Looking over the shoulder of a woman at a laptop screen, where we see a virtual meeting taking place.

Take Back Your Schedule: Your Guide to Meeting Bliss

Take Back Your Schedule: Your Guide to Meeting Bliss

April 4, 2022

Groan. Eye roll. Sigh.

Are any of these your reaction to yet another meeting on your calendar?

If so, you’re not alone.

One survey showed that we have been spending five times more hours in meetings since the beginning of the pandemic. We may skip out on lunch, casual conversations with our coworkers, or our mid-day workout, leaving little time for wellness and mental health breaks. And here’s the worst part: we’re not even paying attention. Most of us multitask while we’re at it.

As some workers transition into a hybrid work model, managing meetings will continue to be a challenge. On top of refereeing their virtual schedules, they’ll need to add back in travel time, lunch with a colleague, and time around the water cooler in the office.

So, how do we all:

  • Know when we’ve hit our meeting limit?
  • Politely say “no” to an unnecessary meeting request?
  • Manage the meetings we set for ourselves and others?

Ultimately, how can we take back our schedule to achieve our professional goals and have some time to ourselves?

Know Your Limits

The fundamental problem is that your meeting limit is likely different from everyone else’s limit. It can vary depending on your role, current workload, geography, available team members for delegation, and more. So, how can someone know when they’ve scheduled the last available time for you to get work done in a week?

The quick answer is they usually don’t know, or more likely, are only looking at your calendar with their own needs in mind. They need to solve a problem or share knowledge with you. They assume you, as a team player, are all in.

That’s why it’s essential to communicate your scheduling pain points and preferences. Sit down with your manager and team and discuss how all of you like to work. If you’re not a morning person, a performance evaluation at 8 a.m. is probably not a good idea. And, if you have family or personal obligations that your team can work around to help you keep a more balanced schedule, let them know about it.

If you’re not sure how you’re managing your meeting overload, use a tool that measures it.

Use the “Tentative” Button

Quickly clicking “accept” to a meeting request doesn’t leave room for conversation, either. Consider clicking on “tentative” instead, and then take the time to ask more about the intent of the meeting and your specific role in it. Could someone else on your team participate and fill you in later? Are you the right person to provide input on the subject at hand?

Only click “accept” once you know the meeting is right for you. And if it isn’t, politely decline it.

Don’t Feed the Meeting Monster

We all know how it feels to be on the receiving end of an inadequately planned or last-minute meeting. But many of us are guilty of poorly planning one ourselves. If you’re considering scheduling a meeting:

  • Evaluate its importance and timing, among other priorities.
  • Think about who needs to attend. Identify the role that each participant should play in it, and manage the meeting size based on the type of meeting and outcomes you’d like to achieve.
  • Use the Office 365 Scheduling Assistant or Google Calendar appointment slots to book a time that works for all participants.
  • Communicate the agenda and any relevant background information to participants in the meeting details part of the invitation.
  • And then, before you send a meeting request, ask yourself one last question: could this be accomplished in an email or quick chat session instead?

If you need to set up a recurring meeting for a long-term project, proceed cautiously. Don’t forget to set an agenda before each meeting occurrence and cancel or shorten the meeting if necessary.

Finally, consider setting 45-minute meetings instead of one-hour sessions to provide your attendees with some “breathing room” before the top of the hour (and, inevitably, another obligation). Or try instituting meeting-free days when you and your team can focus on the work ahead of you.

Set Your Own Schedule First

When the meeting tidal wave is coming at us, it’s hard to do anything but react to it and either sink or swim. However, we can all rise above the mayhem by simply taking control of our schedule first.

While it may seem selfish to block focus time on our calendars, it’s crucial to reserve the time we need to innovate and learn and simply get the work done. Block time for lunch, that mid-day workout, or a casual check-in with your manager or coworker, and most importantly, stick to it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your needs first.

Meeting Bliss Awaits You

By taking the time upfront to consider your personal meeting strategy and how you set meetings with others, you can increase your chances of finding more time in your day to focus on the most critical tasks at hand. Not only will you reap the benefits with less stress and more time for yourself, but your coworkers will thank you for it, too.

We want to meet with you!

We’re ready to have a productive meeting with you to discuss if you might be a great fit at Gannett Fleming. Apply to our open positions, and join our Talent Community!

Professional portrait of Masai Lawson, a smiling black woman.
Masai Lawson
Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition & Inclusion

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