworkers, assess meeting outcomes, and identify areas for improvement. By improving the meeting process, you can ensure that meetings are truly valuable and necessary.
Balancing the demands of too many meetings can be a challenge, but with the right strategies, tools and mindset, you can regain control of your time and productivity.