My calendar is packed. What can I do?

Refactoring meetings

Has the number of hours you spend in questionably useful meetings each week surpassed the number of hours you spend actually doing productive work? For many of us, the answer is sadly yes. The meeting fatigue is real 😴, but don’t worry: you hold the power to refactor your calendar. 🪄

First up: open up your calendar 📆 and find a meeting that meets these three criteria:

✅ The call is synchronous: you’re getting more than 3 colleagues together, all at the same time

✅ The agenda is a monologue: it’s mostly one person sharing project updates or some other very straightforward thing

✅ The group is familiar: the conversation is with people you’ve worked with loads before

Odds are good that you’re able to find at least one meeting that checks all of these boxes in the next two weeks, if not in the next two hours. It might even be a recurring meeting (😱). These are the types of conversations that clog our calendars, sap our energy, and generally leave us dreading the next invite to hit our inboxes. So what in the world do we do about them?

The first recommendation is pretty obvious: identify the stuff you talk about in synchronous meetings that is one-to-many (think “project update” monologues) and intentionally push that communication to asynchronous spaces 📣. If a meeting is just straightforward information-sharing, does anyone really need to be there on a Zoom call, visibly nodding? Probably not. Share updates in writing or in a quick video and clear up everyone’s time.

Often though, clearing a calendar isn’t so simple. Even though some topics would seem to easily translate to asynchronous modalities, we keep synchronous calls on the books. Why? Because we’re getting something out of them (or at least, someone is getting something out of them). The truth is that we often have meetings that we call one thing but that we use for something else entirely.

Take that meeting that you found on our calendar earlier. Ask yourself what you get out of it — not what it is officially for, but what you actually get out of it. Is it a great opportunity to connect with your colleagues? Does it create an opportunity to identify what support people on the team will need in the coming week? Or maybe it’s a conversation in which you feel comfortable enough to open up creative space for learning and reflection? That’s great. Say that! 🛠 Get a handle on why you are are actually meeting so you can design meetings that are fit-for-purpose.

The mistake so many organizations make is that they let meetings pile up with titles and agendas that aren’t accurate, but they keep the meetings anyway because they provide space for something important. The problem with these meetings is that you end up spending more time chasing a fictional objective than doing the actual thing you all want. 🚩🚩 The distance between your stated objectives and your actual objectives in synchronous meetings is the space where confusion, apathy, and wonky conversations grow. 🚩🚩

But, if you do these two things — 1️⃣ push broadcast-type communication to asynchronous spaces and 2️⃣ design meetings that are actually fit-for-purpose — you’ll be surprised how much of your calendar (and your sanity) you can can reclaim. (Yay! 🎉)

I’m guessing you’re here because you want to get better at leading groups, improve your meeting culture, and maybe even organise some great events.

Well, you’re in the right place!

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