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Quick Thought – The Scourge of Back-to-Back Meetings

Recently I had an experience that used to be pretty common but that I haven’t had in a long time. If I’m factual, I had two, but they were related.

They both had to do with meetings. In the first instance, I scheduled a meeting to gather feedback from a group of folks on our team. The conversation flowed, many excellent ideas were tossed around, and my mental synapses were firing when we finished. So much so that I paced around my home office as I talked to myself about ways to address some of the feedback and make some small but impactful changes, and then sat down to write out some of the details.

In the second instance, someone had scheduled a meeting with me to review potential updates to some documentation. About 15 minutes before that meeting started, I reviewed the document and made notes on sections that needed to be updated and how. The meeting then went very efficiently as we flew through my suggestions, and even though it wasn’t a long meeting, we got it done on time.

Both of these things might seem like normal behavior to you, but as I said, I don’t remember the last time I had the opportunity to do these things. Why? Because in both of these cases, I didn’t have another meeting to run off to or to distract my ability to prep for an upcoming meeting.

Don’t get me wrong. I would have still spent some time reviewing the document before the meeting, making notes, and mapping out plans after the other meeting. But because these were not in the middle of back-to-back meetings, I could do them and keep the flow through the process. I wasn’t filing it away in my brain and hoping I could fully recall it later. It was fresh.

It was better. It was better to set aside meeting time and meeting+ time to focus on the topic before moving on to the next meeting. Unfortunately, too many of us don’t get that opportunity. We’re spending our days leaving one Teams or Zoom meeting so we can join the next one. We never get to debrief ourselves while those synapses are still firing on the discussed topic. We all know that human brains are not built to multitask and that there’s a cost to the constant task switching that jumping from meeting to meeting represents, yet we all do it anyway.

These experiences showed me one thing, though.  We might have better, more productive, and more efficient meetings if we had fewer and allowed people time to prep before and download after.

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