How to spend less time in meetings

If you missed our the most recent Office Hours, never fear! We’ve got the recap below, or you can watch the video here. 

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Every other Wednesday, our Head of Community Anna Dearmon Kornick hosts a LIVE deep dive into a different time management topic. Then, she opens up the floor for your questions and coaching.

This week we learned how to spend less time in meetings by conducting a meeting audit, cutting unnecessary meetings, and using asynchronous communication.

And with the increase in hours worked and more time spent in meetings than ever before, today's Office Hours was just in the nick of time.

  • 45% of professionals say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before the pandemic.
  • According to FlexJobs, 65% of surveyed remote workers reported working more hours than they had before they went remote.
  • The average employee spends 85% of their work week in meetings

With so much of our working hours spent in meetings, it's important to be intentional when deciding which meetings should take up our valuable time. That’s why Anna walked us through how to create more space for what matters by strategically reducing time spent in meetings.

Start by conducting a meeting audit

A meeting audit is an assessment of your meeting landscape in order to understanding where your time in meetings is going.

Find 1-2 typical weeks on your calendar, print it out, and assign each meeting a rating from 1-5 in order of importance. Rating your meetings requires you to be thoughtful about the purpose of the meeting and the value you add by attending. Conducting a meeting audit doesn't have to be complicated, and it has the potential to change everything.

When we're moving from meeting to meeting and deadline to deadline, it can be difficult to understand how we're spending our time. Doing a meeting audit requires you to pause and reconnect with why you're spending time in each of your meetings.

Cut or Cancel

Once you've rated your meetings during your meeting audit, it's time to start letting go.

Cut or cancel any meetings that:

  • Are nice to have, but not necessary
  • Have run their course and served their purpose
  • You're attending outside of your direct responsibility just to be nice

Consider Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication is any dialogue that doesn’t take place face-to-face or screen-to-screen, requiring an immediate response. 

Three efficient methods for replacing a meeting with asynchronous communication include:

  • Video - Record and share a video containing the details for a project kickoff
  • Messaging - Create a Slack channel for a specific team with a specific purpose
  • Forms - Compile a quick list of questions, share with your team, and schedule a meeting only if more discussion is necessary

Craft Shorter and Less Frequent Meetings

Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time available, and this definitely applies to meetings. When you put a meeting on the calendar for 30 minutes, you'll typically find 30 minutes worth of stuff to talk about in order to fill the space.

Schedule Shorter Meetings

Consider shortening your 30 minute meetings to 25, or shortening 1 hour meetings to 45.

Shortening a meeting - even by 5 minutes - accomplishes two things:

  • It requires you to be more efficient during the allotted meeting time
  • Those extra "saved" minutes come back to you in the form of Focus Time

Schedule Less Frequent Meetings

Reviewing your Meeting Audit, ask yourself:

  • Are there any 1:1s that could be held less frequently?
  • Could you cut your daily standup meeting down to a weekly kickoff and Friday wrap up?
  • Could you use a form to turn a daily meeting into a weekly meeting, and then shorten that weekly meeting by 5 minutes?
  • How can you combine different strategies to create more space in your calendar?

Q&A

Q: What are the top 3 things we should stop / start doing after this session?

When you receive a meeting invitation

  • Stop accepting the invitation as a default
  • Start asking the purpose of the meeting if it isn't clear in the invitation
  • Start articulating your purpose for attending the meeting and what value you will gain or add by participating

When you're clear on the purpose -the meeting's purpose and your purpose - you'll make a much more informed decision about how you spend your time in meetings.

Q: How can one apply time management based on energy level to a working environment with pre-defined working hours?

Start by knowing your personal biological peak time - the time of day when your energy is naturally high. For many people, this is morning to mid-morning. Aim to schedule your Focus Time to align with your biological peak time. This strategy of doing your best or most important work at the best time can double your productivity. Conversely, most people experience an energy trough in the afternoon. Mindless, repetitive tasks are ideal for your low energy time of day. Meetings and brainstorming sessions are also a great way to strategically use your low energy time of day in a productive way.

Q: How can I propose and establish regular meeting audits in my team if I'm not the team leader?

Lead by example. Start by sharing with your colleagues and/or your supervisor that you plan to do a meeting audit and why you feel inspired conduct one. Then, share the results with them. Tell them about what you learned and the time you got back for more important work. Often, when others see that someone has unlocked a secret to getting things done or up-leveled their productivity, they want in on it, too!

Q: How can I effectively identify what type of asynchronous communication is a good replacement for a meeting?

Always begin identifying the purpose of the meeting you're hoping to replace. Is it a status update? A project kickoff? When you're clear on the purpose of the meeting, you'll find identifying the right method - or combination of methods - to replace the meeting with asynchronous communication. Don't be afraid to experiment!

Q: What tactics can we use to avoid other people taking our recently opened spaces to fill them up with meetings?

Use time blocking to protect your time. Decide how you want to use your newly freed up time and create an appointment on your calendar to hold space for that purpose. This should keep colleagues from seeing open space and interpreting it as available for a meeting.

Pro-tip: If you’re using Asana, the Clockwise + Asana integration is an even easier way to time block your calendar.

Q: How can I create a block for a fitness workout each day and have it be optimized like a lunch block by Clockwise?

You can create a time block style appointment for our workout and put it on Autopilot, just like lunch! Clockwise will find the best time based on the options you select when setting up Autopilot.


Be sure you make the next Office Hours to ask your own questions by registering here!

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Time Management

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