Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

How To Stop Meeting Fatigue And Being Overbooked

Originally published in Forbes

Before Zoom fatigue there was meeting burnout. The more responsibilities you have, the busier you become. The running joke I hear often from my clients is that if you have a calendar flooded with meetings, you must be in management. Now, a year into the pandemic, things somehow got worse for everyone — more back-to-back calls, double-booked meetings and too many check-ins that could have been handled over emails. All of this doesn’t give us enough time to get work done nor just be ourselves. 

When I ask my clients, “Where is the time to think and make strategic decisions?” I get a heavy sigh in response. Despite many organizations’ attempts to create rules — no meetings on Fridays, no emails after 7 pm, etc. — to help address the meeting burnout, everyone I know from leadership to intern is struggling to break the overbooked meeting cycle. Does it really have to be this way? What can we do differently?

Here are three communication skills you can master to help keep you from feeling overbooked and overwhelmed at work. And, with more practice, you can enjoy the ease of doing more with less.

1. Facilitate all flows.

Being a great facilitator means more than ensuring your meeting follows an agenda. It’s being able to design meeting flows, conversation flows, project flows and any crisis flows like a conductor with ease, grace and thoughtfulness. As a leader, the reason why we are often overlooked is that we are in a lot of conversations and have a lot of projects we are overseeing and need to be part of. This is where taking the eye of a facilitator is powerful. Instead of doing things the way it has been done, you can think about how to redesign the process, program or your people’s roles and responsibilities to orchestrate a more effective and efficient workflow and project flow. 

For me, that means whenever I do a new project, I walk through the full process operationally and gauge emotionally how people may feel. When is a good time to share this project so that they are ready to digest it? When is a good time to stop if things do not progress so that they have the bandwidth to be involved in other ones? How can I allocate time so that I can hear their thoughts and concerns?

When you see from the facilitation lens, it’s easier to see the ways in which you can optimize, streamline and empower every single team member and element to create harmony.

2. Delegate with trust.

As a perfectionist, learning how to delegate and let go of projects can be hard at the beginning. There is a particular way you want to see something evolve and be processed and when it’s not done that way, it can feel like you have to block out more time to do it again or take back the task. This is a big part of why we end up feeling overbooked and overworked. Instead, when you delegate, it’s important to build trust.

In order to build trust, we have to first get to know the people we’re working with and they have to get to know us. Without mutual understanding, respect, support and awareness of one another’s strengths and weaknesses it is hard to understand when something is slow, late or done incorrectly, as well as why an issue has occurred and how to address it. When we delegate with trust, it empowers those who are working on the project. They understand they have ownership and a responsibility to uphold the quality of the work you are expecting to see. 

But trust is built over time. This is why when we first take the time to get to know our colleagues and partners as who they are and understand what motivates and drives them, we can devise a better trust partnership from the beginning. As a result, instead of feeling like we need to hold more meetings to verify and review details, we’ll feel more at ease to focus on delivering, ideating and processing the projects.

3. Listen deeper.

I believe active listening is the most important communication skill, especially for leaders today. It’s not just about how you listen to your colleagues, partners, clients and communities to understand what they want and why they feel that way but also about listening to yourself. Why are you really feeling tired? Why have you accepted that meeting when you feel you don’t need it to get this project done? When we actively listen to how we truly feel, as well as how others may feel, it gives us the opportunity to better understand, re-explore project delivery or manage differently — and that includes saying no to another meeting. 

My clients are often surprised at first when I point this out: If all of your team members do not like the current meeting culture, you have the opportunity to change it. The key is to listen to why it has been hard to change and help demonstrate how you could lead that change and how others could model it, too. But all of this is only possible by actively listening — to our people, to our communities and to ourselves.

So, ask yourself: Is this really the most effective, efficient and creative way to work together? Adopting these three skills more and more throughout my days, projects and workflow has been a lifesaver for me and my clients and I hope it will be for you too. You may be surprised how much you can accomplish with more deep focus time and less time sitting in meetings.

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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