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Why has a rainbow thrown up on my calendar?

Why has a rainbow thrown up on my calendar?

Is there more to a PO’s work-life than meetings? Meetings are critical to my role: gathering requirements, progress updates, scrum meetings, department future and town hall sessions, validation sessions, one-to-ones, post mortems, Q&A sessions, regular catch-up sessions, and the list goes on…

This blog will shed some light on different approaches to give those of us whose life is consumed by meetings some time to breathe. Wait – I’m not going to list all the reasons why I have so many meetings – don’t click away!

Facts

I can’t get through the day without my calendar. My life all day, every day, is meetings. I colour co-ordinate meetings based on products/context, hence the reference to a rainbow. Having time to do and think innovatively is compromised by meetings. People started walking with me to my next meeting just to get face time. This was the tipping point!

What to do?

I ran through a list of questions focusing on number of meetings, usefulness and output to create a number of experiments.

Experiment 1

I blocked out recurring 2-3 hour time slots in my calendar for over a year. I labelled these Work In Progress (WIP). The purpose was to have time at my desk to ‘do’. I only told a select number of individuals what WIP meant and that they could book me in this time if required.

Outcome

  • Partial success
  • Most people ignored the blocked time and booked meetings over the top anyway.
  • I treated the blocked time as a nice to have. If someone needed a meeting I ‘had time’ and removed or reduced the WIP time slot. My bad…
  • I was still context switching between my different products and projects within the day, which reduced efficiency and my ability to focus.

Experiment 2

Automatic decline of meetings if they clash.

Outcome

  • Low success rate.
  • I simply got a lot of emails asking me when they could have a meeting as there’s never time in my calendar. This meant I had to spend time working out when I could squeeze something in.
  • Some meetings are more important than others. I prefer to be able to prioritise which myself.

Experiment 3

Say no and complain a little.

Outcome

  • Low success rate.
  • Same reasons as the outcome in Experiment 2.
  • I felt better complaining a little as many others had similar situations. A common bond.

Experiment 4 – Trialling now

Combine Experiment 1 with additional blocking of other slots in calendar as specific context meetings.

These context meeting slots permit people to book me for meetings, but only about the specific topic in that window. For example on Wednesday I have four hours set aside where people can book meetings with me about external integration only.

Outcome

  • Trialling now. I need to make sure I don’t fall into the same trap as Experiment 1 where I treat this as a nice-to-have.

Is it the end to meetings?

No, meetings are critical for my role. I expect Experiment 4 will be the best solution for me. Not only will I have time at my desk, but I am not constantly context switching, and I’m sure this will make a massive difference to my wellbeing and productivity.

Other good tips:

  • Only accept meetings with an agenda.
  • Try to block meetings in chunks so devs and others have a good solid 2-3 hours at their desk, rather than one hour at desk, one hour in meeting, one hour at desk again etc.
  • At my desk I am trialling focusing on a specific task by using a timer set for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, I take a five minute breather. Then I repeat the process. I am also selecting every second 25 minutes to turn off my WiFi, so I get no incoming distractions from new emails.

Let’s see how it goes!

Any meeting-busting, time-saving tips? Let us know on Twitter please.

Ali Major, Product Owner

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