SwordsweeperTechnology Meeting for one please!

Meeting for one please!

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you have so much to do but all of your time is being eaten away by meetings? And when you do have a free hour inevitably someone will walk up to your desk and ask a question. When I was a Director at National Geographic my days filled with meetings so quickly that I added a recurring lunchtime to my calendar just to be sure I had time to eat. The fact of the matter is those meetings don’t ever let up. As you get more responsibility the meetings increase and your productivity decreases.

Most executives make up for this by constantly working. Early mornings, late at night, on the plane… any chance they have when the 9–5 crowd isn’t around to take up their time. Personally I don’t like this solution, I want to have a life that extends beyond the walls of my office building and allows me to be unchained from my smart device long enough to spend time with my family. As I mentioned, blocking time on my calendar seemed to help me with making sure I got lunch so naturally I thought it would extend to the rest of my day as well.

Blocking your calendar

I had a coworker who was so tired of interruptions that he blocked off his entire day, everyday, so anyone who wanted a meeting had to message him

I’d seen this done in the past, I had a coworker who was so tired of interruptions that he blocked off his entire day, everyday, so anyone who wanted a meeting had to message him before sending the invitation. While this approach had the desired effect it mostly just made people mad. I decided to be less extreme and started off by blocking time on my calendar as “development” time. This time chunk in the mornings would be my time to get actual work done, whether managing backlogs, writing code or creating designs, and immediately I started to reap the benefits. But there was a also a negative effect, the meeting requests became more congested as they had to be squeezed into the remaining hours of my day leaving no room for breaks between them and often they became doubled or tripled on the same hour. This also pushed my meetings late into the afternoon many time later than I would normally stay.

Change it Up

Things weren’t working as I expected so I decided to try again. I switched things around starting by removing the large block from my calendar. Since I got in early I usually had an hour or two in the morning anyway so I put smaller blocks on my calendar throughout the day to break things up and one large block beginning at 4PM to prevent late afternoon meetings. This helped but unfortunately placing things on the calendar didn’t prevent people from continuing to double or triple book my time. I discovered a add-on to Google Calendar which allowed me to turn on a setting for any meeting which would auto-decline any invitation sent for the same timeslot. This helped me tremendously but similar to the coworker who blocked his calendar, people don’t like to get declined without a reason.

The Answer?

I found that what worked best was a combination of things. Sometimes one meeting really is more important than another and they require some rescheduling. Just because you’ve blocked your time, doesn’t mean you should automatically decline something. Be selective about how you choose to block your time, be reasonable, but most importantly make sure to keep your sanity. I don’t know the correct answer, but this might just help you out. So open up your calendar, choose a block of time and schedule a meeting for one.

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