Last month, Erin McCormick shared some excellent advice for overcoming meeting overload. Her advice primarily addressed what individuals can do to avoid spending too much time in unnecessary meetings. That advice is helpful, but even the best individual efforts won’t be enough if your firm’s meeting culture has gone haywire.
When meetings have taken over not only your calendar but the calendar of everyone in your department or firm, it’s time to rethink meetings on a firm-wide level.
That’s the situation we recently faced at Boomer Consulting. Our team was fully remote long before the pandemic made working from home the norm, and we’ve always considered video conferencing to be part of the glue that holds our culture together.
However, like most organizations, the hours we spend in meetings each week have skyrocketed in the last few years. We have meetings with clients and prospects, buddies, mentors and supervisors, all-team meetings, departmental meetings and committee meetings.
While we had some standards designed to protect our focus time and get work done, those standards weren’t being applied consistently. We decided it was time to take back control of our time company-wide.
During our recent Team Days, we discussed several recommendations to make meetings more manageable, leverage our calendars as communication tools, and regain some precious focus time. If your team is feeling the same tension around meetings right now, I’m sharing some of our recommendations.
Meetings are important and valuable — no doubt about it. But we need to minimize the time we spend in meetings while maximizing their benefits. The following recommendations can help you do just that.
No internal meetings on Tuesdays or Fridays
Setting default times for internal meetings at 15, 25 or 50 minutes to give ourselves buffer time between stacked meetings for coffee, stretching, breaks, etc.
Setting default times for certain client meetings to 25 or 50. However, we want to really consider whether meetings need to be 50 minutes, or the same results could be accomplished in 25.
Rethinking recurring one-on-one meetings. Rather than assuming they need to happen weekly, there should be a conversation between the two parties to decide on a time, cadence, and day that works.
Rethinking structure of all-team meetings. Everyone is tasked with adding updates to a Box Note prior to the meeting and marking their own agenda items as either “read-only” or “discussion.”
We don’t want people to feel like they can’t schedule longer meetings when needed, but we do want to make sure we’re putting intentional thought into what needs to be covered during each meeting and the time needed to accomplish it.
Calendars can be an excellent communication tool when you use them to block out focus time and let your team members know when you’re available. However, there needs to be a shared understanding of how you use your calendar. If people block out focus time, can someone else schedule a meeting during that time? What about personal tasks such as going for a run or having lunch?
Rather than having everyone follow their own processes for blocking out time on their calendars, we’re narrowing down the options for marking yourself as unavailable to only two categories:
Unavailable. Unavailable is focus time to get your work done without interruptions from calls and meetings.
Unavailable – Out of Office. This category covers other times you might not be available: doctor appointments, lunch, taking a yoga class – you’re physically not at your computer.
We all agreed to be responsible for our own time and calendars. If someone doesn’t feel like they can make a meeting, decline or propose a new time. We each need to set our own boundaries and hold onto them while also recognizing that some flexibility is necessary for getting the work done and moving projects forward in a timely manner.
Sometimes it’s nice to simply work alongside other people. It’s a way to connect with others while getting work done, and you can hold each other accountable for completing what you say you want to get done during that time. Our CollabLabs provide that connection and accountability in a remote team.
We’re holding two-hour-long CollabLabs on a bi-monthly basis. People can join if they’re available — no pressure! People can also schedule 1:1 CollabLabs if they want to hold each other accountable and collaborate.
Leveraging Technology Suggestions
We use Asana to manage projects and Sell to manage our sales process, and we believe we can cut down on the number and length of time we spend in meetings each week by better leveraging those tools.
Consider whether you can use Asana or Sell to communicate rather than scheduling a meeting or sending an email
Look into solutions for better scheduling automation
We’re hoping that by better leveraging the tools we have available, we won’t allow meeting overload to devolve into email overload!
These suggestions fostered some excellent conversations and ideas for better managing meetings and our time companywide. We decided to implement them for 60 days, then check-in and collect feedback from the team to see what’s working and what isn’t. Our Culture Club will also be actively discussing people’s feelings to ensure we protect our company culture with this shift.
Every member of our team agreed to try to bring a growth mindset to these changes. As a fully-remote company for more than five years now, we’re always looking for ways to improve working from home. The pandemic brought on new challenges, but it also offers opportunities for improvement.
Do you want to turn your firm’s new partners and managers into confident and capable leaders?
The Boomer Leadership Academy is a leadership development program designed specifically for new partners, managers, C-Suite professionals and administrators at CPA firms. Register now so the emerging leaders in your firm can begin performing at a higher level.
As a Solutions Advisor for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Megan works to provide the highest level of client service to existing and new clients through building and maintaining relationships. Her primary focus is on Vendor/Sponsor relationships. Megan is passionate about helping clients excel through Boomer Consulting Services.