Frequently find yourself moving from one conference room to another as you navigate a schedule jam-packed with meetings? If your company seems to allocate a lot of time for talking about what needs to be done and not enough time for doing the actual work, it's probably because that's what's actually going on. These days, it's not just the leaders and the top executives who spend their day in meeting rooms; almost all employees now seem to be spending their time attending and making meeting notes.
If you find yourself questioning your calendar and wondering if you're even required to attend that meeting, maybe you're not. Here's how you can take back your time:
There are three different projects you are working on and seven different ones that you're helping out on. Prioritize which projects you'd like to devote time to and which you're just going to close over e-mail. Take your manager into your confidence and discuss this clearly with her. Let her know that you'd like to focus your time and energy on the projects that are a top priority. This way, you're also getting her buy-in for your strategy.
2. Ask for an agenda
Some meetings just pop up in your calendar with a title, e.g. "Meet to discuss productivity measures." Of what? Why now? Who is leading the project and why are you required to participate? A typical meeting invite should share these details with you.
If you are unsure about a meeting, reach out to the organizer and ask for details.
"Just so I am prepared for the meeting and am respectful of everybody's time, could you please share some background and what is it that is expected of this meeting and how I would be able to contribute?" is a perfectly polite way of asking the organizer to share all the information she can!
3. Decline the meeting
Sounds rude? OK, so don't just click decline. When you get these meeting invites and you know that these are not on your priority list (see 1 above), decline the meeting by adding that you are currently working on a tight deadline and can't make it. You can also add that you do not want to hold them back, but that you're looking forward to reading the meeting notes. Or, you could ask if you could perhaps close this over email or if the meeting can be moved by X days.
4. Block your time
Do it yourself. If you think you don't want to be rude/decline meetings, block time off your calendar so others can see you are busy. Be reasonable, though: you don't want all your days for the rest of the year completely blocked. Use this strategy to help protect just enough time to get your actual job done.
5. Do unto others what you want done unto you
Follow what you expect. Set an example and plan meetings only when it is absolutely necessary. If you're expecting others to respect your time, make sure you're respecting theirs, too.
6. Have a dedicated time of the day or day of a week to attend meetings
This is another strategy that many follow. If you know that you will be taking meetings only at 2 p.m. every day, or only on Wednesdays, you are not interrupted in your daily work or your project time. If meetings crop up all over the place, propose a new time that fits in your plan. It may not always work, but it could help.
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