We all know we should avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings. For one thing, there’s the logistics of it. Logistics are even a problem when meetings take place over video chat — over run by a single minute and you’ll be late for your next meeting. Plus, you have no time to process information nor take a well-deserved break.
Unfortunately, you’re not always in control of your calendar. Even business owners often find that they sometimes have no option but to schedule one meeting after another. If you’re not careful, meetings can become a major source of stress. It’s important to take steps to prevent losing your mind.
1. Improve Scheduling
Whenever possible, avoid back-to-back meetings at all costs. Be realistic about how long a meeting is likely to take and schedule your appointments to have a break in between. If you’re in charge of a meeting, do your best to limit it to 30 minutes.
If you’re struggling to keep your meetings short, think about what you could cut. For instance, it’s common to have a roll call, which adds nothing to the meeting.
Most important of all, communicate with the participants of your meeting in advance and let them know how long you intend the meeting to last. Suddenly reducing the length of meetings without warning will ruin others’ schedules and may mean you end abruptly before everyone has had a chance to give their input.
2. Be Selective About the Meetings You Attend
The truth is that back-to-back meetings are often unnecessary. If you find that your schedule is packed with far too many meetings, think about whether you actually need to attend all of them. Will they provide you with any value or will they just make you exhausted?
When a meeting is worthwhile, the host should be able to provide a detailed agenda or specify an objective for why the meeting needs to take place. If the host is unable to do either, it may be best to postpone the meeting until you all have a better idea of its purpose.
Another factor to determine if you should attend a meeting is location. At the moment, most meetings are taking place on video conferencing software, which is great because it means you have no need to drive to a far off location. When the economy reopens, you should discuss if it’s actually necessary to meet in person or if you can continue to hold meetings through video calls.
Finally, think about whether it’s important for you to be at the meeting. Some meetings may be less important for you personally, but other people may be relying on you to attend.
3. Make the Most of Meetings
Sitting through a meeting you would have rather skipped and just gritting your teeth is unproductive. Besides, it’s usually possible to make even the most boring meeting worthwhile. At a minimum, make the effort to always participate — just make sure that you do add value. Avoid asking obvious questions that have everyone silently groaning simply to have an excuse to talk. Sharing interesting anecdotes, for instance, can lighten the mood and make everyone feel better about being there.
Another thing you can do is network. If there are people at the meeting you’ve never met before, take the time to introduce yourself and find out what they do. This is a great way to grow your business connections.
One last thing you can do is take notes. This will push you to focus and it will help you remember the most important parts later.
4. Avoid Multitasking
Everyone thinks they’re able to multitask. The truth is it’s impossible to focus on two things at once. During meetings, don’t try to catch up on other work. Your attention will be divided and it will be impossible to work to the same degree of quality, increasing the risk you make mistakes.
If the content of the meeting is boring, remember that for next time. If you’re invited to a similar meeting, see if you can send someone else in your place.
5. Prepare and Follow Up
You may feel like it’s a lot of effort to spend even more time on meetings by preparing in advance, but preparation helps to make meetings worthwhile. Just as important is following up right after you finish. This will allow you to make comments while they’re fresh in your mind and strengthen the connections with the people you met.
6. Strategize for Free Time
Whereas it may seem like meetings always last longer than you expect, it’s likely that (at least occasionally) a meeting may actually take less time. There’s also the possibility that a meeting could be canceled at the last minute. In either case, you need to have an idea of how you will fill this gap to make the most of your time.
One strategy is to have a list of less-urgent to-dos. Then, if you end up with any downtime, you’ll have something to work on.
7. Balance Meetings with Other Activities
To strike the right balance between meetings and other work, aim to make your calendar 50 percent meetings and 50 percent productive activities. (You can always pick a different ratio if 1:1 doesn’t work for you; just make sure you stick to it.) In the time you dedicate to meetings, including all related tasks, like preparation and follow-up activities.
When you have a week that is particularly packed with back-to-back meetings, make sure you prioritize work that is central to your business. Choose three tasks you need to complete that week and ensure they take precedence. This is important, as meetings may lead to new assignments. It’s easy to start thinking that the newest thing on your schedule is the most urgent — it’s essential you don’t forget about pending tasks.
If you’re finding it hard to fit other activities around meetings, schedule this other work early in the day. You’ll likely be too tired to complete it after your back-to-back meetings. Never allow yourself to take work home just because you attended too many meetings.
8. Listen to Music
Refresh your mind by listening to music whenever you can — between meetings, on your lunch break, even while working on other projects. Choose the genre according to your mood. For instance, if you want to relax, smooth jazz or classical music may be ideal. If you want to motivate yourself, pick something with a good beat.
Whatever music you play will put you in a better frame of mind and get you ready for your next meeting. Consider making some playlists when you have the time. Then, you can just turn the music on without needing to worry about searching for songs.
9. Keep Your Energy Levels High
Picking up your energy levels doesn’t mean drinking cup after cup of coffee. In fact, if you do that, you’ll end up more exhausted by the end of the day.
Instead, make sure you get enough sleep the night before meetings. Avoid activities that will keep you up late on weeknights — this includes watching TV or wasting time online. If you feel tired during the day, take a nap. In the case that’s not possible, at least schedule breaks where you’ll do nothing but relax. You could take a short walk, do some stretches, or meditate, for example.
Also pay attention to your diet. Start the day with a healthy breakfast that will keep you going through all your meetings. Consuming plenty of proteins is great for maintaining energy levels. During the day, eat healthy snacks like nuts, especially right before meetings. This will keep your blood sugar high and help you focus. Finally, make sure you eat a proper lunch — away from your desk to give yourself a proper break.
10. Use Productivity Apps
You can find tech to keep you productive, no matter the situation. Use tools to stay organized and on schedule, such as calendar apps, alerts, to-do lists, and project management software.
An alert app is particularly excellent during a meeting. A few minutes before the meeting is scheduled to end, set the app to send you a notification. This will remind everyone that it’s time to wrap up and you’ll finish on time — this could be critical if you have back-to-back meetings.
11. Take Your Mind Off Work
If you ever start feeling overwhelmed, do something unrelated to work. Check in with your family or message a friend — it will remind you that you have a life outside work. Just make sure to give yourself no more than a few minutes; otherwise, you’ll end up eating into valuable work time.
Meetings may be unavoidable, but there’s no need for them to be unbearable. By paying more attention to your calendar, you can weed out unnecessary meetings and create a schedule that is less stressful. And when back-to-back meetings are essential, at least approach them with a strategy to keep yourself sane.