Getting Things Done with Busy Schedules

The amount of meetings I’ve been in – people would be shocked. But that’s how you gain experience, how you can gain knowledge, being in meetings and participating. You learn and grow.   - Tiger Woods

Have you ever planned the perfect meeting? All of the right people were invited, and they all had so much availability on their calendars that you could have chosen one of many one-hour blocks of time?!

Stop right there… because that kind of scheduling bliss never happens.

When you are working with a team – especially a large one with people in multiple locations and at different levels of the company – it usually proves difficult to find time to actually meet and get things done. Sure, many things can be accomplished individually or in smaller teams, but sometimes your really do need everyone to connect live to have discussions, make decisions, solve problems, or just keep each other informed.

  Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So when you do not see any white space on people’s calendars, or before it even gets to that point, here are a few tricks you can use to find time to get things done with your team.

Set expectations at the beginning of the project – As you define your role and the team’s role for the project, part of it should include attending necessary meetings to help advance the team’s progress. Each team member should commit to doing they best they can to clear or adjust their schedules if a conflict arises. 

Allow team members to send delegates – Sometimes it is not possible to clear or adjust schedules, so you should encourage team members to identify and send delegates who can represent the same area of expertise. They should be given the power to provide input and possibly even make decisions on the missing individual’s behalf.

Make sure the right people are involved – While everyone is busy, senior leaders are sometimes the busiest of them all. It may be more appropriate to have mid- or lower-level leaders on your team instead, whose calendars may be a bit more amenable to adjustments. They are likely closer to the details of the work, as well. When you have the right people in the room, they will be more productive and more likely to achieve the meeting objectives.

Always have an agenda – Speaking of achieving meeting objectives, you should always have a meeting agenda so people know what they should expect from the meeting and prioritize accordingly. Most people will have day jobs in addition to their project responsibilities, so any time spent on the project must be utilized to the fullest.

Hold people accountable – If your team needs to get together, but one or more team members have conflicts that cannot be moved, ask them to suggest a better time where they have more flexibility. You are not paid to spend all day finding the perfect meeting time, so put your team to work and hold them accountable for staying engaged and making time.

Do not have unnecessary meetings – Do not have meetings just to meet or just because they are on the calendar. Make sure there is a purpose and that the meetings are productive. That way, people will know that they should attend any meetings you hold because you actually get things done during them.

Ask project sponsors and key leaders to make it a priority – And finally, your project sponsors and other key leaders can set the expectation that the team should prioritize the project, which includes both the time they spend working on it as well as in productive meetings.  

While spending time in meetings is not everyone’s favorite pastime, it is a necessary evil. The project manager in me actually thinks they can be very satisfying, especially when you make progress and feel the engagement of the team. It is a great way to get to know people, learn from them, and accomplish things together.

So set expectations, make an agenda, and hold your team and yourself accountable to spending productive time together getting things done.