Join Dave Crenshaw for an in-depth discussion in this video Clarify work time vs. meeting time, part of Managing Your Calendar for Peak Productivity.
- [Instructor] Meetings can help you be more productive. You can coordinate schedules, quickly learn new things, give information to coworkers, and outline important projects. However, they can also be a huge time drain, and prevent you from doing actual work if you're not careful. To find a healthy balance between meetings and actual work, it's helpful to create a budget in advance. Keep in mind that while I'll be using Outlook in this video, which has a variety of complex features for planning meetings, I'm only going to do things in the simplest, most universal way possible, so that it works with other calendaring tools.
Let's begin with the budget. How many hours per week should you be in meetings at most? How many hours should you be devoting to doing work? Let's start by figuring out how many work hours we actually have. We can set this up in the calendar by showing our start and stop times for work each day. For instance, right now it's set to stop at 5:00. I can change this often in most calendars in the settings. For instance, in Outlook if I go into Calendar appearance, it gives me the option to show what my workweek looks like.
I'm going to change this from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a 40 hour workweek. That lets me know that I should try to avoid scheduling things past the hour of 4:00 and try to start my workday at eight. Now, we have to figure how many of those hours should be devoted to meetings. As a general rule, we want to have about 20% of your time in meetings at most, and 80% devoted to work.
So that leaves us with about eight hours per week for meetings. What we can do is take the existing number of meetings that we have and subtract that from eight. So I've got one here, one and a half, two and a half. We'll call this a meeting, three and a half, four, and five. That allows me to have another three hours designated for meetings. We can create a schedule for this in advance.
You can do this in two different ways. You can say, here are the work hours when I'm going to focus on work, or here are the hours that I have available for meetings. I like to do it the second way, because it's a little cleaner on the calendar. So, let's setup a time where you're available for meetings. One thing that we can do sometimes in the settings of a calendar tool is go in and make sure that we show this time as Free. What that does is it means it's available in my calendar for people to schedule, but I keep it reserved in advance to help others and myself schedule it during the ideal time.
Let's say that I get an email invitation from Courtney. She wants me to meet on May 11th at 2 p.m. Now I look in my calendar, and I see, hey I'm available on May 11th at 2 p.m. But, that's really my work time. I designated a time where I'll be available for meetings. That's on Friday afternoons, so the first thing that I want to do is ask Courtney if she's available to meet during my meeting time instead.
That means I don't take the first invitation, I try to put people into that time. So, I might reply to Courtney, and say, something like this. I'm available anytime between one and four on Friday. Which time would be best for you? This helps me protect my work time and stay focused on my most valuable activities. Now, if we do this a little bit and it doesn't work out, then I might be flexible, but the main idea is that you first protect your work time and try to put meetings into this space.
The more you can respect and protect that designated work time, the more productive you'll be.
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- Recognize the pitfall of having too many calendars.
- Recall the benefits of leaving 15 minutes of cushion for each task during a busy week.
- Name the best ratio for meetings to actual work for the average person.
- Relate “time abhors a vacuum” to scheduling meetings.
- List what you should schedule during your maximum productivity hours.
- Explain how you should manage your calendar during the busiest time of the year.