If you are anything like me you spend a fair amount of time in meetings. Meetings can be draining and a time suck depending on the content, the attendance, and who is running the meeting. Meetings however can also be joyous caldrons of ideas, creativity, and whimsical banter between you and your colleagues. It’s January and just like most of the world in early 2021, working from home makes a meeting a slightly different challenge than it was before.
I’ve written previously about how spending all day on Zoom calls can actually have negative effects on your mood and sap your energy - TIRED OF LOOKING AT YOURSELF?
As 2020 came to a close, I noticed myself sitting down in my office chair for a Zoom call more often than not. As a manager, you should fully expect to spend time in meetings… but not all your time. I regularly schedule time blocks for deep, undisturbed focus. So instead of just accepting that my time is being taken up by meetings, I decided to do a bit of digging into how much time I’m spending vs 2019; aka before we were all stuck at home.
As the pandemic started to take hold of the world, the biggest thing I noticed in my diary trend is how many check-ins I had in Q2 and Q3. Those check-ins usually came in the form of standups or squad meetings where we just asked how everyone is. If there was one thing that helped me get through the first lockdown it would be that later squad meeting. It was a form of therapy for not only our teams but for me too as we went through how we were feeling, what we were doing to stay safe, and also how much Netflix we had completed over the previous few weeks while we were all stuck in the house. It also helped form a bunch of tips on just how different folks were managing to stay sane. This would range from fitness, small home projects, DIY or even just talking about how folks were managing to get away from everything whenever they could.
Our amount of company meetings began to increase in Q2 also, which is understandable. As companies all over the world began changing how they worked on a daily basis, communicating these changes became a lot harder than they usually would. This is why at the start of lockdown I can see a ton of meetings that had their main intention to be a source of clarity for the company or a source of information sharing as things were taking a turn for the worse not only on the planet but on our specific business area also. These meetings were tough for a bunch of reasons. Not only am I a manager in a company but I’m also an employee. So as changes were discussed or divulged I would usually need to understand it for myself first and then my team. Experience in these things tells me to keep my thoughts to myself until I know exactly what is happening, and I’m sure that kept me and my teams from panicking too much during 2020.
I also started to use time slots in my diary that I more than likely wouldn’t use in the past; those which are either at the very start of the workday or at the very end. Due to my commute and school-runs, I wouldn’t previously have been able to make it into work during these slots so they were never used; in fact, I used to block them with “COMMUTE”. Now I can nip to and from school with relative ease and be able to use them… which is obviously something I’ll need to recheck when office working becomes an option again.
The final extra trend in my diary took the form of a replacement for more organic conversations, or ‘water-cooler’ conversations if you will. In an office environment, running into someone for a quick 5-10 minute catchup is quite normal; how do you do that working remotely? You book a meeting with them. Although this doesn’t feel the same it’s good to keep those relationships ticking over; especially if you don’t happen to meet those folks during regular business times.
All meetings have some sort of cost; this could be time, attention, focus, or even financial in some cases. There is also a plethora of articles and good content on how to run these meetings successfully and with purpose so I won’t dive too much into that subject. The thing that stuck out to me was that I no longer have the usual struggle of trying to find a meeting room. Meeting rooms are a weird entity. In all my working life I’ve worked in buildings that would usually have custom build meeting rooms that are either for 1-1 chat or sometimes bigger, more collaborative workshops.
It’s an obvious insight hopefully, but different meetings have different situational needs;
Company town-hall? You can sit at your desk and watch that or if you have a big space meeting room; awesome! Engineering deep dive with 50+? Again, probably at your desk. 1-1? You need a private room for that. Performance and compensation review? Room. Soundproof.
When working in an office it’s often regarded that meeting rooms are a premium resource. That’s why bigger companies buy sophisticated meeting room software so that when folks don’t turn up to rooms they become free again. They are a resource which in some cases keeps the ebb and flow of your day aligned. So looking back at my 2019 behavior and scheduling a meeting, my mind would do the following calculations for the best time for this meeting to happen;
Am I free? > Is the other person is free? > what type of meeting is this? > there is a vacant meeting room?
Now? 50% of that thinking is gone because it doesn’t matter; your company now has as many meeting rooms as you have calendar slots.
Meetings are not inherently bad, but when left unchecked the number of useless meetings compounds over time unless you regularly check. Battle against the bug of being busy and look after how you are spending your days.
“It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.” - Seneca