The top reasons why software developers loose productivity are interruptions and meetings. Technology industry is probably the worst when it comes to having effective meetings. There is a constant demand to meet up and stay informed rather than meetup to make effective decision & make progress.
Now, how do we hack the way we handle meeting so that we get productive and not get bogged down with meetings. Here are 6 ways:
- Manage volume: The biggest issue we have is with the sheer number of meetings we get invited to. Our corporate cultures have evolved into CC everyone on a email and this trickles into meeting invites as well. Always question, “Will I add value or derive value by attend this meeting? or Am I a key stakeholder that needs to be present?”. If not, simply decline/ignore a meeting. Many of us can eliminate about 30% of meetings like this.
TIP: Most calendar software tools let you color code a meeting. You can choose a color (say grey) for ignored meeting so that you have a clear picture of your day.
- Block out times: Yes you probably would have heard this a several times. But, it works if you do it smartly. You have to consider the following when you block times out 1) When are you most productive 2) Based on your work culture/situation when are meeting usually not setup for e.g., if you have remote team that you have meeting with during morning then probably early afternoon are better. 3) Block times in reasonable chunks AND assign it to a task or activity e.g., CodeIf someone sends you a meeting request for a blocked time you can safely decline and say you have a conflict. They will understand and work around your schedule if they really need you to be in the meeting.
TIP: Calendar software like MS exchange enable you to HIDE the meeting details of you calendar with your peers (i.e., you can show free/busy information without sharing all the details). This is a method to mask your blocked times.
- Demand clarity: To have a better meeting ask the meeting organizer to share the agenda of the meeting, what they want to accomplish and consider reducing the meeting duration if appropriate after they share the agenda. This enables you to make a better call and whethere you want to participate or not.
- Say NO! (it’s ok): As much as you think it’s ok to say NO and DECLINE a meeting. It’s often polite to include a comment on why you are declining e.g., I am busy in this tie slot. If the organizer really needs you they will reschedule.
TIP: Relationships are critical to being successful in any organization so, be aware of who the meeting scheduler is and make sure you don’t piss of someone by repeatedly declining that person’s meetings.
- Show-up & participate: Well you have done your homework and asked all the right questions : “Is this an Important meeting – YES, Has clear agenda/purpouse – YES, I’m available at this time – YES. Great show up, fully participate and make a difference.
TIP: It’s ok to remind the organizer that we have a packed agenda or less time to accomplish the things on the agenda so we will stay focussed and get it done.
- Show-up & tune-out: Yes there are cases where you have to show-up and cant avoid for various reasons (it’s your boss who set it up, or you already declined this person more than twice). Show up and tune-out and get busy with your laptop/phone. Alternately, you can bring your notebook to the meeting and start brainstorming, braindump of todo’s etc as well.
TIP: Writing code during a meeting is not actually effective as you wont be able to fully immerse yourself into it. So, I suggest attending to emails, social media or other tasks that require short bursts of attention.
The above ways are actually pretty easy to implement. You just need to try them for yourself and adapt them into your meeting lifestyle and it will make a difference.
What are your favorite tips to handle meeting overload – share them below?