Idea In Brief: Just like a closet that’s unruly and out of control, our work calendars have become so stuffed full of meetings and commitments it’s impossible to find time to do the work that matters most to us. Be your fiercest time guardian and try these techniques to create more capacity and reclaim your time.
(3.5 Minute Read)
So how do our calendars get so out of control? A few of the biggest drivers of calendar overload are:
- Status Meetings
- Recurring Meetings
- Yes, I’ll Attend Default Mode
These three drivers have fueled a meeting culture we have just accepted as par for the course. I had come to expect the large blocks of time carved out of my schedule that meant my “real work” would have to happen early in the morning, late at night, or on the weekends. Sound familiar?
Whether you work in Corporate America or run your own business, your time is your most valuable asset. And it’s non-renewable! While there is nothing that will create more time, we can implement a few of the following ideas to reclaim some of it back.
KonMari Your Calendar
By now you’ve either read or heard of Marie Kondo’s, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying
What if we did that to our calendars starting with our meetings?
Admittedly, the question “does this meeting spark joy” might be too high of a bar, but the idea did inspire me! What if we committed to being intentional with our time by looking at our calendars and asking these questions:
- Am I essential to this meeting? This question is not the same as asking if you will add value. Of course, you will add value! But adding value and being crucial to the goal of the meeting are two different things. If you don’t think your attendance is essential, talk to the meeting leader and see if you can add value in another way.
- Can this recurring meeting be shortened? What recurring meetings can you cut in half? If you have weekly status or update meetings that take an hour, try my Connect Meeting method and cut the time to 30 minutes. The time constraint will force focus on the most critical issues.
- Can we change the frequency of this recurring meeting? It’s so easy to continue the habit of a meeting rhythm even when it no longer serves you. For example, that weekly product meeting may have made sense in preparation for a launch, but perhaps meeting every two weeks is a better option post-launch. Or consider changing a weekly meeting to bi-weekly with a written update at the end of the week you don’t meet.
Keeping Your Calendar Tidy
Just like cleaning out your closet, if you want to keep it that way you need a system. Consider making the following ideas a habit.
Each Friday look at your calendar for the upcoming few weeks. Are there meetings you could cancel or delegate to someone else, shorten or change the frequency? Are there meetings that are information sharing only that you should replace with a well-crafted communication? Are there meetings that a quick old-school phone call would eliminate?
Tip: Here’s the rule of Friday Free-up’s. When you free up time previously reserved for a meeting, you must book a new meeting with yourself. Claim this found time and reserve it for the intentional work (or play) that will make the most difference to you!
Change Your Default Mode
We’ve become so numb to the pain of meeting fatigue that we almost automatically reply “yes” to meeting requests. We’ve got to break that habit. Next time you receive an invitation, pause and think through the following:
- What are we trying to accomplish in this meeting and might there be a better way to achieve this goal?
- If the meeting organizer hasn’t made it clear what the purpose of the meeting is, get clarification.
- Are you essential to the meeting?
- How can we shorten the meeting?
- Can someone else go in your place?
Likewise, before you send out a meeting invitation, change your default mindset that a meeting is the best way. What might be a better way? If a meeting is necessary, only invite those who are essential.
Idea into Action
Individually: Take a hard look at the recurring meetings that you lead. Can they be shortened? Can they be less frequent? If you’re not sure, give it a try for a few weeks and see what happens. You can always adjust and developing an agile meeting mindset will be great for the organization.
With Your Team: Add reviews of recurring meetings to your quarterly operating rhythm. Quarterly, evaluate whether the meetings are still necessary. Could they be shortened or less frequent? Again, an agile mindset will encourage a culture of continuous improvement.
It’s a fact; the struggle is real. The battle for your time and energy is never-ending.
So don’t abdicate the responsibility of guarding your most valuable, non-renewable asset.
Be intentional with your time starting with KonMari-ing your calendar and unleash the power of your reclaimed time!
Please share your thoughts with me on this, and if you’ve found this information helpful, you can help me get the word out by using the links provided and sharing it with a colleague. Thanks!