I’m So Busy – How Do I Prepare for a Meeting?

October 16, 2020

by Dave Bushy

You’re a busy manager and it’s Sunday evening.  You’re trying to get ready for the upcoming week.  You log onto your work calendar and look incredulously at your Monday schedule wide-eyed.   You are booked with continuous back-to-back meetings from 7 am until 6 pm!

“What happened?” you ask yourself.  Then you remember that a dozen people have access to your calendar and, being the ultimate pleaser, you have agreed to every meeting request.  Without realizing it, you have set yourself up.  It looks as if you will have no down time at all during the day.

And you won’t have something else:  The ability to mentally and physically prepare for each scheduled meeting.  From one-on-ones to team sessions, you will jump from conference room to office and back again continuously.  And at the end of the day, you will try to make meaning of it all.

“I’m just incredibly busy – and that’s the way it is,” some clients tell me.  Others try to convince themselves – and me –  that they are exceptionally good at multi-tasking, and besides, “I just facilitate the sessions and direct others – I don’t need to do the work that comes out of the meeting.” 

I sometimes ask clients, “And who does the mental work preparing for the meeting?”  As we probe a bit deeper with my questions, some managers admit to me that they walk into a room and see the faces sitting around the table and sometimes realize they have not the slightest clue as to the focus of the meeting.  They often buy time by blurting out, “So why are we all together today?”  A sardonic smile from me to the client illuminates a self-confession for some: “Yeah, that might not elicit the most confidence in my people!”

A metaphor comes to mind involving commercial aviation.  Professional pilots spend time during the relatively low-workload time of level cruise flight to “brief the approach” phase of the flight.  They pull up the diagrams and descriptions of the expected instrument approach and carefully review the various altitudes, headings, frequencies and even the rare “missed approach” that might be necessary if a go-around needs to be initiated.  That preparation serves as a mental picture for the pilots so that they know what to expect when they get into a high workload situation and are mentally prepared for what we call a “critical phase of flight.”

While your daily meetings might not be as challenging as flying a successful approach and landing in a commercial airliner, in the aggregate they add up to success for your organization and in the cohesiveness of your team.

There are a few ways in which you can approach your busy day.  Blocking out some time each morning and afternoon can help, although middle-level managers can find that their bosses might grab those free sessions for their own meetings.  Another approach is to schedule meetings with built-in buffers in between.  Some managers favor 30 or 45 minute meetings, giving themselves time before and afternoon to both make meaning of their previous sessions and prepare for the next one.

The key, of course, is intention.  And exploring that intention can be assisted and supporting in the coaching process.  If your desire is to know the planned outcomes of a meeting and how best to support your people, then you can spend 15 minutes sketching out ideas, perhaps writing notes on a prepared agenda.  There is a mindfulness aspect of corporate life that is important to recognize.  Practicing such mindfulness need not be limited to your yoga class or quiet time alone in the morning.  It can assist you preparing for each meeting of your day and creating your own “approach briefing,” to ensure a successful landing!

Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches – bostonexecutivecoaches.com – is a former U.S. Army officer and senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout American industry.  He is an ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC).

Pixabay Photo by Brian Merrill

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