25 meetings in one week. I have no idea how I did that, but that was my life earlier this year. Over the summer, I set a hard cap of 10 meetings a week on my calendar and here’s what happened.
Prefer to read instead of watch? Here’s a rough script I used for this video.
Hey guys, Matt Paulson here. This is a follow up to a video that I made over the summer that argued that you need to set a hard cap on the number of meetings you put on your calendar each week so that you can focus on what’s most important to you and maintain a more balanced life. In recent years, my challenge has been discerning which organizations, businesses, individuals and investments I want to involve myself. I like to stay busy and I like to do a lot of different things, but that has put me in a place where there were just way too many meetings on my calendar. There would be weeks where I had as many as 20 different meetings on my calendar for people that wanted to have coffee and get business advice, non-profit board meetings, business development phone calls for work, networking events and mixers and stuff like that. It just became a bit unmanageable and something needed to change.
I decided over the summer that I was going to put a hard cap on the number of meetings I took each week to 10. I would take no more than 10 meetings a week and if someone wanted to meet with me after my limit of 10, I would just have to tell them no or schedule them for the following week. I actually modified the calendar software I use to flash a big red warning light if there were any more than 10 meetings on my calendar in the next week, so I’d always know what my commitment level looked like over the next week and whether or not I was approaching my meeting cap.
Honestly, it’s been working pretty well. I won’t lie and say that every week I haven’t gone over the 10 meeting limit, but it definitely hasn’t ever been more than 12 or 13. I think being aware of what I already have on my schedule has just made it so whenever I put something on my calendar, I have to ask myself “I already have 8 meetings on my calendar in the next week. Do I really want to take a 9th?” This has caused me to simply say “no” more often which is not an easy thing to do for me. I realized that sometimes I would tell people I would meet with them even though I didn’t want to and just couldn’t think of a good reason to tell them “no.” I figured out that I don’t have to give a reason for a “no” though, so sometimes I’ll just tell people that I can’t meet with them or I’m not interested in meeting with them. You don’t owe everyone that wants something from you an explanation, so often a simple “no” is just good enough.
I’ve also been a little bit less pro-active about scheduling meetings and following up with people. If someone tells me that we should have lunch or coffee and I want to have lunch or coffee with them, I’ll tell them to send me an email with a few dates and times that work for them. Sometimes they follow up and I’ll schedule the coffee or the lunch or sometimes they won’t follow up, which means it wasn’t that important that we meet for lunch or have coffee in the first place.
I’ve also been able to reduce the number of meetings that I take by delegating some meetings to members of my team. Will takes the lead on business development for MarketBeat, so if someone wants to do a deal with us, he first vets them and sees what they want before I get on the phone. Maureen is taking the lead on a lot of the Startup Sioux Falls stuff that I’m doing, specifically in-person events. We recently did an event called the September Startup Social and had more than 100 people there, but she arranged the catering, found a beer and wine distributor, lined up all the speakers and booked the location. That’s at least 10 different meetings and phone calls that she handled that I didn’t have to, and I feel great about it.
Overall, it feels like there’s a lot more balance in my life. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much by reducing the number of meetings I’m taking each week because most of the stuff I say “no” to was of marginal interest to begin with. Regarding the MarketBeat and Startup Sioux Falls meetings that now happen with out my presence, I also feel good about those, because the work still gets done and I just don’t have to be apart of it. Delegating meetings has been a really freeing and empowering thing where possible. I think the “10 meetings a week” rule is now going to be the new normal for me along with the other strategies that I’ve mentioned in this video.