Under normal circumstances, work meetings can quickly become a drag – but with everyone shifting to a work-from-home model, the volume of tedious meetings has virtually doubled overnight.
And there’s such a thing as overcommunication: many are finding that they’re unable to get work done because the amount of meetings, productive and unproductive, are piling up.
So how do we know which ones are actually necessary and useful, and which ones are just more background noise? Yahoo Finance asked two experts for the final say.
Related story: How to procrastinate more productively
According to time management specialist Kate Christie, it will take a good while for you to really return to what you were working on every time something gets in your way.
“Even the shortest interruption is never just ‘5 minutes of your time’. Every time you are interrupted your productivity drops by up to 40 per cent, plus it takes an average of 23 minutes to return to the task you were interrupted from.”
Now, more than ever, it’s reason to be picky about which meetings you accept, and which you don’t, she said.
Christie recommends asking yourself the following questions before you accept an invitation for yet another meeting:
Is there an agenda? Do you know exactly what the meeting will be about? “If not, ask for an agenda or politely decline. A meeting without an agenda will soon become a rambling, unfocused session which is a waste of your time.”
Am I a decision maker? Do you need to be there? “If you are not a decision maker, then you are either being invited to the meeting as a spectator or because there will be an action item allocated to you.” If you’re a spectator, politely decline, says Christine; anything you need to know can be communicated to you via email. If you’ll be given an actionable from the meeting, ask whether you can leave the meeting one you’ve got all you need.
Is this the best use of my time? If it isn’t, move onto something else on your to-do list.
Productivity expert Donna McGeorge told Yahoo Finance that there are four ‘T’s that need to be considered before having a meeting: time, topic, tolerance, and telephone.
You may have noticed by now that the default setting for an event on most calendar apps is an hour. But McGeorge says it’s hard to concentrate on a screen for that long, so ask yourself if you really need an hour. “Right now, go and change all your current meetings from 60 minutes to 30 minutes.”
Is it related to you? Echoing Christie, the meeting might not be relevant to you and therefore a waste of your time.
“Right now, you should be deliberate and discerning about deciding what needs your attention and what doesn’t.
“The questions to ask here are: Am I the right person to be at this meeting? Is there someone better than me?”
When a chat or a meeting is proposed, our default answer can be ‘yes’ – even though it’s not how we really feel.
“You need to give yourself permission to not be 100 per cent available 100 per cent of the time. It’s ok to block time to gather your thoughts and take stock of your mental and physical state,” said McGeorge.
“The question to ask here is: Do I have the capacity and tolerance for this right now?”
Now that everyone is self-isolating and working from home, our contact time with colleagues is massively reduced, meaning we’re looking at our screens more than ever before.
“In a ‘normal’ working environment, during a meeting we would turn away from the screens and look at each other’s faces,” said McGeorge. And while human connection is very important, so is time away from our screens.
“The question to ask here is: Could this be a telephone call instead of a screen call?”
Don’t feel pressured to show up to every event, take every phone call and be in every meeting, the productivity expert said. With the federal government warning social distancing measures will be in place for six months, we’re in it for the long haul.
“Now that the initial rush is over, it’s time to start to take control back and make conscious choices about what meetings you will attend and who you are giving your precious energy to.”
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