By Michael Holland

Recently as I was scheduling the next coaching session with a leader, I was able to see her Outlook calendar.

She made a comment about constantly being double-booked for time slots for meetings and at times triple-booked. And that she routinely was in back-to-back meetings throughout a day sometimes numbering as many as 13.

What?  Is this company onto a new, earth-shattering path to higher productivity?

Absolutely not.  In fact it’s the opposite.

The actual work being accomplished is likely shallow.  Is the organization meeting their basic goals, making money, etc., maybe.

But what are they missing out on?  What’s the opportunity cost from the lost margin?

What is really disconcerting, is the horrible badges of honor some leaders wear as they measure themselves against their peers on ridiculous metrics of number of meetings, etc.

The resulting culture will have to adapt to the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of these leaders.  And that adaptation has an enormous cost in productivity, engagement, innovation and sanity.

Here are 3 things you can do to better manage your world. . .

Analyze It

Study how many hours you have been spending in meetings and rank/rate/value each meeting.

Have some fun and add your compensation into the mix to see the cost versus ROI of your meeting time.

Create a Quota

Decide ahead of time, how much time you will spend in meetings in the coming week.  In reality you can’t control all your time because of the organizational constraints that exist in your world.

But you can capture a small percentage of time each week.  Even gaining one hour of time over the week is margin that could be deployed in different ways.

Just Say No

Build the behavioral muscles to appropriately say no to some meetings.

Maybe you can limit your time at a meeting to 30 minutes.

Or maybe it’s better managing the meetings you own to change the cadence to have those meetings end 10 minutes early.

You have the authority and power to say no to one thing and to say yes to something else.  Give yourself permission to utilize that authority.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • How many hours of meetings have you been in over the least 3 weeks?
  • Of those meetings, which one stands out as the most productive and effective? Which stands out as the least?
  • Grab a peer leader and take on a 5% quota challenge: Over the 3 months, spend 5% less time in meetings.
    • Build a simple spreadsheet to track total meeting time.
    • Use your average weekly hours in meetings over the last 3 weeks as your baseline.
    • At the start of each week, calculate how many hours you are scheduled to be in meetings.
    • At the end of the week, calculate how many hours were spent in meetings and compare to your baseline.
    • Every two weeks, grab coffee with your peer leader and discuss your spreadsheets and what you are learning about yourself and your time management.