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How do people deal with meetings all day
15

How do people deal with meetings all day

How do people deal with meetings all day

(OP)
I've reached a career stage where it's not uncommon for me to have 4-6 meetings a day, at least for 2 or 3 days a week, often one hour each. How do people manage this? How do charge your time? It seems like people generally only budget for the meeting time (i.e. 1 hour meeting so they budgeted 1 hour of everyones time), but with meetings stacked up like this I basically find that (if I'm lucky to have gaps between the meetings) I basically have 15-20 minutes to prepare for a meeting before hand and 15-20 minutes to try and relax a bit afterwards, but certainly not enough time to actually do any productive work on another task.

I've been trying to decline meetings but then annoying PMs re-invite me or try and dial me in anyway.

Edited to say depending on the context of the meeting people also frequently try and have impromptu after meetings which fill up all the gaps between meetings (eg. if the meeting was between our team, a contractor, and a client, there might be an impromtu our-team only meeting immediately afterwards)

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

4
Touchy subject. Responses to this thread should be entertaining.

Here are some real-life stories of how I was trained for meetings / how I managed meeting time.

Early career: worked for efficient company run by Engineers. Harsh Professional environment, no prisoners were taken. Meetings were considered toxic necessity. We all quickly learned to schedule a meeting with a firm Agenda & goals to accomplish, then control & run the meeting to accomplish the Agenda. Failure to do so resulted in massive shaming and embarrassment.

Mid-career: Boss jacks me up for not meeting my deadlines. I accounted for my time in 15-minute increments for the next month. Charted the time data and presented to Boss. It showed I was using 40% of my available time in meetings and most were not needed. Boss removed me from attending most meetings.

Later career: worked for R&D firm with a bunch of Ph.D.s who loved to have meetings for no discernable reason. I couldn't get my tasks completed because of too many meetings, most of which had no relevance. I started declining meetings and upset a couple of Project Managers. I explained how relevant they were to me, and how relevant my presence in their precious ego-building and responsibility-spreading charades were. "You can't decline my meetings!" "Oh, yeah? Watch me (click)." But I started getting my stuff done and moving the projects forward faster than anyone else. Six months after my arrival, the company had a RIF in which I was retained and my entire team was fired.

Now: I'm senior enough to get away with assertive behavior. Meetings are toxic necessities that must be minimized. I charge meeting time + prep- & tear-down time to force someone to pay for minutes consumed. I decline every meeting that cannot demonstrate to my critical thinking skills why I need to be there. If someone wants me at a meeting, the need must be convincing and they must earn my presence there. Then pay for my time in some manner that reinforces the toxicity and high cost of meetings.

TygerDawg
Blue Technik LLC
Manufacturing Engineering Consulting
www.bluetechnik.com

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

(OP)
At a previous employer when I started declining meetings they made it so they could insert the meetings into my calendar without my being able to remove them

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Don't accept any meeting requests and just go to the ones that are relevant or you can't escape from (ex: CEO invites you).

In a typical week, I attend less than 50% of meetings that I'm invited to.

It has been working for me.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

I find that the meetings that are a waste of time, are the ones that critical people don't attend.
If you proceed without them (because they didn't attend the decision meeting), they halt the project and make people rework it to fit there viewpoint. Strangely these are the people that complain about too many meetings.

So we end up having several meetings, because one critical person did not attend.

Then again, attending useless meetings pays the same as piles of consultants review work, that was given with only 2 days to review. Crappy work results from inept project management, either way.

Yes I am one of the critical people. But things have improved since we can have meetings on-line. I can attend a meeting, while doing other things on a second computer screen.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

I don't get to lead many projects. Usually they keep me in the design seat because (as I was told) "anyone can make a Gant chart".

Last time, I started with some ground rules:
  • If you invite someone to a meeting, they should know why they need to be there.
  • Meetings start on time.
  • Meetings END on time! If meeting end time rolls past, you are entitled to get up and walk out without a word.
  • Every task assigned includes info on who needs it, when, and WHY. This helped give a sense of purpose.
Nearly all of our meetings ended early.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

In the world of remote work, I'd usually log on but barely pay attention and not talk and keep working. In the office, I sort of do the same thing except bring my laptop to the conference room or just sign into zoom/teams from my desk.

If you have to answer a question, you're there. If not, you can still get work done. It's worked for me so far.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Eat a lot of beans, they'll stop inviting you.

ctopher, CSWP
SolidWorks '19
ctophers home
SolidWorks Legion

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

(OP)
"anyone can make a gantt chart" certainly fits in with my theory that project manager / director type people could all be replaced with a python script that says 'yes sir' to whatever clients ask for; or maybe a minimum wage employee trained to wear a nice suit and say 'yes' constantly.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

BTDT. I've been in many roles where i needed to attend large meetings for awareness and to support rapid decision-making. Half of the day might be meetings where I speak <2 sentences. Ultimately you need to understand each meeting's rules to know if you can multitask or not, and insist that every meeting be well organized and run. Senior managers tend to like attention and frown at multitasking, so I avoid it when they're in the room. OTOH I multitask in many lower-level meetings or when virtually attending, many tasks like running CAD can be done with little/no thought. When multitasking the bill is split appropriately for that time. Every meeting should have a set agenda, be fast-paced, start/end on-time, have published minutes, and have an organizer backed by someone with real authority to address issues. There should be zero-tolerance for unprofessional behavior and if a skipped meeting or other behavior delays/affects decision-making then that incident needs formally addressed and documented by management and HR, no exceptions. If you think your presence isnt necessary in certain meetings then that concern should be addressed by the team, but nobody should be declining meeting invitations unless their calendar is blocked with legitimate business. I give juniors the same advice given me - send a meeting invite or email once, if ignored send another cc'ing myself and their supervisor to address the situation. What may seem an hour's waste to you could involve a critical 5-minute discussion or decision-point, so you have to prioritize the team over your own schedule.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

It's typical and accepted in my circle to block out time as unavailable for meetings. Also it's acceptable to declare one has a "hard stop" at a given time.

One client has "meet-less Wednesdays". Thursdays can get a bit crazy because of all the work that was accomplished.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

I worked at a company where meetings topics were typically hijacked from the main topic by several people to discuss non-relevant items. 5 minutes of real communications would be accomplished in 2 hours. Then they asked me to hold a couple meetings on a new product. I had the chairs removed from the meeting room. Meetings lasted 5 minutes. 5 minutes of communications was accomplished.

They never asked me to hold a meeting again.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Sigh. Endless meetings. Decline as many as possible, particularly those with no agenda. So pre-Covid would multitask on laptop in conf room. Now on zoom/webex, meeting goes on screen #2, phone goes on mute, work continues on screen #1 until need to actually interject something in the meeting.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

One place I worked it was not possible to put your phone on 'hold' to avoid calls. I asked the manager to enable that and he said that it was part of your job to take incoming calls. I found that if I dialed the office number the call was placed in some kind of a stack of phone numbers. If I put the call on hold, my phone was 'busy' and the message immediately went to recording.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

You also want to limit the size of meetings to four or five individuals.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

For vehicle programs that share a common platform but have different teams working on variants the project engineers have a rolling meeting where you can dial into the the bit about your particular model at a certain time. This means there's a core of people who are there for most of the meeting, (and so can spot generic issues), but lets the rest of us get on with our real work. It isn't too painful. It does mean that if variant 3 has no particular issues then there's a bit of a thumb twiddle until variant 4 dials in, in theory, but compared with 80% of the participants zoning out (or more likely working while listening with half an ear) waiting for 'their' bit it is a lot better.


Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Sadly, often the only way to get important info out of clients is when they call a formal meeting to discuss a particular topic, and you take the opportunity to raise all the questions on other topics on that they have ignored in your previous e-mails etc.

But from experience I know it may be very different for the "corporates", where holding a meeting is seen by some as "ticking off a box", and an accomplishment in its own right.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

2
So if these meetings are internal, you have many options. First and foremost, if your company has a culture of low-performance / high-cost meetings, work with leadership and develop meeting policies. Such as: 1) Agenda is mandatory. 2) Decisions to be made, must be stated in the agenda. 3) Allow individuals to handle their part of the meeting off-line and in advance so they can decline the actual meeting when it makes sense. 4) Any attendee who does not tie directly into a decision in the meeting, is listed as optional. 5) Ensure that meetings are being scheduled with respect for existing meetings - e.g. not allowed to invite a person as a mandatory attendee if they are already booked during that time period.

If your company is resistant to improving the value of meetings, or has leadership that violate the best practices that lower employees must observe, just leave. There is no hope for that kind of leadership and inefficiency.

If these are client meetings, it's harder to control.

The waste and exhaustion in the remote work era is much different than before, but certainly the issue is real. If you can give more specifics perhaps we can talk in better detail.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

geotechguy1,

Zoom meetings are great. If the meeting does not seem to be your department, you resume working, and you monitory the conversation over your headphones. If it gets interesting, you go back to paying attention.

--
JHG

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

geesaman.d - your point 3 is exactly why agendas are good - and I do what you have suggested. So often I'll circulate a document solving whatever it was we were supposed to be nattering about. At the least it provides a foundation for discussion, usually it means things get done my way, more or less.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

I wish I had a better way to deal with things other than by using meetings.

I'm often in meetings where:
people finally reveal that they have a roadblock of some sort (why didn't they speak up earlier?)
people that are supposed to be working together finally talk to each other (which one doesn't know how to use a phone?)
people haven't looked at the project outline in so long they forget what they're doing (how do you open a PDF?)
people wait 4 business days, until the next weekly meeting, to ask me a question (what are they waiting for?)

And please for the sake of everyone's sanity STOP reading the agenda word-for-word in front of everyone. If the audience didn't read it before coming, serves them right.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

(OP)
WindRight - half the meetings I go to don't get past the first point or two on the agenda before devolving into discussion about nonsense. The ones that do stick to the agenda are the meetings that are the most pointless I've found: typically they consist of a PM asking for information / updates that can only be answered by one person (i.e., the entire meeting could have been replaced with a series of 3 minute phone calls to the individuals, or a series of emails)

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

4
There are organizations that have good meeting culture (and generally good communication culture). I've been fortunate to have worked at a couple.

Most have written or unwritten but still-enforced ground rules such as:
  • Enough with the "FYI" already.
  • Only invite who you need.
  • New topic = new agenda = new meeting. See you then.
  • Settle things in as small a circle and as low a level as possible.
  • Call a meeting for help. Attend a meeting to help.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Excellent points, Tick... the first two being the big ones, and the third one, if the 'right' people don't attend.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Be an ass! Speak up and let them know that the meetings are more of a waste of time than a complement to production.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Quote:

"anyone can make a gantt chart" certainly fits in with my theory that project manager / director type people could all be replaced with a python script

JMO but sounds like your PMs suck. PMs should be the most efficient meeting organizers a company has bc their primary role is to be the data-analytics nerds studying the process to ensure everyone is working fast and efficient, they're a far-cry (a MS really) from a glorified secretary puking out Gantt charts. If your company has an issue with wasteful meetings then their dept should be jumping on desks waving statistics showing the cost of poor efficiency, they shouldn't be a source of the problem.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

One office I worked in held meetings around a large drafting table, with no chairs. It helped keep them short and to the point.

My glass has a v/c ratio of 0.5

Maybe the tyranny of Murphy is the penalty for hubris. - http://xkcd.com/319/

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

I find meetings are like phone calls. Sometimes you can ignore them, decline them, and they just go away without you. I get 10-15 calls a week, from known people that I usually let goto voicemail because Im in the middle of something. Amazing how few actual voicemails I get.

Same with meetings, just decline a few. If they really want you there, they will reschedule.

RE: How do people deal with meetings all day

Two of the most important reasons to have a meeting are 1) review the progress the attendees made since the last meeting and then plan the next steps, especially those that are connected or 2) to communicate something everyone needs to hear at the time (with Q&A.)
Insist on an agenda for every meeting you attend. If you arrive and there is no agenda, leave.
The agenda should have start/stop times for each item. Stick to that.
If you are the meeting organizer, make sure you model the right behavior of creating an agenda.
Working meetings are effective if you have a small number of attendees who are knowledgeable on the topics.

Most management books, advice, podcasts, blogs, etc., are nonsense. But Manager Tools.com has some excellent advice on a variety of topics, including how to plan and run effective meetings.

Doug

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