Reclaiming Your Time

In an ever-shrinking world, we continue to invent ways to make it smaller.  I’m always amazed when I dial into a conference call and notice six of the eight attendees are in the same office but prefer to sit in their cube over collaborating in a conference room.  Perhaps that’s just the Gen-Xer in me?  Some estimate employees spend north of 20 hours a month in meetings.  This does not include the time spent preparing for or recapping the meetings.  I scratch my head and question the value proposition.  Jabra did a study that revealed over 51% of respondents thought meetings were a waste of time if they didn’t have a clear agenda.  They also noted that a lack of planning, follow up and results contributed to their frustrations with meetings.

I’ve only recently discovered I am an extrovert and perhaps that is why I maintain my MBWA ‘Management by walking around’ methods.  I love to get out of my office and engage face-to-face.  I’ve never regretted the walk from one side of the office to the other, or even the flight of stairs to spend time with those on the floor below.  These walks often inspire me and frequently lead to coaching opportunities.  In fact, I regularly come across activities that stir my professional discontent (Stolen from Bill Hybels thoughts on “Holy Discontent”).

One such walk led me to view a key leader’s calendar.  Just looking at the dozens of colored boxes made me physically ill.  I honestly had a visceral reaction that made me very uncomfortable.  I started to wonder: “When do you have time to get work done? When do you have time to think?  How will you ever solve the problems of the day if you can’t get out of the overwhelming number of meetings you have yourself locked into?”

On one of my MBWA sessions, I found a team member with a wireless headset microwaving coffee in the kitchen while on a call.  Everyone has experienced the person who forgot to put themselves on mute before opening a bag of chips and disrupting the meeting with their incessant crunching or the team member with the lead tipped fingers pounding out emails or IMs during the meeting.  The one that takes the cake is the team member that proceeds to log into the social media account not realizing they are still sharing their screen with the rest of the participants.

I recently conducted a three-part coaching series on “Reclaiming your time.”  The message was quite simple: If you can multitask while on a meeting, then you don’t need to be there.  A study out of the University of London indicates as much as a 15 point drop in our IQ when multitasking.  I don’t have 15 points to spare. Do you?2

I empowered my team to challenge why they were attending the meeting.  To make sure the agenda supports the employee's need to participate and makes good use of time.  If they can’t see the value, challenge the meeting organizer.  Make sure there is a need, and they weren’t just part of a blanket invitation (we all get those).  If there is no clear need, then feel empowered to decline respectfully.  

Reclaim your time.  Declining a one-hour meeting a week would yield over 300,000 hours of productivity back to a company of our size every year.   What could we do with 300,000 extra hours a year?  Innovate?  Engage in meaningful ways?  It could be revolutionary.

Works Cited

1Workers find meetings a waste of time: Study. (2015). Enterprise Innovation, Retrieved from

2Tate, N. (2014, October 8). Multitasking Lowers IQ: Stanford Study. In