10 Productive Things to Do Between Meetings
Meetings are the death knell of productivity, but the problem isn’t meetings themselves. All organizations require time for employees to assemble and combine their skills and knowledge to further projects and goals. The problem is the amount of time modern businesses dedicate to meetings.
Research has shown the length and frequency of meetings has increased substantially. In the 1960s, executives spent less than 10 hours a week in meetings. Today, they spend an average of 23 hours. Since time spent is time lost, each meeting you attend represents time that must be compensated for elsewhere, resulting in many people taking work home with them.
Hopefully, businesses will start reversing this trend. Until then, you have to stay productive between those meetings you can’t get out of. Whether you have twenty minutes, or just five, here are ten things you can do between meetings.
1. Don’t try to multitask
With so little time before your next meeting, you’ll feel impelled to do as much work as possible, but resist the urge to multitask. Multitasking actually reduces productivity—by as much as 40 percent. It limits your focus, adds errors to your work, and increases the time it takes to complete your tasks.
And what will you get for your efforts? Mental fatigue and a diminished sense of accomplishment. Not great for the meeting to come.
2. Prep for the meeting
If you’re going to play an active role in the upcoming meeting, now is a good time to prepare. Review your notes, revise meeting objectives, and consider if you have an action you want the team pursue afterward. Preparation will make your role go smoother and will, hopefully, make for a quicker meeting.
3. Reassess your to-do list
Did the upcoming meeting throw your day off course? Take this time to reassess your to-do list. Consider how much time you will have for work, list your projects in order of importance, and schedule your remaining time to get the most important work done first.
4. Organize your email
Don’t use this time to respond to emails—unless it’s a super quick yes-or-no message. Instead, organize your email inbox. File completed correspondence in the proper folder, flag messages you need to reply to, and delete anything that’s no longer important. The goal is to have a tidy inbox waiting for you for end-of-the-day follow ups.
5. Clean your digital space
A pell-mell workday makes for messy digital spaces, and a couple minutes between meetings is the perfect opportunity to tidy up. Close any programs, windows, or browser tabs you no longer need. You could also organize your desktop clutter and move those files you’ve been collecting like stamps to an appropriate place—even if that’s the recycle bin.
6. Clean your actual space
A well-organized workspace promotes focus and mental clarity, so cleaning it provides a quick, yet immensely satisfying, way to improve productivity. Take those dishes to the sink. File that paperwork where it belongs. And erase anything on the whiteboard that isn’t conducive to your current projects.
If you have extra time, prepare your post-meeting work by neatly gathering any materials you’ll need. This way, you can immediately get back to your tasks without having to fumble through your pre-meeting clutter beforehand.
Reading is a great between-meetings activity. You can finish up that report you half-started or dive into research for an upcoming assignment. Simply adjust the amount of reading you do to the time available.
Or maybe read something non-work related: a magazine article, a news story, or a chapter in your book. Taking your mind off the day’s hustle and bustle can rejuvenate your mental reserves for the upcoming meeting.
8. Go for a walk
Exercise improves your mood and staves off the afternoon slump, and walking is an easygoing way to net these benefits. It reduces tension, increases oxygen in your blood, and snags you some refreshing sunshine if you get outside. You can further build your mental reserves by enjoying some music while you stroll.
Don’t feel like walking? Consider a stretching break or even a little Tai Chi.
Multi-meeting days are stressful, but you can curb that stress by practicing mindfulness. Breathing exercises trigger a relaxed state in your brain, reducing the day’s buildup of stress hormones. Research has suggested that engaging in mindfulness for as little as ten minutes a day can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and other stress-induced illnesses.
10. Grab something to drink and socialize
Staying hydrated prevents mental fatigue, and a little socializing offers benefits beyond a pleasant chat. Spending time with others helps us grow and maintain bonds, and our brains reward that time with feel-good hormones like oxytocin.
Some may argue this isn’t true productivity, but since it makes for a happier, healthier, more engaging work environment, we respectfully disagree.
Doing more with less
The activities we’ve outlined above are designed to take between five and ten minutes, but there are a bevy options. The trick is to finish any task you start and garner the sense of accomplishment that can propel you through the meeting to be more productive on the other side.
Productivity, like success, builds on itself. The more you accomplish, the better you feel about work. Conversely, the more incomplete projects are hanging over your head, the more difficult it is to return to your workload. Take this to heart when considering how to spend your in-between meeting time.