Rescue your team from calendar chaos

Lauren Lazo

Sunday evening rolls around and you open your calendar to see when your first meeting of the week starts. To your dismay, your Monday has become a meeting marathon. You think to yourself, “How will I get any work done?” You cancel dinner with your friend, again, and feel drained before the week even begins. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. 

Data from Microsoft shows that since 2020, employees have seen their weekly meeting time increase by 252%. Unfortunately, the majority of these meetings may not be that valuable. According to a survey of senior managers, 71% believe meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

But that doesn’t have to be you or your team's reality. You can curb calendar chaos for your team by sending a boost in nudges aimed at improving their ineffective meetings. In just a few clicks, start sending meeting-related nudges so they can begin to better manage their meetings — without derailing your current priorities. By sending this boost in nudges, you’ll help your people reclaim their time by addressing three key areas:

  1. How to spend less time in unnecessary meetings
  2. How to increase the productivity of necessary meetings 
  3. How to maximize non-meeting time

Don’t yet have Humu? No worries. The strategies offered below can help anyone reduce calendar clutter. And while you read, imagine what you could accomplish if your entire organization received nudges that turned good intention into meaningful action…

1. Spend less time in unnecessary meetings

For many people, saying no to a calendar invite or canceling a standing meeting can feel like making a personal attack. Ineffective meeting nudges make it easier for your teams to (kindly) say no to unnecessary invites by borrowing a strategy from the world-famous tidying expert, Marie Kondo

For example, one nudge encourages managers to ask their people which recurring meetings aren’t adding value (or sparking joy) and support them in clarifying its purpose. Many standing meetings — such as project updates, announcements, and brainstorming sessions — can easily be canceled or made asynchronous. 

Of course, not all meetings can be canceled — and Humu recognizes that. Another nudge prompts managers to give their team the gift of time by having each report shorten one upcoming meeting by 15 minutes. People are usually surprised by how much they can accomplish in half the normally scheduled time.

2. Increase the productivity of necessary meetings

When run thoughtfully, meetings can increase collaboration, creativity, and belonging. But quarterbacking a productive meeting is no easy task. Boosting ineffective meeting nudges helps your people hone their facilitation skills by encouraging them to:

1. Send out an agenda with clear objectives. When facilitators send an agenda before the meeting and ask attendees to review it, the time spent together can be maximized. And attendees should feel empowered to ask for an agenda or inquire about the reason for their participation. 

Why? Nudging facilitators to include a clear agenda helps meetings run more effectively and allows attendees to arrive well prepared.

2. Assign facilitators and note takers, rotating each time. When setting meeting habits it’s important to create a rotating roster of facilitators that includes both remote and in-office teammates. By creating a schedule that spells out the rotation, no one is surprised when it’s their turn.

Why? It can be easy to default to giving tasks to in-office folks. Plus, women are 48% more likely to volunteer for non-promotable tasks, such as note taking, and are disproportionately assigned them. By encouraging managers to outline equitable meeting practices, nudges help ensure that work is evenly distributed. 

3. Manage speaking times and redirect conversations that veer away from the objectives. It might sound counterintuitive, but to help keep meetings on track, focus on non-goals. Email attendees in advance and ask them to think of one non-goal — something they don't expect to accomplish in the allotted time. Once the meeting begins, the facilitator can use the first few minutes for everyone to align on what is out of scope.

Why? People are more likely to suggest additive solutions rather than subtractive solutions. But when time and energy are limited, what is left out can be just as important as what’s left in.

4. Make sure everyone who wants to speak can. Certain folks may be less comfortable speaking up in meetings. To make space for all perspectives, facilitators should aim to wait 10 seconds after asking a question before moving on to the next topic. This gives everyone the opportunity to chime in.

Facilitators can also email two attendees who seem hesitant to see if they’d like to share their perspective on an agenda item. This works best if the facilitator gives the employees a few days' notice to collect their thoughts, and then carves out an explicit opportunity during the meeting for them to speak.

Why? Uplifting contributions from people of diverse backgrounds, and taking those perspectives seriously, makes people feel connected to their team — and helps them thrive.

5. Share a written summary and action items. At the end of meetings, have an attendee send an email with a quick summary of:

  • The what (e.g. important decisions that were made)
  • The why (e.g. arguments for and against that decision)
  • Action items

Facilitators should rotate who’s in charge of sending the summary (psst… see #2).

Why? Nudging teams to align on next steps helps them collaborate more effectively — allowing them to get more done in less time.

3. Maximize non-meeting time

Research shows that a greater sense of progress in day-to-day work (especially meaningful work) boosts happiness. Ineffective meeting nudges help your people maximize non-meeting time so that they can check things off their to-do list. For example, one nudge encourages folks to schedule meetings at times adjacent to other calendar events. This helps teams avoid “stripey” calendars (i.e., awkward breaks between meetings), giving everyone bigger chunks of time to get work done. When people have limited time (think 15- or 30-minute blocks) between meetings, they tend to work on less important tasks than when they have longer stretches to focus without interruption. 

Another nudge recommends that people take breaks. Even a quick walk outside has been shown to boost employee wellbeing and help them focus when they return to their desks, allowing them to get more done faster. The post-break productivity boost also makes it easier for them to detach at the end of the day. 

Help your teams make meetings more meaningful

Bad meetings happen to everyone, everywhere. The strategies offered above can help make meetings work for your teams, not against them. Bolstered by the latest nudge boost, ineffective meetings, you can foster a culture in which everyone thinks critically about time. In doing so, you may even help people rebuild their love for meetings.

Already a Humu admin? Start improving ineffective meetings today.
Not yet a Humu customer? Request a demo and start transforming your organization, one meeting at a time.