Being slammed with meetings — often back-to-back ones — can be exhausting, and can send your productivity into a nosedive as you struggle to figure out how you’re still going to get that mountain of work done. Here’s what to do to get time on your side.
Know when to decline that Google Calendar meeting invite
Emphasizing that you’re busy can be an effective method.
Although some meetings are crucial to attend, there are times when they aren’t the most important thing you have on your plate — and, in fact, they could prevent you from getting the work done that your boss is expecting.
When it comes to picking and choosing priorities, the best advice is to be transparent, and honest, since little white lies won’t last long in an office full of people on the same team.
If you’re genuinely swamped, and get a last-minute meeting invite, try letting your coworker know the truth.
“Be honest and say, ‘Unfortunately, I’m devoting every moment I have to [some task] due in two days. Please keep me posted if there’s any way I can be of help later this week,’Freelance writer and editor Sarah McCord, who covers careers, writes in The Muse.
Set aside 2-4 hours where no one can pull you away from your work
Marta Turek, Associate Director of Digital Marketing Programs at digital marketing agency ROI DNA, says the solution is to schedule fewer meetings that matter more — and know your own patterns well enough to know what time of day you do your best work, so you don’t schedule meetings in the middle of that time.
“Create blocks of time in your calendar dedicated to your work, and indicate in the title that this time is blocked off for specific, focused tasks. Indicate which project you’ll be working on and request that no meetings are booked in that time,” she writes in Moz.
Turek, whose lecture,”Too Busy to Do Good Work” at MozCon 2015 laid out “21 daily habits to master for increased productivity,” encourages people to “block out 2–4 hours every day in your calendar for uninterrupted work.”
Early risers might be better off doing their best, uninterrupted, work in the mornings, while night owls might do best to power through tasks towards the end of the day.
Schedule all your meetings on the same day
This may or may not work for you, depending on your level of seniority.
“Stop taking meetings throughout the week: Monday at 2 p.m., Wednesday at 11 a.m., Friday at 4 p.m., etc. Instead, set aside a single day for meetings,” Jason Shah, founder and CEO of collaboration platform Do, writes in Forbes.
“Most leaders find mid-week is desirable, as it breaks up their work week. Monday is a good time to plan and prepare, and Friday is a good time to review and reflect,” Shah continues. ”Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays are ideal days to engage in meetings, depending on what works best for you. When you only take meetings once per week, you’ll have longer stretches of uninterrupted time to focus on higher-value tasks.”
Hold meetings standing up — they might become shorter
Carson Tate, founder of management consulting firm Working Simply, writes about how a senior executive client at a big company had days that were so packed, her female employees began “following her into the restroom, file folders in hand, to get answers to their many questions” in The New York Times.
Can you imagine? Not only was this executive’s personal space encroached upon, it was also a major signal that she had so much going on that her direct reports had trouble getting to her.
Tate later includes tips for managing meetings— including this trick.
“For in-person meetings, consider requiring everyone to stand up. This is very effective, because leg fatigue soon sets in and everyone has an incentive to keep the meeting short,” Tate writes.