Overcome meeting fatigue: 5 tips to streamline your schedule

By Kat Knights - writer, tutor and mentor at Professional Academy

Is your meeting schedule out of control? Are you spending more time working on other people’s projects rather than your own? If you’re in back-to-back meetings and feeling suffocated there is a solution. This blog will explain the key problems of having a busy meeting schedule and how you can make sustainable changes to give your working week a better rhythm. The result? You will have the energy to spend time on the things that really count.

The problem with meetings

Meetings in essence aren’t the problem, but the sheer volume of them can leave you feeling frustrated, tired and stressed. It’s all a matter of finding balance.

According to Harvard Business Review, research has shown that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years. In Europe, workers spend on average 23 days per year in meetings.

With remote working now the norm for so many of us, meetings have become the modus operandi for ‘getting things done’.

Do meetings really help us become more productive?

As already mentioned, meetings aren’t a bad thing, but spending the majority of your week in meetings is.

Too many meetings result in:

  • You being taken away from more important tasks

  • You feeling exhausted from always being in ‘perform’ mode

  • Eye strain from looking at a fixed point for extended periods of time

How to streamline your meeting schedule

Take a moment to look at your meeting schedule for the next two weeks. Are you spending more time IN them than OUT of them?

If the answer is, ‘yes’, here are some actionable tips to help you streamline your meeting commitments.

  • Tip 1 – eliminate

Remove meetings that are unnecessary. You might have been invited out of courtesy or because the meeting organiser wasn’t sure who to invite. However, if the meeting isn’t essential for you, you should politely decline the invitation. Re-frame the situation in your mind and focus on the value you will bring to your week by not attending.

  • Tip 2 – reduce

With the meetings that remain in your calendar decide which ones can be reduced in length and which ones can be reduced in terms of frequency. Work will always expand to fit the time available. If you can reduce a one-hour meeting by 15 minutes or change a weekly meeting to every two weeks, you’ll soon claw back precious hours of your working week. Outlook for Microsoft 365 has a great tool for reducing meeting length.

  • Tip 3 – batch

Consolidate all your meetings into one day or two half days. This will reduce task switching (moving from meeting mode to deep thinking mode and back again) and as a result will improve your ability to focus. As an added bonus you might find that some meeting invitations disappear altogether if they fall on a day when you don’t attend meetings.

  • Tip 4 – purpose

For each meeting you attend be clear on the overall purpose. You might need to check in with the meeting organiser to clarify this. With purpose brings clarity and productivity. It is also useful to re-state the purpose at the start of the meeting so that all participants remain focused and get value.

  • Tip 5 – move

Consider hosting your meetings standing up or if you are gathering face-to-face you could take a short walk together. Adopting a non-seated position provides a variety of benefits. It gives pace and helps people to think. Walking meetings can be particularly useful for removing status distinctions between people. Standing up and walking are also great for improving your physical health.