meeting overload

The last couple of months have been tuff ones for me. I’ve felt constantly behind (thus the lack of blogging consistency) and most days consisted of running from one meeting to the next (typically 10 minutes behind). This has contributed to my feeling both burned out and feeling that I was letting too many things fall through the cracks.  This was evidenced by 1) my inbox growing most days, not shrinking; 2) waking up at 5am to try to work on #1; 3) an over-reliance on multitasking (walking to a meeting, on the phone while responding to email); 4) my wife never being able to reach me during the day; and 5) generally feeling stressed and off-balance.

My week off for Thanksgiving definitely helped clear my head. But now I’m back to my old pattern (I’m writing this on a flight to NY where I’m running around from breakfast through dinner for two days and then catching the late flight home in time to get back for another set of meetings).  I was talking about this with Greeley the other day and we came up with some ideas for how to break this cycle.  I’d love to hear from others on how they do this as well. Here are a few key ones I’m going to work on in 2009

1) Take fewer meetings. Duh. Obvious, I know, but clearly the #1 thing I can do to clear space on my schedule. I make this resolution ever six months or so and get better for a few months before faltering. In 2009 I’m going to guard my schedule more diligently and push back on meetings that just fill space.

2) Schedule email time. This may sound crazy, but I’m blocking off time every morning next year (that I’m not traveling, that is…) for e-mail, phone calls, research and the like.  With rare exceptions, no meetings in 2009 until 10:00am.  Rather than starting my day running around, I’d like some solid time to get work done and start my days getting ahead rather than behind and feeling like I constantly need to catch up.

3) Take more vacations. I mentioned this in my post about going off-grid – I did a crappy job of taking time off in 2008.  The lack of time to recharge definitely weighed on me towards the end of the year.  Not so in 2009 – we’ve already planned our spring break vacation and are working on several others blocks of time to take off.

4) Work out more.  This may not seem like a good plan for time management, but for about a month this summer I got into a great pattern of riding my bike up Flagstaff mountain (a "hill" near the office) several times a week.  Not only did I feel great exercising consistently, but was a consistent time to just clear my head.