My days are filled with meetings but nothing gets done. Help!

My days are filled with meetings but nothing gets done. Help!

My days are back-to-back meetings yet I never get anything done. Everyone else seems to be in the same boat but they don’t stay late like I do getting their work done. What should I do differently? S.R., New York, NY

First, recognize that you’re making a big assumption about your co-workers. You’re assuming they’re getting their work done within traditional work hours and that their workload is comparable to yours. Neither scenario is helpful for you.

Stay focused on your experience. Does your to-do list align with what your manager expects or are you expanding the scope of your responsibilities?

Also, make sure that you’re not defining your deliverables too tactically. Participating in meetings is an expected and valuable part of most managers’ jobs. If you deem a meeting a success based solely on whether a specific task is accomplished, you’re missing the bigger picture. You’re there to understand what’s happening in the larger organization, to better understand your peers, and identify potential agendas. That said, too many meetings are just that.

Limit access to your calendar. When you have to accept or decline each meeting, you are reminded to consider whether it makes sense for you to attend. Ask yourself, “What is right for the business? Whose problem is it to solve?” Meeting organizers are under pressure too and often add people to meetings habitually.

If the meetings are all legit and your to-do list aligns with your manager’s expectations, then you need to escalate the issue. Make sure you’re mindful of how you’re coming across so your manager hears the issue and doesn’t draw incorrect conclusions, e.g., not a team player, can’t handle pressure, etc.

It could sound something like this: “Jeff, I need your advice regarding how to juggle the (not “my”) current deliverables. I’ve analyzed the meetings I’m required to attend and they all need my participation. Concurrently, we have project x, y, and z due. I’m not sure how to best prioritize my time to meet all our departmental goals. What do you suggest?”

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