As an executive coach, I have worked with many women in leadership roles in the tech industry, and one of the most common challenges I see them face is managing their time and being in control of how they spend it. With a never-ending stream of meetings, it can be difficult to find time to focus on important projects, let alone take care of personal or family obligations. In this article, I will share some tips and strategies for managing meeting schedules that can help leaders stay on top of their game.
Tip #1: Have Clear Meeting Objectives
The first step in managing your meeting schedule is to set clear objectives for each meeting you attend. Before accepting an invitation, take the time to evaluate whether the meeting is essential to your work and whether you can contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Where does it fit on your list of priorities? If the meeting doesn’t meet these criteria, it’s likely that your time would be better spent elsewhere.
Once you have decided to attend a meeting, take the time to set clear objectives for what you hope to accomplish. This could include preparing questions or proposals to bring up during the meeting, or identifying specific information or insights you hope to gain. By setting clear objectives, you can ensure that you are making the most of your time and contributing meaningfully to the discussion.
Tip #2: Be Selective About Which Meetings You Attend
In addition to setting clear objectives, it’s important to be selective about which meetings you attend. While it can be tempting to say yes to every meeting invitation that comes your way, this approach is often counterproductive, as it can lead to an overloaded schedule and a lack of focus.
To avoid this, take the time to evaluate each meeting invitation on a case-by-case basis. Consider whether the meeting is essential to your work, whether you can contribute meaningfully to the discussion, and whether there are other ways you can get the information or insights you need. If the answer to any of these questions is no, it may be best to decline the invitation and focus your time and energy elsewhere.
It’s OK for you to say so and challenge the usefulness of your presence at this meeting. In a corporate culture of overcommunication, it’s likely that not much thought has been put into who’s invited, just like the number of people can add up in cc of an email. It’s your time, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.
Tip #3: Schedule Time for Deep Work
Another key strategy for managing your meeting schedule is to schedule time for deep work. This could include time for focused project work, strategic planning, or personal and professional development. By carving out dedicated time for these activities, you can ensure that they get the attention they deserve, even amidst a busy meeting schedule.
To schedule time for deep work, consider blocking off specific time periods on your calendar and treating them as non-negotiable. This could mean blocking off certain hours each day for focused work, or reserving specific days of the week for strategic planning or personal development. By making these activities a priority and treating them as non-negotiable, you can ensure that they get the attention they deserve.
Tip #4: Make room for spontaneity
In our virtual and remote world, many of my clients complain about the lack of connection they have with people — either it’s because these people are far away and meeting them isn’t possible, or simply because they now work remotely. So the conversation around the water cooler or above the screen can no longer happen. People blame the virtual for that, and, while it’s a factor, it may not be the main culprit. The problem is that you no longer have time for these interactions. I remember literally running from one meeting room to another because even then I would be late. It is not a new problem. The virtual nature of how we now spend our time has only exacerbated it.
To create real connections with people, you need time and timing. If you’re always busy in meetings, you won’t have time for those casual conversations that bond people together, to joke, feel sorry for yourselves, to share, or to explore a work topic from different perspectives. Use chat services like Slack or Teams to create that spontaneity, just like when you text your friends and can have asynchronous conversations over the day. Explore the ways that work for you to recreate these over-the-screen and coffee conversations without scheduling them in — or have “open hours” time slots.
Tip #5: Take Care of Yourself
Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself amidst a busy meeting schedule. This could include taking breaks throughout the day to recharge, setting clear boundaries around work hours and personal time, and prioritizing self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or time with family and friends. It may sound counterproductive, but a 20-min nap or walk can restore your energy and ensure a way more productive afternoon than if you stay in front of your computer.
By taking care of yourself, you can ensure that you have the energy and focus you need to be productive and effective in your meetings and other work activities. This, in turn, can help you achieve better outcomes and feel more satisfied with your work overall.
In conclusion, managing your meeting schedule can be a challenge, but by setting clear objectives, being selective about which meetings you attend, scheduling time for deep work, making room for spontaneity and taking care of yourself, you can stay on top of your game and achieve better outcomes in your work and as a leader.