Calendar Clutter & Meeting Madness

It seems I’ve fallen off the radar this month and so have some of my colleagues.  Are we dodging the new Facebook?  Nope.  Now that mainstream media has let all our former classmates, family and coworkers know about Twitter, are we ducking our newest followers? Nope.

For me, it’s been March Meeting Madness. I log out of my calendaring application in the evening feeling relatively safe and sane, knowing I might be able to salvage a few productive hours in the proceeding days.  Then, I wake up, come to work, log in and find that overnight, some calendaring fairy—or a band of impish meeting happy academics—have sprinkled meeting dust all over my calendar.

So what’s a girl to do? I propose we all leave notes under our pillows (so to speak), as an incantation to ward off all the meeting-happy people who might be tempted to clutter up our calendars.  Please feel free to comment with some of your own tips as well:

Dear Meeting Imps,

We in higher education sometimes spend more time talking about what we’re doing and thinking about what we’re doing than actually doing it.  But sometimes action is necessary.

In the name of efficiency, I have the following suggestions:

  • Rethink standing meetings. What is the purpose? How frequent? Who really has to be there? What’s on the agenda?
  • Shorten the meeting by moving items off the agenda. What can be done before meeting? What can be done after?  What can be done in smaller subcommittees?
  • Include travel/down-time in scheduling an event. Even in the same building people need to walk from one location to the next, gather materials, take a break, check calendars, and leave previous meetings that may have run over time.
  • Understand how technology is being used in your meeting. How are people using technology? If they use technology to get information on demand, to document the meeting in real-time, or to assist the meeting in some other productive way, don’t discourage it.  If they are using it to get other non-meeting related work done or for personal business, you may need to re-evaluate how frequent you are having meetings or who really has to be at your meetings.

Please don’t take my word for it. Read Allan Gyorke’s blog post on the subject as well as the comments from the readers below.


NikkiMK, a.k.a. “Booked Until Retirement”

Photo “Meetings” by Pixarman

6 Responses to “Calendar Clutter & Meeting Madness”

  1. Says:

    Calendaring software — or at least Outlook — is inherently fascist. I hate it. But I’ve learned to use its evil powers to keep some meetings at bay. I block large chunks of time in my Outlook calendar for myself, so that I can actually write, think, catch up on projects, etc.

    Give it a try. Look at April and start blocking out huge chunks of time before the meeting fascists get to you. And then, use that time constructively to get the stuff done you need to get done.

    Good luck!

  2. Says:

    Great post! I’d add: 1. Make sure those you’ve asked to attend NEED to be there (can you update them later with mtg summary?), 2. Send out an agenda a couple of days in advance so requested participants can decide for themselves if they need to be there, 3. If mtg requests run amuck, take back calendar ownership so you have the power to question every meeting and be the master of your time.

  3. Says:

    I am taking a management class right now and we just watched a video on how to run a meeting / when to schedule a meeting etc. It was very informative in a way that was supposed to be fun. A guy was charged with being terrible at meetings in his dreams and it switched back and forth from meetings and a court room. If I remember the name I’ll stop back by.

  4. Says:

    We have started to give a ‘green score’ to elements of a meeting - the location, the room itself (equipment), the travel effects.

    If we fall below a certain score, the meeting goes ahead. If we dont, its reviewed by a senior manager who says yes or no.

    Works quite well for us…

  5. Says:

    @Andrew: Thanks! I’ll try to keep that in mind and create some “desk time” meetings for me to get things done by myself.

    @Christina: Great tips! I once had someone-who had a history of running long weekly team meetings-request laptop etiquette training because team members were working on laptops during the meeting. It took this person a few more meetings to realize that laptops were a symptom, not the problem. Meetings could be held less frequently, and people who did not need to be there could be excused from them. After that, the laptop problem disappeared.

    @Chicago: Send the video our way when you find it.

    @Office Space Guy: That’s a very interesting way to evaluate a meeting. Do you have a scoring system you can share with all of us?

  6. Says:

    Great post. The first step to getting meetings under control is to “just say no”, the second is to make sure that every minute of your day is in your calendar. Then you can honestly say that you don’t have time for something. Learn how here: