As managers, we are the point of contact for our team members, so we need to attend a range of meetings to give them briefs, check in about projects and provide them with direction.
How to be effectual when your days are full of meetings
As managers, we are the point of contact for our team members, so we need to attend a range of meetings to give them briefs, check in about projects and provide them with direction. On top of that, we attend internal meetings with colleagues, other departments and senior management. And of course, we have to meet with suppliers, retailers, agencies, media representatives, and so forth.
So when the end of the day arrives, if we haven’t managed things properly, we may realize that we don’t have enough time for our own work. Time we need, for instance, to work on a long-term strategy, analyze business, write a report, make calls or answer emails. According to a Harvard Business Review article, 65% of managers say meetings keep them from completing their own work.
None of us want to be part of that statistic of overwhelmed managers. In this article, I will share ideas on how to overcome your worst day full of meetings. Of course there is no single best solution, but I will share some concrete examples where I, or others, have managed to overcome this challenge. And finally, I will give some recommendations for how to handle an overbooked meeting calendar, using some old tips as well some more modern ones available in the digital era, such as communication and collaboration tools.
Currently I manage a beauty box business, with various teams in sales, marketing, communication, social media, operations and more working under me. Also, while I work in France, I have a team based in the UK, which can add to the challenge of an overbooked meeting calendar. Nearly every day, I have meetings booked with at least one team member. On top of that, since we are a very flat structure and I am very close to my staff, people sometimes knock on my door for impromptu meetings that can last anywhere from five minutes to half an hour.
Often, when the day is over, I still have plenty of emails and tasks to deal with.
So how can we manage all our meetings? How do we make sure to spend the right amount time with the team while still having time for our own work? How do we use digital-era tools in order to optimize our time? Read on for my top five recommendations on how to be effectual when your day is full of meetings.
1. PRIORITY MANAGEMENT
People talk a lot about time management, but I like to talk about priority management. I worked with L’Oréal for 10 years (a very big corporation) and now I’m with a British online retailer (a smaller organization with a start-up culture), and the same challenges came up. We all have just 24 hours in a day! Whether you’re at the top, in the middle or at the bottom of an organization, it is crucial to manage your day properly. To do so as a manager, with all the meeting requests you might have, you must choose what to accept depending on the importance of the project, the size of the business and the priority, not only in terms of revenue but also in terms of timing. Let’s say you have 25 meetings in a week. Rank them by importance and priority using the idea of revenue and timing, and then attend or not as per the priority. The bad news is that you will sometimes have to say no. It is not easy, but learning to say no is key not only in business, but in your personal life too.
For more ideas about priority management, I would strongly recommend reading the book Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy.
2. LEARN TO DELEGATE
Because you will not be able to attend all the meetings, you need to learn to delegate. I am sure that in your team some people have more expertise on given topics (e.g. IT, marketing, legal, operations, etc.). Also some are more senior than others. So instead of attending all the meetings, send one or more of your team members to represent you and have them debrief you afterwards. By delegating, you also show them trust and empower them, and they gain confidence while learning.
3. TEACH YOUR TEAM TO BE SHARP
When your staff book meetings with you, teach them to be sharp and go straight to the point. I remember when I was on an international marketing team years ago. While I was still junior, we had to meet with the company’s worldwide division at least three times a year. My general manager taught me to always get straight to the point in those meetings; he was of senior level, had a very busy schedule and managed many brands, and he simply had no time to waste. Another general manager told me to always bring solutions and recommendations when I saw him rather than coming to him only with problems. The more you teach your team to be sharp and solution-oriented, the more time you will gain.
4. THINK, LIVE AND BREATHE DIGITAL
Nowadays we have many tools to help us save time. For instance, imagine you have teams within various cities in the same country, as I did for three and half years when I managed Lancôme in the UK. Your team may even spread across more than one country or continent. Obviously, it can be both time-consuming and costly to try to meet each separately. The good news is that with today’s communication and collaboration tools, we can still manage to meet or talk virtually while being productive. I have even seen some executive managers within Fortune 500 companies share their full year results live on social media. So today, more than ever, tools like Rainbow (the collaborative business application from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise) are essential to optimize our meetings.
5. MAKE TIME FOR YOUR OWN WORK
Finally, despite all of these ideas, we still sometimes need more time for our own work. An example that comes to my mind is from one of my colleagues who usually books herself out every Friday so she can deal with pending topics and emails. Myself, when I was managing teams in more than 15 different UK airports and shops, I took “admin days” every Monday. Because my role required my frequent presence in the field, I needed one day a week to go through my figures, make business recommendations, deal with various HR issues and plan for the coming weeks and months. Plus, nowadays, in the digital era, many companies are flexible with remote control. For instance, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, in the US, the UK and Germany almost 50% of managers are allowed to work remotely. We should use that flexibility, when and where possible, in order to have more time for our individual work. Fewer meetings in a day could mean more time to understand your own business and provide better direction. One of my managers once said to me, “Slow down to go faster!”
As I said earlier, there is no “best” solution to overcome an overbooked meeting calendar. But I hope all the experiences and ideas I’ve shared will help you be more efficient. By setting your own limits firmly, soliciting the support of your team members and using communication and collaboration tools, you can end the tyranny of endless meetings and make time for what you do best.
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