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Plays of the month: Cut your meeting time for a healthier work-life balance

Kristen Roth Atlassian Team May 21, 2021

How has your meeting schedule been lately? Chances are, your calendar has been exploding with them. You may have heard by now that our Confluence team is on a mission to help you go meet-less. 

meet-less.png

Well, the Team Playbook Team has a few Plays to help get you there. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Roles & Responsibilities: How many times have you attended a meeting you didn’t need to be a part of? Running this Play will clarify your team members' individual responsibilities and help shine some light on who really needs to attend which types meetings, and when.

  • Goals, Signals, and Measures: Set project goals so your team knows where you're headed, define signals so you know you're on the right path, and determine what measures you'll use to know when you've reached your destination. Starting everyone off on the right foot will help those “Quick Sync” meetings become a thing of the past.

  • "Get $#!t Done" Day: This one’s simple—create dedicated space in your schedule for deep work. Productivity and morale suffer when you're constantly being interrupted. Keep your team afloat by taking a day off from meetings, emails, and calls.

We know what you’re thinking… yes, most Plays ARE meetings, but, running one of them means having fewer unnecessary meetings later on.

Which Plays in your arsenal help your team cut down on meetings?

24 comments

Jack Brickey Community Leader May 24, 2021

After many years managing teams and fraught with a lot of meetings I have learned to make them more effective and often do away with them entirely. I look for ways to consolidate meetings if the agenda and contacts are so similar which would drive the same audience.

Like # people like this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team May 24, 2021

Wow! Sounds like you're a meet-less pro, @Jack Brickey ! wink

I've realized that the so-called "meetingoza" can be stopped by simply asking questions:

  • Why do we need to organize the meeting? 
  • What we would like to get from this meeting (ideally establishing the meeting outcome).

Quite often we're in a habit of making meetings, yet more and more of them, without actually reflecting whether this is needed or not.

Also it's up from the culture of the organization. It's weird not to have a calendar fully booked right? :) so there's this tendency to put and more and more.

On the contrary, it becomes very important for well-being, healthy balance, and productivity to actually learn to say NO and be diligent in assessing which meetings I should go to or not.

I love the play about Get sh... done :) for the healthy balance and the one about goals and signals - how we will recognize that we've achieved what we wanted/needed from the meeting.

Plus something I've observed often is that meeting participants talk in different language they try to resolve the problem, but the problem was not clarified in a way that consolidates people around exactly, one and only and the same, single problem.

Like # people like this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team May 26, 2021

Such great points here, @Eva Kasiak. Do you carve out time for regularly-occurring GSD days?  

Mohammed Amine Community Leader May 31, 2021

clients are triggering meetings for everything. in my case it is difficult to avoir them since proposing alternatives are not appreciated !! 

Like hakeem_olasupo likes this

It is really hard to avoid meetings when you work in a traditional company, but it is not impossible... Using asynchronous communication work groups have been helping a lot. 

Like # people like this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Jun 30, 2021

We're glad to hear this, @Fabricio Carvalho! Can you explain more about the work groups? How do they work?

Hi @Kristen Roth ! We use chat rooms / fixed channels for specific subjects and channels so that staff interact more freely. I think the chat rooms/channels alone don't solve the problem itself, the agreement made on how to use them has been the most important thing. They should be used for asynchronous communication, everyone should know that rooms do not require immediate attention and response as this takes a lot of time. "Poking and Prompting" someone about a task, for example, takes time from the requester, and takes people away from the real work, more productivity loss. Updates should be made in the project board, Jira Kanban for example, and should be enough to know how things are going. It's not perfect, but I keep believing :-)

Requires culture and mindset changes effort...

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Jul 06, 2021

"the agreement made on how to use them has been the most important thing." game changer right there! It's so important to come to an agreement on communication rules. Kudos to your team for doing that, @Fabricio Carvalho! Reminds me of an awesome article on our Work Life blog!

Like Fabricio Carvalho likes this
DPK J Community Leader Jul 01, 2021

Meetings are killer, I spend almost 7 hours per day in them.

But I'm trying to bring people on Confluence page to discuss and clear item on ad-hoc basis.

Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Jul 01, 2021

7 hours per day is a. lot! Great idea, @DPK J! How has it been going with the Confluence pages?

DPK J Community Leader Jul 02, 2021

Confluence pages are real help in this scenario.

Like Kristen Roth likes this

I agree with Jack that cutting meetings is only half the battle, you also need to make the meetings you do have better. I highly recommend the magical meetings guide: https://www.amazon.com/Non-Obvious-Guide-Magical-Meetings-Guides/dp/1646870263

Like Kristen Roth likes this

Sometime it is difficult to reduce the number of meetings, but you can certainly cut down the time by running them efficiently.

Use document management to share and solicit information.

Request attendees to do the home work and provide feedback offline when possible

Use meetings mostly to make decisions.

Like # people like this

Great thinking ^^

Like Kristen Roth likes this

@Kristen Roth thanks for the resources. We've recently established a sort of "Just Say No" policy if you feel that your time would be used better elsewhere with meetings. It has really helped me on a personal level and I know many of my colleagues feel the same. 

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Jul 21, 2021

@Martin Keane Ahh just knowing you have the freedom to do that must feel amazing. Sounds like a great policy and I'm glad to hear it's helping you and your team! 

Like Martin Keane likes this

That's definitively a great thing about the company where I work. If I consider I shouldn't be part of a meeting, that's ok, and if I'm interested in the content, I will request to record the meeting to listen to it later. 

Like Kristen Roth likes this

Fortunately my team is self-learner and independent and take up the tasks before hand and we avoid as many as meetings possible.

Like Kristen Roth likes this
nina_schmidt Community Leader Jul 31, 2021

I think it depends on the one hand with which "members you have meetings" and on the other hand "how are they self structured" (like @Manish Bannur wrote) and meeting efficiency is the key (@Jack Brickey

but for sure it's worth a try! 

Like # people like this
Hana Kučerová Community Leader Aug 02, 2021

I'm curious - why so many meetings are still so poorly handled? The best practices are well known after all and there are so many great study materials about this topic, this should not be so difficult... What do you think? Thank you.

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Aug 02, 2021

I wonder this, too, @Hana Kučerová . Maybe it's partly a "This is the way we've always done it." mentality?

Like Hana Kučerová likes this
Hana Kučerová Community Leader Aug 02, 2021

Sometimes it also seems to me it is a vicious circle - they have so many meetings, they don't have time to prepare for the others...

Like Kristen Roth likes this

I think the emotional and work relevance factors are part of the problem either at some level... After all this migration to remote office some people are missing the interation, or there is some level of insecurity of work visibility, that makes people to arrange all this 1+hour meetings with no actual structured agenda...

But as I said, this is not the main problem, but it contributes for the amount of pointless and poorly handled meetings.

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Aug 03, 2021

For sure, @Fabricio Carvalho. There are many contributing factors, many of which existed before remote work became more of the norm. 

Thanks @Kristen Roth  for sharing. I must say this reminds me 'My Analytics' notification in Outlook 365 showing Ability to Focus and Collaboration time. I think it's always crucial to have a perfect balance between these two factors. I try to maintain 70-75% for Ability to Focus and 25-30% for Collaboration.

I love the concept of 'Meet-less Workflow Culture' and still making the most out of it. I believe there would be more followers to the culture,

Cheers

Suvradip

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Aug 03, 2021

That sounds like a really great balance of focus and collaboration time, @Suvradip Paul !

Like Suvradip Paul likes this
Alex Koxaras Community Leader Aug 05, 2021

Thank you for sharing this @Kristen Roth! Unfortunately qw haven't try any, but it would be interesting to give it a go! :D

Like Kristen Roth likes this

I'd add that just because you receive a meeting invite, doesn't mean you need to attend. If the objectives of the meeting aren't clear, ask what they are before accepting.

Also don't CC people on a meeting invite. There's no point. Think carefully about who you invite, and if you're not sure, ask. Don't invite the entire team if only one person needs to attend.

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Aug 11, 2021

Excellent points, @Colum McAndrew !

great article! We follow "Focus week" (no meetings) - I get soo much work done during that time!

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Sep 08, 2021

Thanks for reading, @Aswin Achuthan! Wow! I bet you do! That sounds great!

Benjamin Community Leader Sep 07, 2021

Thanks for the Article @Kristen Roth .

 

1. Cross-Check the purpose/goal of the meeting. find that routinely schedule meetings sometimes go on when there's nothing urgent/valuable to go over. Informed the host to update to change the cadence or cancel them all together till there is a need. 

2. Is there sufficient context to drive decisions? This at times leads to no decision because there's not enough info to make informed decisions.

3. Empower to decline meeting if there's no added value to be there.

 

-Ben

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Sep 08, 2021

All three of your points are excellent, @Benjamin 👌 Thank you for sharing! 

Although the pandemic has subsided and every day we are better thanks to the vaccines, the meetings are still hell for me
I have days of 6 and 7 meetings, there is no time to work, it is exhausting

Like Tina Behers likes this
Esme Crutchley Community Leader Sep 24, 2021

I have client calls that last 1-2 hours and I have an agenda for each one. I try, as much as I can, to stick to it and follow the following routine:

  • Tell them what you're going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you told them

This means, when they get the Zoom recording they know exactly what the meeting was about (because I also add it to the name!). Doing this means that even if I have a client meeting booked for 2-hours, sometimes it doesn't take that long. Brevity is respect, but don't go so fast that the client can't keep up!

Like # people like this
Fabian Lim Community Leader Oct 02, 2021

I would always ask the person who schedules the meeting to put a clear agenda. Most of the times, when the objectives are clear the meetings end early and in other cases, they can just be answered via email and no need to waste other people's time.

Like Kristen Roth likes this

I still see that many people -  very often in management roles - just love to have meetings because they can very often just walk in, listen to inputs prepared by team members, quickly make a decision or delegate a couple of tasks and be assured that someone (else) from the team will make and distribute proper meeting notes.

There's not a lot of managers I know that are ready to have this replaced with a written form of communication where they suddenly have to do a lot more themselves, spread across a longer period of time.

I can see a decent challenge in helping specifically the management layer of organisations to see the benefits of asynchronous work, despite the fact that this requires change to their ways too.

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Tina Behers Community Leader Oct 19, 2021

I have done "No Meeting Mondays" for a while now, it's a great way to provide yourself a day of focus to "get 'er done" :D 

As a manager/leader in an organization, it is important to stress this to others (IMHO) AND as a leader ensure they don't get bullied by others to break that time for "emergency meetings"  ... unless you're a doctor/nurse and someone will die if you don't attend the meeting. :D 

Like Kristen Roth likes this
Andy Gladstone Community Leader Dec 09, 2021

@Kristen Roth getting back to some older content and found this one that I never clicked in to. Thank you for the content and ideas - I am in desperate need of HELP!

As part of an organization that utilizes Office365, I get a weekly email showing me how I spent my time - and it's always depressing and unhealthy! Way too many meetings!!! There are days when I hit the trifecta - Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. Then there are the days that I hit a grand slam - by adding in a dreaded WebEx meeting as well! If I had more hair, I'd be pulling it out! 

I need these plays and will be committing to putting them into practice as I look at how my days, weeks and months should look going into 2022.

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