Meetings, for many of us, are a major source of our productivity problems. Too long, excessively vague, possibly entirely unnecessary -- problems with meetings are one of the most frequently covered office issues here on Inc.com.
But what if instead of thinking of meetings as a relentless timesuck to be constantly monitored, pruned, or reformed, you instead thought of them as something necessary but slightly out of control, something to corral and tame rather than avoid? What if instead of trying to eliminate meetings, you just tried to eliminate their potential for distraction?
Why not try a meeting marathon?
That's what Modular Robotics CEO Eric Schweikardt recently tried to do with a simple but profound change to how he organized his schedule. On the blog of his company, he shared the results of his radical rethink of his approach to meetings: Rather than try to keep one day a week clear of meetings in order to engage in deep, thoughtful work, Schweikardt decided he'd move all his get togethers to a single day, leaving him four days for his own projects rather than one.
This idea came from VC Brad Feld, who sits on the board of Schweikardt's company. "I explained how for the past couple of years I've kept Wednesdays clear on my calendar, usually worked from home, and used it as design/writing/solo-thinking time because the other four days get consumed with collaboration," Schweikardt explained to the board, but lately "the collaboration days had gotten so busy, that Wednesdays had turned to email and administrivia catch-up days." Just "flip the ratio" of collaborative to focused work, Feld suggested.
The key benefits.
How has Schweikardt's first experiments with nine hours straight of meetings worked out? Great, he reports (though he notes he's blessed to meet mostly with collaborators he enjoys chatting with). He claims to love the new arrangement and to have already noticed several key benefits besides the prospect of far more uncluttered time to really think deeply about his work.
For instance, he doesn't expect to make headway on his personal projects during his all-meeting days, so he is not disappointed at how little he gets done on those days as he was when he tried to mix concentration with collaboration throughout the week.
"Having all of those meetings back-to-back made it easier for me to see a few trends," he also notes. "If the meetings had been spread throughout the week, I might not have noticed that multiple people were worried or nervous or thinking about a couple of problems that we should probably address directly and together."
Could corralling all your meetings into a single day have similar benefits for you?