Beat meeting fatigue and reclaim your day!

by Daragh McGrath
Published on August 2, 2021

Meetings, meetings and more meetings

One of the things I’m always thinking about (it comes with the CEO territory!) is how I and my team can be more productive and efficient with our time. 

One of the biggest challenges that I face day-to-day in work is the sheer number of meetings that I have to bounce between. I wake up every Monday morning with about two dozen scheduled meetings already in the calendar! I know many of you reading this will know the drill. 

According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index (an awesome resource), since our teams became so much more distributed last year, we’ve replaced the casual chats we used to have in the office with 30 minute meetings. This cost each of us 157 hours of productivity in the last year. This keeps me awake at night, or probably more like it keeps me working at night!

Not only do all these meetings not leave much time for me to get things done, there is a lot written about the challenges brought about by context switching. It can be jarring, sap cognitive load and deplete concentration, as well as decrease your ability to prioritize and make effective decisions. No thanks! 

Staying disciplined 

I’m not saying that none of these meetings are necessary, but I also feel that, for me as an individual, and for the Enablo team, we have a tendency to say yes rather than no to an invite – just because we like to chime in and stay connected. This has only increased since we’ve all been working apart. And, over-time, this has led to a world where we all attend more meetings than we probably should.

At Enablo, we have the absolute best-in-class digital tools at our disposal – Workplace from Meta, Google Workspace and Asana. When used in the right way for connection, communication, collaboration, cooperation, and coordination, these tools do away with a lot of the need for meetings. By the time the meeting comes around, the work’s already been done and communicated about.

I know it also takes discipline to run an efficient meeting – to have an agenda, take notes, make sure everyone is in attendance and on time. So, I’ve been thinking about, if we do need to have the meeting, how can we use the tools we have at our disposal to help run this in the most efficient way we can?

Something’s gotta give

So recently, after attending my 30 somethingth meeting of the week, I decided things needed to change, so I put out a post on Workplace encouraging a meeting amnesty. I asked the team to decline and delete all existing internal meetings from their calendar and asked every meeting owner to delete all recurring meetings before the end of the month. 

Then I suggested that they take some time to reschedule these, taking into consideration the following:

  • Can the outcome required be facilitated as a post on Workplace rather than a meeting
  • Only invite the people who you believe 100% need to attend
  • Check people’s free/busy schedule before scheduling – paying particular attention to whether you are putting a meeting in straight after a series of back-to-back meetings
  • For those who you feel might benefit from the awareness of the meeting and should have the option to drop in as required, mark them as optional
  • If you are setting up a placeholder event e.g. a day when something is happening or due but it doesn’t mean attendees are busy the whole time, mark with a calendar availability of free (instead of busy)
  • Set a clear meeting agenda for every scheduled meeting (using Asana!)
  • Accept or decline a meeting based on reality – i.e. will you actually be there or not?
  • Try to wrap up meetings 5 minutes early – in the days of back to back Meets, those coffee / water breaks are much needed (Google calendar helps with this through its ‘speedy meetings’ feature)
  • Stick to 30 minute (or shorter) meetings where possible
  • If you feel that you’re in a meeting that you can’t provide input, be empowered to (politely) drop out and use that as focus time rather than stick it out just because you think you should
  • Use Asana to post minutes / follow up wherever possible and then post updates in the relevant Workplace group
  • Record / livestream the meeting wherever possible for those who cannot attend
  • Block out focus time / commute time / family time / active time in your calendar (all super important!)
  • Set up your working hours in your Google calendar (and please be respectful of how people have set theirs)
  • Always be punctual!

I am also super inspired by Superhuman’s CEO Rahul Voltra’s insights on how to run effective meetings. I shared this with the team too and highly recommend checking it out.

I’m already starting to see the payoffs – aside from actually having time to get a coffee between meetings, I have time to make decisions, as well as think about strategy and how we can grow the business. 

So, how are you thinking about your productivity? Do you rely on meetings to get things done? Or is your organization leveraging your digital tools effectively? I’d love to know!

 

 

Meet the Author
Daragh McGrath
I’m CEO and Cofounder of Enablo and have been fortunate to work for, or partner with, some of the worlds most widely recognised technology companies to help customers digitize their world of work.

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