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Back-to-back Meetings Are Killing Us – 5 Tips For Sanity

Let’s break out of the mold which structures 30 minute or 1 hour meetings. They don’t have to be that way. For instance, how about a 10 or 20 minute meeting? If it must be a long one, try 50 minutes vs. 60 minutes. Why?

We need a break

Even before WFH (work from home), these back to back meetings were brutal. No time to collect thoughts, get a water, eat lunch, stretch or just do some of your own work. I recall clients complaining that they had to sprint from one meeting to another across the campus or race to elevators to get to meetings. This resulted in them always being late and missing the beginning of meetings. 

What an awful way to feel, always on the run, unprepared and definitely not poised.

Now, being at home, are you scheduling on the hour without caring about yourself or your coworker’s needs to get fully ready for the next meeting? This hurts all of us. Not having time to reflect after a meeting or get prepped for the next one leaves us exhausted, frazzled and foggy. By the end of the week you may not even know which end is up. The stress on your body, mind and spirit will take a toll. You need time to collect your thoughts, send that email, write that report. 

Pre Covid, we may have hated the commute but at least it gave us a chance to call friends, family, listen to music or podcasts and even reflect on the day. Now the commute is 10 steps from the office to the kitchen to start dinner. Now you go from heavy topics to needing to tend to your family, pets and their neediness.

Five tips for sanity:

  1. Do yourself and others a favor and schedule break times in between. I have started scheduling at 10 minutes after the hour to give folks a break. Transition time is the thinking, resting, nourishing time. 

  2. Experiment with creating tighter agendas and shortening meetings. It will force you to preplan, stay on task and get clearer on your expected outcomes instead of winging it. Meetings will run faster with more focus.

  3. Give yourself 75% of the time for the meeting. “The job expands to fill the time” is Parkinson’s Law. I bet you will finish it in the shorter time. For example, plan 45 minutes for the old 1 hour meeting.

  4. When you finished the last meeting, do your follow up work right then, do not schedule it or write it on the to-do list. Seize the moment and do it immediately.

  5. Get up and stretch, take a walk outside, drink water, plan your lunch ahead of time so you can grab it and perhaps eat with a family member or eat outside.

  6. Keep camera on for video calls when possible. If you must stretch, or eat, turn camera and sound off for a few minutes. No one wants to watch you eat. Remember to come back to the group with video and unmute when you are done with your short break. 

  7. Do away with update meetings. They are for the you, the leader anyway. Have people share with you in another way. Reserve meetings for discussions, problem solving and innovation. More energy will be generated and your people will thank you.

What tips do you have to share?


If you would like support in this area, message me here. I coach executives and senior managers on being more effective in communications, collaboration and influence.


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