How can you book meetings without killing productivity?

There is nothing more hated in the IT world than being dragged into a meeting.

How many times have you been pulled into a meeting that felt useless? And why do they always seem to happen when you are in the middle of something?

Should you even meet?

Well, that depends. I know. I know. That’s not the answer you wanted. It really depends on what needs to be done. I like meetings as a forum that helps with face to face communication. For example,

I like having a daily stand-up with my teams. They are short (around 5 minutes) and it’s a nice way to start the day. Together we review where we are and what is paining us the most. It starts the momentum for the rest of the day.

Every case is different, and you should take it on a one by one basis. If you think that there is no way you can spark a discussion without dragging everyone into a meeting room. Well, maybe you have no other option. Just don’t get into the pitfall of meeting just to meet.

There are some meetings that should never happen (and I have been in these ones):

  • Meeting to plan the plan. Just come up with a plan. Should we also plan the meeting to plan the plan? Planception
  • Any meeting with more than 10 people. It’s impossible that 10 people are truly needed for that meeting, and at least half are wasting their time.

There is an exception though. Town hall meetings, or all hands meetings. These are more public forums than meetings. The purpose is to inform everyone at the same time.

  • Any meeting longer than 1,5 hours. If you really need time, do prep work before and reduce the time you will waste from other people. Also, people start zoning out after 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you must, put a break in the middle.

If there is no other way, we need to be very careful with

Context switching

The first thing I try with my teams is to look at the meetings recurrent meetings calendar. If you have a meeting in the middle of the morning, that cuts away your most creative time. Why not book that meeting closer to lunch time? There is already a block there that will kill your flow.

If you have a team of developers working together and they are “in the flow”, the worst thing that can happen is to cut that. So why not book your meetings around times you already know an interruption will happen?

Changing context is very costly on the brain, it takes time and mental power to move from one task to another. On average, it takes around 15 minutes to get “in the flow”. If you have at least one meeting in the morning, in the middle of the day, it’s 45 minutes gone out the window. 15 minutes when you arrive to do what you do, 15 minutes to get into meeting mode, 15 minutes. to get back at what you were doing.

And the worst thing is when you have a meeting that ends 30 minutes before lunch. There is no way that after the meeting you will pick up your work back and not just fantasize about lunch.

So it’s a must. If you cannot run away from the meeting, how can we prevent context switching? What is

The best time

My favorite is around lunch, either before or right after.
This way we prevent taking someone out of their seat in the middle of a task. It can still happen, but it’s much less likely.

If you need creative work, the best way is to do it in the morning (if you are an early riser). Meetings that need a more analytical view are better to conduct in the afternoon.

If we follow these guidelines we can help prevent time loss. We can make our work and our lives more productive. We can make a difference.

Do you have any tips and tricks you’ve used before?



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