If it seems like your time spent in meetings has been steadily increasing, you aren’t the only one: according to a report by Microsoft on the future of work, “weekly meeting time has more than doubled” since before the pandemic, and “digital overload is climbing.”
That’s partly due to the increase in remote and hybrid work models, but even in-person team members are at risk of burning out due to too many meetings.
Whether you’re dealing with Zoom fatigue or more general meeting burnout, here’s how to deal with meeting overload and use the latest team collaboration tools to spend less time in meetings and improve your overall productivity levels.
What Causes Meeting Overload?
Meeting overload is a case of having too many meetings. But there are several different types of meeting overload, and they aren’t just due to the sheer number of meetings or the amount of time spent in meetings.
Here are six different factors that can contribute to meeting overload and lead to feeling overwhelmed at work.
Too Many Meetings
The most obvious cause of meeting overload is having too many meetings to attend in the first place. According to Microsoft, back-to-back meetings are especially stressful when participants don’t have enough time to properly transition between them.
Sometimes the number of meetings on your schedule is reasonable, but they take up more time than originally planned. Meeting times increase, breaks go out the window, and soon you find yourself without any downtime between meetings.
Unproductive meetings contribute to meeting overload because they diminish morale and make it hard for team members to stay focused at work. Besides, if you don’t get anything done, chances are you’ll schedule even more meetings to make up for it.
Too Many Participants
Maybe the issue isn’t with how many meetings there are, but with who’s invited. Team members may be expected to sit in on meetings at which only a few topics are relevant to them, or to attend recurring meetings that cover the same ground week after week. Having too many participants at the same meeting can also derail the agenda.
Inconvenient Meeting Times
What’s worse than having to attend back-to-back meetings? Having to get up early or stay up late to attend them because your boss schedules meetings based on their own time zone and not your own. This can be especially challenging if you have a remote team that spans multiple locations or time zones.
Unsuitable Meeting Formats
Sticking with the same meeting format week after week can exacerbate the effects of meeting overload. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and participants who have to attend virtual meetings back-to-back may tire out more quickly than those who attend a combination of virtual and face-to-face meetings.
What Are the Effects of Meeting Overload?
Meeting overload isn’t just a minor inconvenience: It can have a major impact on the day-to-day operations of your business. Here are three ways that an all-consuming meeting culture can negatively impact your business and your team.
Diminished Work-Life Balance
Attending too many meetings can be stressful, leaving employees without enough time to rest and recharge. Employees may show signs of meeting burnout, such as a lack of focus or motivation. They may start calling in sick or failing to show up to meetings at all, making it difficult to maintain morale and a cohesive company culture.
A full slate of meetings can get in the way of productive work, leaving team members with no choice but to multitask in order to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities. They may be unable to implement effective routines or time management strategies, resulting in increased overtime and reduced work efficiency.
Not only are you paying employees for the time spent in unproductive meetings, but you may be paying even more when you factor in after-hours meetings and overtime pay. A report by Doodle found that unnecessary meetings cost U.S. businesses almost $400 billion in 2019 — and that was before the pandemic normalized Zoom meetings.
How to Minimize the Impacts of Meeting Overload
Meeting overload can be a major source of stress for your business, but fortunately, it’s a solvable problem. Before sending out your next meeting invite, follow these six steps to minimize the impact of back-to-back meetings on your team.
1. Be Smart About Scheduling
Automated scheduling and project management tools have come a long way. You can use them to coordinate meetings between multiple stakeholders and even to find the optimal time for meetings in your project management calendar.
Make the effort to vary meeting times and formats throughout the workweek to reduce Zoom fatigue and to accommodate team members in different time zones.
2. Use Alternative Communication Channels
Simply having fewer meetings can lead to more effective meetings. Consider canceling meetings that don’t need to happen, and move the discussion to other communication channels instead — such as Slack or another group messaging platform.
For topics that only affect a handful of participants, move the discussion to a breakout room or one-on-one check-in, rather than taking up time in a full team meeting.
3. Create a Meeting Agenda
Having an organized meeting agenda leads to more productive meetings because you can review the topics of discussion in advance and keep the conversation on track. By sticking to the meeting agenda and wrapping up the meeting on time, you can ensure that participants have enough time for a break before their next meeting.
Check out these meeting agenda examples, and choose one that’s the right fit for the format, subject matter, and level of formality of your meeting. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, use Anchor AI’s Quick Prep tool to generate an agenda automatically based on the content of your most recent meeting.
4. Take Automated Meeting Notes
Great meeting notes are a must for any meeting, but no one wants to be the note-taker every time. Use automated note-taking to get more done and free up participants to be more engaged in the meeting. Meeting notes also serve as a record of what went on, and are easier to store, share, and review than a video or audio recording.
AI-powered tools like Anchor AI can do even more than take great notes: They can also create transcripts, meeting summaries, and meeting minutes.
5. Track Action Items
Even with the best of intentions, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks at the end of a meeting. Instead of relying on participants to add follow-up items to their to-do list, use an action item tracker to keep everyone’s tasks in a centralized place.
When you use Anchor AI to take notes in a meeting, Max, your AI project manager, will capture actionable items for you automatically. Use Max Tasks to ensure that each task has a clear due date and description and is assigned to the right team member.
6. Send Out Follow-Up Emails
Finally, make the most of each meeting by writing a brief meeting summary or follow-up that you can send to meeting participants and other stakeholders. When invitees know that they’ll get a meeting summary with action items, they can feel more comfortable sitting the meeting out and avoiding meeting burnout.
Anchor AI can help you generate meeting summaries and follow-up emails right after a meeting is over so you can capitalize on the momentum and get more done. Use the Topical Summary tool to organize your notes into easy-to-read sections.
Avoid Meeting Overload With Anchor AI
Meeting overload is what happens when meetings take up too much of your time and attention: Whether they’re too long, too unproductive, or you simply have too many of them. Avoid meeting burnout by canceling meetings that don’t need to happen and using the right productivity tools to run better meetings and take great notes.
Anchor AI helps you get more out of team meetings by taking notes for you, identifying key takeaways and action items as well as generating follow-up emails and summaries. You can even use it as an AI-powered meeting assistant by asking questions in everyday language, such as “How did the meeting go?” or “What should we focus on next?”
Sign up for free today to bring the power of Anchor AI to your next meeting!