The combination of working from home and COVID-19 has caused an explosion of meetings. Impromptu conversations that took place in the hallway or lunchroom are now scheduled and take place online, or they happen at the beginning of other meetings, making those meetings longer and less organized. It can be particularly difficult if you work across time zones, as your day is stretched to accommodate earlier starts and late ends.
Meetings are often scheduled back-to-back with no time for lunch – let-alone a break to get coffee or go to the restroom. Even with shared calendars, meetings seem to overlap or are scheduled on top of other meetings.
Long days and back-to-back meetings are a recipe for burn-out. Here are some strategies that can help.
- Block lunch. Put a meeting on your calendar for lunch. You can label it “Lunch” or “Busy.” There’s no guarantee that it won’t be over-booked, but it may protect your time so you can take a break.
- Ask that meetings have buffer time. Try creating 50 or 55-minute meetings so there is a 5-10-minute buffer between meetings. This is a good time management practice whether you’re working from home or working together in a traditional office.
- If meetings always run over, and I find they almost always do, start the meeting on time, but put up a slide that says “We will start at 5 minutes after the start time when everyone arrives”. You’ll be surprised at how quickly people adapt to the change. However, don’t let that good practice slip. Start when you say you are going to start so everyone knows to arrive before the active part of the meeting.
- Be totally organized for the meeting. Define a specific goal or purpose and have slides prepared to direct the discussion. If the meeting requires decision-making provide reading materials in advance as a pre-read so attendees can get to an informed decision quickly.
- Watch out for sneaky meetings. I’ve sometimes managed to create a short 15-minute break for myself between meetings only to discover that someone has scheduled a short meeting into that time slot!
- Learn to decline a meeting invite. Do you really need to attend that meeting?