The Main Reason You End Up Working Late

“It’s 3 o’clock already!”

You started the day with a game plan. Now, the day is almost over. And you’ve done a bunch of nothing.

I’ll bet my student loan balance that your day is full, but not productive because of:

meetingsI’ve been there, trapped in so many meetings I couldn’t write any web content till after 5.

Some healthcare marketing leaders plop hours of meetings on their teams’ schedules just because. (Trust me. No one ever says, “We’ve need to more meetings around here.”)

clock no backgroundAside from the scheduled meetings, there’s also:

  • Time spent organizing the meetings
  • Preparing for meetings
  • Traveling to offsite meetings
  • Meetings to recap meetings
  • “Hey, gotta minute” meetings—that end up taking an hour.

Now, you have to work late—again.

Let’s stop it with the meetings ad nauseum. Why? Because the brilliant creativity needed for good healthcare marketing projects requires focus.

“Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments. Forty-five minutes and then you have a call. Fifteen minutes and then you have lunch. An hour later you have an afternoon meeting…You can’t get meaningful things done when you’re constantly going start, stop, start, stop,” write Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson in their book Rework.

Plus, meetings waste much more time than most marketing leaders think.

If your one-hour meeting includes 10 people, “that’s actually a 10-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting,” they write. Because 10 people have to stop doing valuable work.

Here’s how you can stop letting meetings hijack productivity:

1 Embrace instant messaging, conference calling and video conferencing tools. If it’s quick, ping somebody and he or she can respond when ready and while multitasking.

2Round-robin update meetings—probably the most wasteful type—can be done via email or some other project management tool.

3 tanIf you must meet, don’t do it in the middle of the day when people should be in the zone. Better to schedule meetings at the end of the day, when everyone will be focused on getting the thing over with.

4If you must meet, set a timer, says Fried and Hansson: “When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.” I say get a really loud, obnoxious timer—like snoring or farting—something completely disruptive.

5 tan When you’re in the zone, close your email, shut the door, and silence the phone. Be inaccessible. Use really nice autoreply messages or door signs that say “I’m in the zone. I’ll get back to you in a bit.”

6 tanPut hard restrictions on meeting times. Executives at the software company, Asana, have a policy that forbids meetings on Wednesdays. That gives at least one day to get stuff done.

7 tanIf you must meet, make it standing room only. The goal is to rush through the meeting, not get comfortable.

8 tanBlock out a couple of 4- and 5-hour meetings each week—with yourself. That way you can use that time to get work done and others can’t hijack your calendar and fill it with meetings.

exceptions for meetings

“But meetings are a good way to spend time together”

No they are aren’t. Happy hour is. Office birthday parties and baby showers are too.

“But it’s better to get team input”

True…over an online collaboration tool (notice I didn’t say email).

Plus, consider this: Meeting doesn’t always equal contributing.

In a blog post for the Results-Only Work Environment, Harvard University Business School instructor Robert Pozen describes a familiar scene:

A guy comes to every meeting on time, stays the whole time, even though he doesn’t say much. Still, others see him as “hardworking and dependable.”

“In other words, this manager praised his or her employee not for the value that he added to the meetings that he attended, but merely for his physical presence,” Pozen writes.

That guy’s presence would have been equally valuable on instant message. And maybe he could have been actually doing some work at the same time.

“But, how can I make sure everyone is on the same page?”

Again, an online collaboration tool. At least, instructions and comments will be documented and your team can refer to it if they have questions. That’s better than—another meeting.

Check out these short hilarious videos on meetings and staying late, also from Fried and Hansson.