Space is almost infinite. As a matter of fact, we think it is infinite. – Dan Quayle

I recently had a discussion with a colleague about getting things done between meetings.  The challenge we discovered was two-fold:

  1. We have all the work that is part of our day-to-day responsibilities – for purposes of this post I’ll call this day-work.
  2. We have all the work that is produced as outputs from the meetings we attend and/or facilitate – I’ll call this meeting-work.

We both were faced with the fact that we participated in a lot of meetings. [Note: for purposes of this post let’s assume that these meetings are meaningful and need to take place.]

While in our meetings our day-work was not getting done. At the same time many of the meetings were creating new work: next actions, new problems, etc. So we now had meeting-work  to accomplish.  When we arrived back at our desks we were faced with the dilemma of getting our day-work and meeting-work completed in the space left between meetings. Sound familiar?

We thought of some tips that might be helpful:

  • Get next actions right: Be sure any next actions that are identified in the meeting are specific, actionable, have an owner, a due date, and who gets the report out of the results.   Honestly, I do not always get this one right and our teams end up with ambiguous actions that when reviewed later are met with confused stares. This way the meeting work can at least be clear and unambiguous and won’t require too much investigation time.
  • Build meeting processes that complete the work for you: When facilitating, I try as much as possible to build meeting processes that result in final product for the group. This means that at the end of the meeting the desired meeting deliverables should be as close to their final form as possible. When done well, this will minimize your post-meeting work.
  • Schedule your meeting work time: As hard as you try to minimize post-meeting work as mentioned above, we often have work to complete as outcomes of our meetings. Use your calendars to hard-schedule that time in to complete the work. This could include 30 minutes prior to the meeting to ensure that you are well prepared for the meeting and 30 minutes post meeting to process the output, get a start on next actions, or schedule future time to handle the work.

What ideas do you have for creating space for meeting work?