Top 3 Steps To Prioritise 150+ Calendar Invites A Week (As A Consultant) #8
As a consulting manager with a few parallel running projects, there are endless issues to be dealt with at priority.
This can get quite overwhelming, to say the least, especially in this pandemic when everyone’s working remotely.
Part of my project is also being delivered from offshore hence there are time differences to be accounted for.
The following is a process that I created that’s serving me well. This helps me to prioritise my work stack and reduce noise.
I Broadly Follow These 3 Principles:
Let’s deep dive into each of these principles.
#1 Reducing Attendance At Recurring Meetings
As I had multiple projects running simultaneously, there were numerous recurring meetings. This included daily stand-ups, weekly brainstorming calls, weekly project status update calls etc.
As a programme lead, I didn’t need to attend all of these meetings ALL the time. I also realised, each time I would attend, the team would expect the answers to come directly from me.
When I do not attend, this helps the team feel empowered to apply their own intuition to the situation.
There were designated project managers and workstream leads and as such, I limited my attendance at these recurring meetings.
I didn’t decline or delete these from my diary, I simply de-prioritised them (see #2) and only ever attended if:
- I needed to ratify a decision
- There was a possibility of a client escalation
- There was a significant impact on the delivery timelines
This step can be applied to different situations.
For example, if you’re a data engineer, you don’t need to attend each of the delivery stand-ups, especially if there aren’t any updates.
After this step, your calendar will be left with some de-prioritised recurring meetings. Other meetings will be dealt with in the next step.
#2 Categorising Important Meetings
Now that you’ve reduced the attendance at recurring meetings; it’s time to categorise the remaining meetings.
In my other blog on prioritising emails, I explain that I am a huge fan of “Categories” on Outlook or Tags/Flags in other mailing systems.
I use the same/similar 4 categories to help me prioritise my calendar in my inbox:
- Client Work coloured red – As a consultant, there’s nothing more important than client meetings that need action from you.
- Internal Work for Client coloured amber – This category is when the internal team needs support relating to client work. However, if these can be dealt with, by attending one of the recurring meetings, I try and do that instead.
- Recurring Meeting coloured yellow – This is the category I explained in step #1.
- Ad Hoc Meeting coloured green – These generally relate to internal updates, training, leadership and other meetings, that do not fit nicely in any of the above.
Try and keep the categories to a manageable number, avoid any category for catch-all if possible.
More categories will lead to ambiguity and impact your productivity.
After completing this step, you’re now left with a categorised (and colourful) calendar; visually it may look like you have a lot of overlapping meetings.
However, it’ll be pretty clear from the categories, which ones you need to attend.
Since Outlook adds default meetings as Blue, you’ll easily be able to spot those pesky late invites that need “urgent attention”.
More on this on the next step.
#3 Prioritising The Calendar A Week In Advance
Allocate time to batch respond to calendar invites. What is important at the time of landing in your inbox, may drop in priority by the time you get to accept/decline the invite.
The way to do this is as follows:
- Check your calendar a week or at least a day in advance, ahead of you finishing for the day/week and carry out step #1 & #2
- Respond to invites according to the priority that you’ve set above. For example, if a meeting is a red (i.e., client work) and there is a clash with an amber (i.e., Internal Work for Client), ask for the latter to be re-scheduled.
- Remember, if you’re not needed in the meeting, it shouldn’t have been an amber to start with.
- Don’t NOT attend Green and Yellow meetings. You may add some value especially if you know that there’s a decision that you can help expedite. However, don’t prioritise them over your other meetings or work.
- Add a meeting amnesty in your diary and encourage your teams to do the same to ensure that you get proper breaks.
- Try and block-book meetings together. For example, avoid having 30 mins gap in your diary where you can shuffle the meetings together and have a 60-90 min gap to get actual work done.
- Turn off calendar notifications on your phone whilst logged into your laptop, so you can channel your attention to the task at hand.
Using this method should help prioritise your calendar in 3 easy to follow steps.
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Also, check out my other blog on Top 5 Consulting Leadership Traits
And what is the one thing you have learnt from this blog?