Meetings can be extremely time consuming and disruptive to productivity. However, they are important for getting work done, managing teams, and networking. Here are 7 tips for making your meeting schedule more conducive to overall productivity.
Schedule meetings consecutively
It’s hard to focus and actually get anything substantial done when you only have small blocks of free time throughout the day. Having large blocks of time for work outside of meetings will help you increase focus. Group meetings consecutively to avoid having them break your focus. Having an obligation immediately following a meeting gives you a reason to prevent it from running too long. Just be sure not to schedule your next meeting too close to something that you may want to run long!
Fit meetings into your work flow
Think about the times in your day that you normally take a break from work. Do you normally you get a coffee when you get groggy in the afternoon? If you’re going to get a coffee anyway, you may as well schedule it with someone else. Think about times in your schedule when you could invite people to join you. If appropriate, you can even schedule meetings at an event, or while you’re running errands or exercising.
Set firm deadlines
Increase the chances of everyone you’re meeting with complying with your schedule by setting firm deadlines. Send calendar invites that state your desired start and end time. Before you begin the meeting, tell everyone when you have to conclude. You could even consider setting an alarm or reminder for the time you need to finish.
Group meetings together
If there are multiple people that you’re going to be scheduling meetings with around the same time, schedule them all together, at the same time and same place. As long as those attending do not have competing interests, most people will appreciate the opportunity for the multiple connections. I wouldn’t schedule an important meeting with a group, but for general “catching up” or shorter conversations, a group meeting over drinks or a meal can be extremely friendly and beneficial to all.
Meet remotely when appropriate
Physical presence and contact is invaluable in building rapport. However, if appropriate, a remote meeting can be a huge time-saver. This type of meeting can often be easier to schedule, as it eliminates travel time and expenses. I’ve also found remote meetings to run shorter because there’s less pressure for small talk. Phone or video meetings can be effective as a first meeting to get acquainted and to determine if there is common ground to pursue continued discussions. It can also be appropriate if your day or week gets too busy — you can change an in-person meeting to a call, without disrupting the other person’s schedule.
Time spent traveling between meetings is often wasted. Consider this when planning your obligations. If there are multiple people in a given location that you’re traveling to for a meeting, you may as well schedule meetings with all of them so you don’t have to make the trip to and from there more than once.
Don’t be afraid to say, “No,” or postpone
Do your best to plan ahead so you make meeting times that you know will fit into your schedule. However, if a conflict does arise, it’s OK to postpone a meeting. Postponing can risk future meetings, so do your best to be courteous and give the person as much advance notice as possible. Alternatively, request to change a previously scheduled in-person meeting to a remote meeting to eliminate travel time. If someone asks you for a meeting that you don’t feel is necessary, kindly tell them that you’re swamped and that you’ll circle back with them when time permits.