Marie Kondo Your Calendar

 
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Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. Spring is in the air. With the change in seasons comes the annual tradition of purging our homes of things that we accumulated over the long winter. In recent years, the mantra of popular organizing consultant Marie Kondo has become the go-to standard for those looking to simplify. Her advice is to look at each item in your home and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If the answer is “no,” that item goes. It is time for the busy executive to do the same thing with their calendar. While the benchmark for calendar cleaning may not be “joy” (board meetings are rarely joyous events but we still have to go), there are a few questions you can ask about each meeting on your calendar to slim things down.

Does meeting serve a purpose?

Many meetings in our corporate lives are little more than status emails read aloud. If the entire purpose of a meeting is to go over the status of something that could be accomplished via email, or better, a dashboard. It is time for it to go. Meetings should be used to solve problems or make decisions. If no decision is made or problem solved, there really wasn’t a reason to meet.

For weekly meetings, I like the Level 10 meeting format from The Entreprenurial Operating System. In a 90 minute meeting, it allocates 5 minutes for going over a dashboard and 60 minutes to its issue solving process (Identify, Discuss, Solve). Your meeting doesn’t have to be that long but that ratio should be a benchmark.

Do I serve a purpose in this meeting?

I know, you always serve a purpose wherever you go. This question is more along the lines of, “Is this the best use of my time?” If you are constantly shuffling from meeting to meeting and can’t seem to get your leadership (one-on-ones), strategy (long term planning), or administrative (budget) work done in the time you have during the day, this exercise is for you.

(Note: This exercise assumes that you have already done the exercise above and fixed or eliminated meetings that don’t serve a purpose.)

  1. Export your calendar.

    1. Google Calendar instructions

    2. Outlook instructions

  2. Open in Excel/Sheets.

  3. Sort by date.

  4. Pick one month of recurring meetings to analyze--delete the rest.

  5. Look at each meeting and score it on a scale of 1 to 5.

    • 5: I own/lead this meeting AND I contribute (speak) during it regularly.

    • 4: I regularly contribute to AND regularly learn something important during this meeting.

    • 3: I regularly contribute to this meeting.

    • 2: I often don’t contribute to this meeting but I do regularly learn something important during it.

    • 1: I often don’t contribute to this meeting and I don’t usually learn anything important.

  6. Re-sort by your new ranking column.

  7. Immediately decline all meetings you ranked a “1.”

  8. For each meeting you ranked “2,” honestly evaluate if you need to be there. Ask these questions:

    1. Can/Do I get recaps of this meeting via email from the host?

    2. Can I send a direct report to this meeting to represent our team and get the highlights?

      • Note: If the answer to this is “no,” you need to deeply rethink that answer, you ranked incorrectly, or it is time to reevaluate our team.

    3. For each “yes” above, make those arrangements.

Does it have to be this long?

In my experience, meetings are always built with some cushion. You know that sales guy is always late because he “had an important client call,” There are 5 minutes in the beginning while people get settled. Someone takes it off track because they just want to “go over this one thing real quick.” It’s time for that to stop. Set these standards:

  • Everyone is on time.

  • There is a set, time-boxed, agenda.

    • Set an alarm or reminder for each topic change.

    • If something needs more time, a new one-time meeting with just those people who are essential will be set up.

  • Phones are down. Laptops are closed.

    • If there is an actual emergency, someone will find you. If they don’t, it wasn’t a real emergency.

I like the Level 10 meeting agenda from EOS. It is based on a 90-minute meeting, which is too long for most meetings, but the ratios work pretty well.  In reality, most meetings can and should be done in thirty minutes. Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.” Meetings follow this same principle. It is not better to “schedule it longer and we’ll finish early.” Meetings never finish early. Like goldfish grow to the size of their tank, meetings will always fill the available time. Once you cut out all of the extraneous stuff and focus on focusing, fitting everything you NEED to in shorter time frame is not only possible but probable!

Meetings aren’t evil. Some meetings are necessary. Some meetings are advisable. However, not all meetings are equal. By taking the steps above, you might be able to free up some time in your calendar to get work done, attend more meetings that matter, and maybe have time to eat lunch!

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