I keep running into people who complain that they are in meetings all day and they don’t manage to get anything done. Even if you want to, you won’t be able to eliminate all meetings and you’ll even have a hard time reducing them. They will fill up your calendar whether they are a priority for you or not. In many cases they are a priority for someone else and not for you but for the sake of playing nicely in the sandbox you’ll need to accept them. You can save yourself this anguish by following a few rules:

  1. Never have a meeting the minute you get into the office in the morning. Make sure that you have at least half an hour before the first meeting to deal with email from the night before and to figure out your priorities for the day and a to-do list.
  2. Unless they are all of one type, try not to have meetings back to back. If you can, allow for an hour between all meetings, as this will be important time for dealing with email and coworker questions and keeping current on them. Also, meetings have a habit of going overtime and since it is rude to leave early and arrive late then you are better off with a buffer between them.
  3. Don’t let people book time in your calendar. Now, since most people have public calendars, all sorts of people will see that you have free time and try to schedule a meeting onto that time. Don’t let them do that. Just refuse those meetings. If you let them do that, you are letting them take control of your priorities and letting them control your working day.
  4. The next key is to never finish the working day with a meeting. If you do, you won’t be able to tidy up, deal with last minute things and plan for the next day.
  5. Finally, never book a meeting after 3:00 pm on a Friday. Having a few hours at the end of the week to wind down, clear out a few things that need to be done and plan for the next week is essential. Having no meetings at the end of the week will leave you feeling relaxed and in control.

 By controlling when you have meetings you remove the risk that meetings will take over your calendar and you’ll have time to get other things done.