Do you and your team spend way too much time in meetings, and are never left with enough time to get through your heads-down work? Not that meetings aren’t important, they are! But the amount of meetings the average worker has to attend takes away time from the productive deep work time needed to complete the actual tasks and responsibilities of the job. And while it’s easy to default to “let’s get everyone together for a meeting to discuss” every time a conflict arises, this instinct is what’s causing your calendar to be overrun with meetings week after week.
If meetings are consuming a large portion of your workweek, it’s time to start defending heads-down time on your calendar. The mass consumption of meeting time not only eats away at your productivity, but can lead to low team morale and overall burnout which is hard to come back from. However, the simple act of blocking off one “no-meeting” day a week can guarantee you and the rest of your team each a solid 8 hours of productivity back to actually focus on the important work that needs to get done.
In this article, learn the advantages of meeting-free days, and how you can build an irrefutable case for adopting a “no-meeting” day to increase productivity for your team.
Advantages of no-meeting days
Why are no-meeting days so popular? Here are just a few advantages you could bring to your team:
By implementing no-meeting days, you and your team are able to work without the distraction of meetings for an entire day, dramatically reducing the ‘context switching’ problem that can so often take you off task. Even if you attended a 30-minute meeting that was extremely productive, it takes an average of 20 minutes to get back to a task before you were interrupted. No-meeting days allow you to dedicate time to starting and finishing a task fully without being distracted by other people's priorities.
By eliminating distracting meetings one day a week, you and your team are able to invest this time in deep work, or work sessions that require 2 hours or more of your time. These time blocks can be very difficult to find in a meeting-packed workweek! Which could mean you’re either slowly chipping away at the work unproductively, or you just keep postponing the task since you don’t have any time to do it. By giving yourself the focus time you need for your important deep work, you’re able to increase your productivity by allowing yourself to enter an efficient state of flow and tackle more challenging tasks.
Boost team morale
Having a day solely dedicated to catching up (or getting ahead) can be a major morale booster. Working late into the night, starting early, or having to work over the weekend because you just didn’t have enough time during the workweek can be draining - especially when it turns into the normal. Not to mention the feeling at the end of the week that you got nothing accomplished - how is that even possible when you worked so hard! Help your team be successful by giving them the time and space to be productive - it will go far in reducing everyone’s stress and allowing your team to feel confident and accomplished in their work.
There’s nothing worse than kicking off a meeting only to find half the people are unprepared and unengaged. Meeting fatigue is absolutely a real thing. Maybe you’re not prepared because you didn’t have time to work on the action items, or maybe you’re not engaged because the meeting topic is not relevant to your priorities. There are way too many pointless meetings these days, and no-meeting days can really give you an opportunity to determine which ones are and which you can do without.
How to implement no-meeting days for your team
So, now that you know the amazing advantages, here's how you can start team-wide meeting free days at your company.
1. Build your case for no-meeting days and get buy-in
In order for no-meeting days to be successful, you have to have buy-in from everyone at your company. It’s actually a pretty easy sell, as there’s no shortage of data on how much wasted time people spend in meetings. Here are a few stats on the advantages of no-meeting days that you can use to make your case:
- 78% of people feel that their meeting schedule is either always or sometimes out of control, and most blame their crazy meeting schedules on upper management or their direct manager, according to Better Meeting.
- Professionals attend two hours of pointless meetings per week according to Project Managers News - that’s 5% of the average person's time at work each year.
- 71% of managers said meetings are unproductive and inefficient and 65% feel meetings keep them from completing their own work, according to Harvard Business Review.
- 67% of workers say excessive meetings keep them from getting their best work done, according to this CNBC article.
- Time spent in meetings has been rising between 8-10% annually since 2000 and is likely to continue increasing, according to this Wall Street Journal article.
If you’re feeling the pressure and strain of excess meetings at your company, it’s highly likely that you’re not alone, so don’t be afraid to make the case internally - your colleagues will be thanking you for years to come!
The best place to start would probably be first reaching out to your direct manager to get their support, and then circulate the idea throughout the rest of your team to see if everyone is on board.
To make things as easy as possible, here’s a bulletproof email template you can use and customize to get initial buy-in from your manager for a no-meeting day at your company:
This is bound to get a reaction from your manager, as their wheels start turning on what they can do with their own meeting-free day every week! As soon as you get the yes from your manager, you can put together a short poll to shoot to your team via Slack, email, or whatever communication platform you use!
2. Analyze your calendar to find the best day of the week
Now that you have team buy-in and everyone is beyond-pumped to have a 100% dedicated day to heads-down deep work every week, it’s time to look at your calendars to see which day works best for your team. The best place to start is to ask yourselves how you’re currently managing your time and priorities across the workweek:
- Which day of the week does everyone feel the most pressure?
- Which day of the week does your sprint/cycle end?
- Which days are most meeting-heavy today?
- Are there days that people need to be in meetings for their role?
No-meeting Fridays are really popular, as it’s a nice way to end the week and wrap up on a productive day so you can get through all of the work items you’ve discussed throughout your meetings that week. One drawback is that Fridays are also a popular PTO day, so while convenient for not missing meetings when you’re out of the office, it’s also a big loss when you lose your one productive day in a week.
Another good alternative is no-meeting Wednesdays because it’s in the middle of the week which gives you a nice break from four straight meeting-heavy days. This mid week no-meeting option would give your team the chance to get caught up on any tasks that were not handled at the start of the week and the opportunity to get ahead to finish out the week strong.
3. Implement across the team calendars
You are all set to (re)schedule! Now that you have your no-meeting day of the week picked out, it’s time to clean up your calendar to move any recurring meetings like team meetings, one-on-one’s, or demo’s scheduled on that day to a different day of the week.
Depending on whether this is adopted in your team or department only, or organization-wide, you might want to take an extra step to proactively defend this time from incoming schedulers. While your team knows that you’re keeping this day free of meetings, Bob from accounting may need to get time with you to go over some new expense reporting updates, and if he sees that time open on your calendar, it could very well be taken.
You set aside this time for a reason, so it's imperative that you really plan your calendar that day around your most important work. Reclaim.ai can help with this by blocking time on your no-meeting days for your routines and priority tasks. For example, if you really like to catch up on product strategy work on your no-meeting days, you can create a Habit in Reclaim for that day to guarantee that you have a plan for that time. Similarly, if you have important Tasks that have been burning a hole in your to-do list, use Reclaim to schedule them automatically so that your free time gets occupied with the stuff that really matters.
Here’s how you can set up your no-meeting day with Reclaim and Google Calendar:
- Create an all-day calendar event on your no-meeting day to recur every week
- Change the event availability from “Free” to “Busy”
- Add #reclaim_free to the event description
That’s it! Now your Tasks and Habits created through Reclaim will auto-schedule on your calendar on your no-meeting days, but your availability is blocked from any incoming meetings.
Another side benefit to consider, while you’re cleaning up your calendar, see if there are any meetings that you could actually just do without and cancel them from your schedule. Meetings have a way of turning into recurring meetings, which can often just be replaced with status updates, so take advantage of this time to reconsider your schedule to see if you can’t squeeze a little more productive time into your workweek.
4. Keep everyone meeting free
Congratulations! You now have a no-meeting day implemented at your company, and successfully guaranteed 8 hours x (team size) = a whole lot of awesome productivity and output for your team every week.
As much as you want to hear the hard part is over, this is not a ‘set and forget’ thing! Meetings have a pesky way of presenting themselves basically any time an opportunity or conflict appears, so it’s up to you to make sure you stay strong and do your best to uphold your one dedicated meeting-free day each week.
This is not to say that there shouldn’t be room for exceptions! If an emergency arises, or another team member is absolutely blocked (wasting their productive day) and needs a quick sync, you can definitely leave some room for flexibility to keep the engine running.
Another important thing to note, certain roles just don’t have the flexibility to work without meetings, internal or external. For example, a salesperson typically has to have meetings in order to drive sales with new clients. On the other hand, if you’re a back-end engineer, you probably don’t need to attend meetings as frequently because your work is usually very much problem and solution-based that is handled through communicating directly in code.
So, even though you can’t avoid all meetings, you can be the team hero and help everyone get some time back with a no-meeting day every week. This simple yet effective time management strategy can help push your team to be more selective with their time and tasks throughout the week, across both meetings and heads-down work sessions alike. Looking for more ammo to help support your no-meetings day case? Shoot us a tweet @reclaimai and we can help you out!