I’m trying an experiment during the summer. I’m setting a hard cap on the number of meetings I’ll take each week to protect my time for my family and my business.
Prefer to read instead of watch? Here’s a rough script I used for this video.
Matt Paulson here. In this video, I want to discuss a new strategy that I’ve implemented in my personal life relating to what meetings that I’m willing to take and how many meetings I’m willing to take each week. I often have many meetings each week because of the things I”m involved with. I have investments in a large number of businesses. I serve on a few volunteer boards. I have many business acquaintances that I like to catch up with periodically. I’m currently working on a local political campaign. I’m also very involved in my local church. And a lot of people ask me for coffee to get advice on their business ideas. I’ve just got a lot of stuff going on personally and professionally, all of which I enjoy because I like to be busy, and I think it’s important to be actively engaged in one’s community and try to do some good in the world.
While I enjoy everything I’m currently involved with, it does place a lot of different meetings on my calendar. Sometimes I don’t know when to just say “my calendar is full for the week and I can’t take any more meetings this week.” There have been a couple of weeks where I’ve had more than 20 meetings on my calendar in a given week and realistically, that’s just more than I can handle. I’m a social introvert. While I love spending a lot of time around other people, it can be a bit draining to me. Taking on too many meetings also detracts from my time to work on MarketBeat, which isn’t ideal either. This is something I’ve written about before and something I’ve struggled with for a while. I’ve tried a few different things and have put some good boundaries in place, but haven’t really yet been able to find a good way to maintain a good personal balance.
I have realized for a while there are going to be more good things to be involved with than I realistically have time to do. For this reason I only serve on two volunteer boards at a time, because I would rather make a big impact on two organizations than a minimal on multiple organizations. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to take meetings in the evening and on weekends, because that time is reserved for my wife, my kids and my church. I’ve also recently hired an executive assistant to help manage some of the chaos that is my professional life and that’s been helpful to free up some time as well. Even with these self-imposed restrictions and having my EA Maureen help with things, the work day ends up with more meetings than I would like on my calendar.
So, this summer I’m trying something new to protect my time and make sure that my energy is going to the places that are most impact for my life, my business and my community. I am putting a hard cap on the number of meetings that I am willing to take each week, so that my time is protected for my business and my family. Initially, I am going to try to do no more than 10 meetings a week for the month of June and I may adjust that number up or down a bit in July based on how I feel it’s going. I’ve effectively given myself a budget for the number of meetings I can schedule in a week and that will prevent me from over-extending myself during the work day. Now, when someone asks me for a meeting, I have to ask myself “Do I really need to take this meeting?” and “Is this one of the ten most important meetings I can take this week?”. If the answer is no, then I either won’t take the meeting or will schedule it for the following week. If my calendar ends up getting booked up 2-3 weeks in advance, so be it. One thing I did was write a little tool with code that will scan my calendar and tell me how many meetings I’ve got coming up in the next 7 days, so I’ll know how close I am to my hard meeting cap.
This will necessarily mean that I have to tell people I won’t meet with them or I can’t meet with them this week. Honestly, this will be hard for me because I tend to be somewhat of an accommodating person and because I like to help people who need advice for their business. I also like to stay “in the know”, so I’ll go to all of the meetings for the non-profits I’m involved in possible as well as things like downtown Rotary and various chamber events. Saying “no” is really where the rubber will hit the road with this project, but really that’s what needs to happen to protect what’s really important in my life, my time with my family, my work with MarketBeat and my commitment to the local church.
Now, I don’t know if I’ll stick with putting a hard cap on meetings after this experimental period of June, July and August. There are other ways that I can limit the number of meetings that I take in a week. I could make a conscious decision to be involved in fewer things. One piece of advice my business coach gave me was to give people some homework to do before I meet them for coffee, such as telling them to go read a specific book first, then follow up with me when they’re done with that. I could also limit meetings to a specific time-frame during the day, which I may do anyway because it really throws off my productivity when I have an 8 AM meeting as my first meeting of the day. Those are just some ideas I might try in the future.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the idea of setting a hard cap on the number of meetings one takes each week. It’s not a perfect solution to protect my time, but I think it’s an idea worth experimenting with.