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Productivity & Organizing Myth #10 – We need to be at all those meetings!

Productivity & Organizing Myth #10 – We need to be at all those meetings!
Meeting

Myth: We need to be at all those meetings and events that have made their way onto our calendars.
Reality: We can succeed at work and be happy with a modest number of meetings and activities. Do you say any of these things?

  • I haven’t been home at 6 o’clock in the evening for weeks.
  • We are constantly trying to balance work with kids’ activities with family commitments.
  • I have to schedule a date with my spouse so we have time to talk.
  • If only I had 30 hours in a day.
  • My meetings are back to back all day.
  • Time for myself – ha!

If you are feeling overbooked, you probably are! The solution… manage your meetings!

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In many environments long meetings are held. Often these meetings are two to three times longer than they need to be. And, quite possibly you are needed for only a fraction of the time you’re in the room.

Examination of attendance at some meetings reveals that 25% of people there we necessary to conduct the business at hand. That is to say that 75% of the people there were not necessary and wasting their time. Other meetings the necessity for attendance 50/50 and sometime everyone needs to be there.

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If you feel meeting overload step back and use a critical eye to view your role in them. If you’d like to alter your meeting load consider if any of the following suggestions could free you up.

  • Do you ask for an agenda for the meeting so you’re certain of the scope of the topics fits your involvement?
  • Is there are ways to run the meetings more efficiently?
  • Could someone summarize the meeting for you in person or in a memo in a fraction of the time spent in a meeting?
  • Could you attend just the portion of the meeting that pertains to your role and responsibility?
  • Could the minutes or notes from the meeting serve your need for information?
  • Are the meetings contributing to your success in your position or moving you toward your next position? If not, give it a miss.
  • Is this an enjoyable group of people with good intentions but the topic is not really related to your goals? If so parforce, is it just throwing your day schedule off more than helping it? (particularly applicable for non-job-related meetings and volunteer/community committees).
  • What is the worst that could happen if you don’t attend?

Experiment. Think like the CEO of your career that you are. As CEO everyone wants your time but you only have so much of it. Jack Welch, when the head of GE, would give presenters 8 minutes to make their points then he’d cut them off. Presenters learned to put only their important points out there and to stick to the time schedule. Do you, could you, deliver your important points in just a few minutes? Could you require others in your meetings to be brief and relevant? Could less significant topics be covered offline if they have to be covered at all?

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A very difficult reply to meeting invites is, “No.” So, try softer versions such as, “No Thanks for thinking of me though.” “I would like to but I have other commitments.” “I’m pretty sure I couldn’t’ contribute to the meeting because I don’t have the expertise and time to give it fair attention. I, however, think that TJ might be able to help you.”

It’s your time, protect it!

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Previous Myths:

Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. She’s visited South & Central America, Europe, Asia, ‘Down Under” and traveled across North America. Susan writes at productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity programs & tips to groups. The most popular presentation topic today is, How to Get Ready for the Busy Season.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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