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Scheduling Lots of Meetings and Staying Sane

When you're on a meeting marathon, such as job interviews, student office hours, or prospect meetings, things can get hectic. Here's how to keep yourself sane.

By
Stever Robbins
July 30, 2013
Episode #275

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Take Notes

Then the ninth person said something I was sure would help an earlier caller, the second person of the day. Or maybe it was the third? Or was it the fourth? When you have a lot of meetings in one day, taking organized, careful notes is essential. Unless your mind is far superior to mine (a possibility deemed impossible by the world’s top brain scientists), keeping everything sorted out in memory is really tough. But with such a busy schedule. I’d never given myself a chance to consolidate my thinking.

Fortunately, it’s easy to take killer notes, so I grabbed a notebook and the rest of the day’s calls were neatly logged and labeled in my almost totally legible handwriting.

Scheduling’s a Bummer

That night, after the 16th meeting, I opened my email. Why? Because I’m a masochist with no self control. Inside was a message from the person who had canceled the 1:30 time slot, wanting to reschedule. There was also a message from the Zombie Reanimation Powder supplier, wanting to discuss my overdue account. I stared at my calendar. The next week was booked solid. That poor prospect would have to reschedule for a week in the future. And my supplier? No room for that call until the month after next.

The extra sneaky part is the great scheduling flexibility.

Something had to change. The day had been a logistical nightmare. Being popular should not be so much work. I saw the movie Heathers, back in the day. Heather didn’t have a problem scheduling once during the entire movie. Neither did Heather #2, or Heather #3. What was I missing? I stared at my calendar intently, neatly marked off in 1/2-hour blocks. Suddenly it came to me! What a sucker I’d been, what a fool. The answer was there all along. It took a small accident to make it happen. An accident.

Schedule Half Hour Gaps

The answer is simple. Trivial, even. Alternate 1/2-hour meetings with 1/2-hour gaps in my schedule. In one fell swoop, that solves all my problems. It gives ample time between each meeting for breaks. Now there’s time to drink, a time to undrink, a time to eat, a time to take extra notes and organize them. Even a time to do cardio and abs.

But wait, there’s more! Gaps give you a chance to respond to emergencies and do tiny tasks to let your brain recharge and recover. Plus more gaps means you’ll schedule fewer meetings per day, so you won’t be overwhelmed. It will take more days to get through the same number of meetings, but that’s fine. Trust me, you’d rather be conscious and semi-coherent for the meetings or they’re a waste of time anyway.

“Why can’t I leave just 5 minutes between meetings?” you ask. The answer is extra-sneaky. By scheduling 30-minute meetings, you encourage people to be on time and efficient. But leaving the larger gap, gives you the option of extending the meeting if needed (and everyone agrees, of course). All the benefits of efficiency plus the benefits of inefficiency.  

The extra, extra sneaky part is that half-hour gaps between 30-minute meetings give you great scheduling flexibility. You tell people about the meetings that start on the hour. You leave the half-past-the-hour slots open. If one or more people need to reschedule, you have many places to reschedule them on the same day or nearby days. 

When you’re scheduling meetings out the wazoo, alternate between scheduled meetings and unscheduled time. Use the unscheduled time to take care of yourself and your body, organize your notes, allow meetings to end a bit late if needed, deal with unexpected interruptions, and provide flexibility when rescheduling is needed.

For more on how to manage meetings and create systems to make your life function better, check out Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More

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