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Why multitasking during meetings should NOT be part of your company culture

November 06, 2021

What would you say is the most agonizing work-related activity that takes place multiple times a day? Everyone may answer that question a little differently, but odds are, you are thinking about meetings.

Most meetings are unorganized, inefficient, and there are way too many of them. And how do we solve this? We multitask…🤹‍♂️ Why? Because not all agenda topics are relevant to you or to others. But this is obviously not a solution, it’s in fact an even bigger problem.

multitasking

In this article, we will explore the issues associated with a company culture that encourages multitasking during meetings and we’ll talk about a solution that you can implement today that will help you and your team get more out of your meetings (and the rest of your day).

And no, you can’t just tell people that they shouldn’t multitask, that won’t work.

Why multitasking during meetings is a big problem

You may be thinking, “multitasking is just part of the job, isn’t it?” Although it may feel that way, multitasking during meetings actually has a negative effect on productivity and it should not be part of your team culture. Here’s why:

😫 Drains energy and impacts productivity: You lose more time and energy when you move back and forth between tasks and meetings (context switching). When you stay focused on one task or meeting you use less energy, and you are more productive.

😟 Increases stress and anxiety: You may feel pressured or worried if you feel the need to multitask while also being attentive to meetings. Additionally, you may experience the fear of missing out (FOMO) as there’s no way for you to join every relevant topic when they are all scattered across various standing meetings that often happen simultaneously. This constant stress and anxiety can lead to burnout, poor performance, and in some cases, physical and mental health issues.

🤒 Incentivizes unhealthy behavior: Multitasking during meetings reinforces a lazy culture and work environment which makes it acceptable to invite as many people as you want to a meeting, because it feels safer to have them there just in case…and if they’re not needed, they can multitask. This creates an unhealthy outlook towards meetings, which leads people to schedule way more meetings with way more attendees than are actually required.

So, what’s the solution?

The secret weapon to help avoid situations that require multitasking is to embrace a topic-first meeting strategy.

Topic-first means that everyone schedules a meeting for a single topic ONLY AFTER a topic that warrants a verbal discussion has surfaced.

For remote or hybrid teams, this approach eliminates all practical reasons for holding giant office-style standing meetings with an organizer who juggles many agenda topics for everyone. Instead, people schedule shorter single topic meetings on-demand and invite specific attendees who need to be a part of the discussion.

This seemingly simple change has a huge impact. It reverses the faulty flow of traditional meetings where we first invite people and then we solicit agenda topics — the root cause that leads to unavoidable and widespread multitasking. With topic-first you aren’t patching your meetings, you are fixing the root cause of the problem.

For example, in traditional standing meetings with 10+ people, it is common to have a topic that is relevant and can be discussed amongst a select few participants, while that same topic holds no relevance to other participants. Or someone may bring a topic on the fly that could have been an email. This doesn’t happen with topic-first, as it makes everyone highly intentional and conservative about reserving time. It also makes all meetings highly relevant to all participants.

The benefits of avoiding multitasking and adopting a topic-first meeting strategy

When you embrace a topic-first meeting strategy, you are making a very important change that will lead to enormous benefits:

🔥 More time and energy: All your meetings are very short and productive, because they’re all on a single topic that is relevant to all participants. For example, instead of attending an entire 60-minute meeting for a single 10-minute topic, you join a 10-minute topic-first meeting. This eliminates the need to constantly switch between meetings and tasks.

😊 Less stress and anxiety: You no longer need to worry or stress about multitasking during meetings, because you are only invited when the topic is relevant to you. And because you are more likely to be invited for a relevant topic, this completely eliminates FOMO.

🙌 Better meeting culture: Embracing a topic-first strategy immediately eliminates inefficient standing meetings and creates incentives to schedule shorter meetings with fewer people. This allows team members to reserve large chunks of “no meeting” time on their calendars to get more work done.

❤️ Increased morale: Simply put, people love attending topic-first meetings. They are quick, painless, more productive and they energize you and everyone for the day ahead.

Why it’s important to solve this problem now

Batching topics together used to be the only way to make things work in the physical office, with limited conference rooms and the distance people had to walk to get there. Hosting a meeting that consisted of 10+ participants for a 10-minute topic multiple times during the week wasn’t very practical. However, in today’s world, many (or all) of your meeting participants are going to be remote, so why keep using a meeting strategy that was developed for traditional in-office meetings? We are just now getting into a rhythm of hybrid work and adopting a topic-first meeting strategy will help your team to become more productive and more efficient 🚀

About Remeet

Remeet is the first meeting tool that helps distributed teams to adopt highly efficient topic-first meetings, unlike traditional tools that are still attempting to mimic the physical conference room experience.

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Written by Gene Padaliak
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