You have established your habits and your work routine, you feel productive, and you inch toward your goals day by day. You follow your daily routine, you wake up at the same time, do exercises, meditate, and then go to work. And then, that dreadful week comes when you have to start discussing next year’s roadmap in your company. You get visitors from all over the world. And you are facing a week full of back-to-back meetings.
This article will give you some insights into surviving these long days and keeping the impact on your daily responsibility (because there will be impact) at a minimal level. This is just a guideline, as always, feel free to keep things that work for you, and add others that I might have thought about.
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The main goal of these weeks is usually to bring representatives of all offices and departments together in order to discuss and arrive at a common vision for the next period (year, quarter, month). The main challenge, in my opinion, is keeping up with your daily activities while you attend all the meetings and you want to contribute to the discussions. The second challenge and also equally important is to conserve your energy so that you stay on top of all the discussions that you feel you should part of.
If you are interested in more information on how to host an efficient meeting: go to this article.
Back-to-back meetings tips
There is usually no way to avoid the back-to-back meetings. And if you think this is stressful for you, consider the impact on your managers. Or on all the contributors that have to join remotely. We have made great progress in the last decade to bring video conferencing at a whole other level, but it is still inferior to talking in person.
Below, I have shared a few tips that I try to follow during these long weeks. They are usually valid both when you travel and when you play the host.
1. Define your goals
As Stephen Covey would put it, “start with the end in mind” (link to his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” on Goodreads). Try to answer the following questions to yourself before you do anything else. And do it well before the meetings start overwhelming you:
- What knowledge do I need to get from those meetings?
- What exposure do I need to show?
- Who will I like to meet?
- Who will I not be able to avoid?
2. Prioritize attendance
Continuing with the Stephen Covey wisdom, “put first things first” (a link to his book “First Things First” on Goodreads). It is not possible to attend all the meetings. Also, it is not possible to attend all the ones that seem interesting. But also, “think win-win”. Considering the meetings where your knowledge will be required or where you will be one of the decision makers.
In case you are attending a workshop where most of the meetings will be discussions, I obviously start with the ones most relevant to my current role. These are my must-go-to meetings and I make sure I put them first on my calendar.
If there is any time left, prioritize the meetings that will help you get to the next level in your career. Maybe you want to learn more about another domain. Or another project or program. Put those also on your calendar.
After these two, I would put breaks. Lunch is usually a good time to mingle and network, so keep that reserved. But the time after the meetings and before the dinner is a good candidate.
Finally, put all those meetings that you are interested in, but which do not fall into any of the previous categories.
3. Prioritize your normal responsibilities
As we have already established, it is not possible to keep doing what you normally do, while attending all these back-to-back meetings. My advice is to keep the 3 most important tasks for the week. The ones that are either burning or will be burning the following week after you get back. Put them on your calendar and make sure you do them.
I prefer to do these either early in the morning, before everything. Or during one of the sessions that I have decided not to attend. I absolutely avoid scheduling these in the evenings, because the chance I am going to be too tired and make a mistake or postpone them is huge.
Ignore everything else! Do not try to juggle with too many balls.
4. Create an out of office message on your email
“Be proactive“. Reach out to the people that expect something from you and tell them that they are not getting it this week. Give them a new deadline.
It is fair to everybody else you communicate to to know that you are busy and your responses will most probably be delayed. If you can assign somebody to speak on your behalf, put their names on the out of office message. Do not forget to tell these people that you will be counting on them.
5. Energy management
I cannot stress this enough, but energy management is the most important thing during these long days and back-to-back meetings. There are several ways to make sure that you have enough energy:
- Make sure that you get enough sleep. Dinner and late evening parties are tempting after the long day, but you have to think about the following days too.
- Have a good breakfast, rich in proteins. Carbs are excellent energy source but it depletes too fast. You need something to sustain you during the day.
- Make sure that you eat regularly during the day. Do not skip lunch. Do not eat junk food. Try to avoid carbs as much as possible. Nuts are a great source of energy.
- Schedule breaks where you do nothing and your brain can relax.
- Take a nap if you can afford it. As Winston Churchill puts it, this gives you two mornings.
6. Concentrate and listen
When you are in a meeting, do not multitask, close your laptop, put down your phone. If you find yourself doing a lot of these, just get out of the room, and do whatever you have to do. There is no point in wasting everybody’s time just to be present in the discussion room.
7. Participate and listen
You do not have to be the guy who asks the obvious questions. But also, you do not want to be the guy who sits quietly for the whole week. Listen carefully and share your experience when you feel this is relevant.
8. Mingle and network
Talk to people, introduce yourself to them, be interested in their backgrounds, roles, and contributions. Try to build long lasting connections.
Remember everybody’s names. Look other people in the face when they say their names and try to find something that will identify that person later on. Repeat the names of the people you meet, or ask them to say it slowly or spell it, in case you have not heard it before. Nobody will refuse saying their name more than once.
9. Remember your personal life
Do not put 120% into these meetings. If you have a family, call them during the day. If you have a significant other, text them during the day. Try not to distract yourself too much, but you will feel much better if you do not neglect them.
Do not catch up on your daily work during the evening (or the night). You will waste too much energy and will-power and you will end up in a lot worse situation.
Follow up with the people that you have just met. Send them an email and contact them on your corporate messenger. If you have something nice to say, say it:
- “This was a great discussion.“
- “This is a very well-structured document.“
Summits, workshops, and conferences are an important way to mingle with people, share and learn new ideas, and sync on the future. These events usually happen over a whole week where there are back-to-back meetings all day long. Surviving these days and weeks is important, but been active, energetic, and contributing to the discussions is even more important.
What are the next steps?
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