Katina and I were recently complaining about how exhausted we feel at the end of a long day of meetings. We know that any meaningful conversations or brainstorms should be scheduled for days with few meetings or before other meetings start. Recent research looked into meeting time and energy. Today, we talk about this new work and share some tips to help you manage your energy!
One thing to note as we dive into this topic – this research focused on knowledge workers. Meeting time often looks very different for other types of work and, thus, the findings may not be as relevant.
Meeting Time and Microbreaks
There are two key types of activities for knowledge workers – meetings and individual work. Interestingly, the balance between these two activities is critically important for microbreaks. Researchers found that having a higher proportion of meetings compared to individual work time can be harmful. Specifically, they found that people are much less likely to take microbreaks when they have more meetings during a specific work period.
This probably resonates with you. When you have a ton of meetings, you are often running back to back. The second you get some individual work time, you have so much to catch up on that you can’t take a break. Yet, taking breaks is so important for replenishing your energy. This study found that when employees have more meeting time compared to individual work time, the fewer breaks they take, and the less energy they had at the end of the work period.
The Impact of Low Energy
Unfortunately, low energy is related to some negative outcomes. First, employees that have low energy perform at a lower level. They also tend to be less creative. Finally, they are less satisfied with their job at the end of the day. Ultimately, this means that when your schedule is overloaded with meetings, you are going to be worse on the job and be less happy with it – with the awesome bonus of being tired!
What You Can Do
Luckily, the solutions are fairly simple. If you are able to control your schedule, make sure you leave time for individual work time throughout the day. The more balanced your time is between meetings and individual work, the better! If you can’t control your schedule that much, then don’t forget to take breaks. Schedule your meetings for 20 or 45 minutes to ensure time between them. Do your best to take even just a minute between meetings to do something that replenishes you. Think stretching, watching a funny cat video, or doing a breathing exercise. If you can be more intentional with your breaks, you can help maintain your energy.
If you are a leader, think about how you can support a culture of breaks. Help your teams manage their time so they do not have back to back meetings. Practice proposing new times with them when they schedule a back to back with you. It’ll help them see that doing so is ok, so they will do it too! If you find that you or your team have too many meetings, take a moment to re-evaluate them. Do you actually need all of these meetings? Maybe there’s a way to be more efficient (check out our podcast with Steven Rogelberg to better your meetings!)
Good luck! We will be working to do the same as we are often bad at this too!