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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

A New Method to Reduce the Insane Number of Meetings You Attend

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Like you, I’m a busy professional. So, I'm always on the lookout for new time management strategies to assess and improve how I spend my days.

In a recent interview with Slate, Dave Gilboa, the co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, shared a great technique that serves as both a reflection tool and an impetus to future action:

And at the end of each week I try to look at my calendar and review all the meetings that I had that week and rate them zero, one, or two. Zero means it was a really bad use of time and, if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have attended that meeting at all. Two is a great use of time—I wanna spend more of my time in those types of meetings. And one is somewhere in-between. And then I’ll connect with my assistant and make sure she understands which of those meetings I want more of and which ones could be filtered out so that hopefully over time my schedule becomes more and more productive.

Now you don't need an assistant to put this tip to work—instead, print out your schedule from the past week and rate your meetings. (Or, if you’re in a paper-less office, just throw it in a Word doc.)

The great thing about this technique is that it allows you to track the value of the time you've spent in meetings. Are you getting mostly twos or mostly zeroes? If you answered the latter, ask yourself a few questions to see if you can find a pattern (or two):

  • Did they tend to be big or small?
  • Was there an agenda sent out beforehand?
  • Was there a clear leader?
  • Did it take place in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
  • Was it in person?
  • Is this a weekly update meeting?
  • Was there an email that went out afterward that accomplished more?

Trends may appear where you notice that meetings with larger groups are less useful to you; or that anytime you met before 10 AM, you didn’t retain anything; or that your weekly session with a colleague only led to discussing office gossip.

With these insights, you can work on adjusting your schedule going forward and making the most of your time in the office. In fact, there may even be opportunities for you to cancel upcoming appointments going forward if you determine that they never add any value. Or, if you’re feeling really experimental, try something new—like a standup meeting or simply sending out an email in lieu of meeting face to face.

I'll be trying it for the next few weeks to see how it works—and you should, too! Tweet me at @acav with your results.

(Oh, and P.S., if you like the sound of what Gilboa said, Warby Parker’s hiring!)