Short, Time-Boxed Meetings
I am not sure about your calendar, but mine gets a bit crowded sometimes. My biggest challenge is not only to accommodate the various meetings requests, but I also need time to get work done as a result of those meetings. In other words, some slots need to purposely stay un-booked to get stuff done.
So recently I began implementing a new approach which I am happy to share with you. It is actually not very new, I borrowed it Scrum. The answer are short, time-boxed meetings.
Here is how it works:
When I am scheduling meetings, I am proposing very short meetings only. Ideally not more than 15-20 minutes. Even if the topic seems to be much bigger, the initial short meeting will give enough orientation. Be prepared to hear back questioning comments from your participants, for example "did you schedule this by error". Only because some of the popular calendar management tools suggest 30 Minutes by default, does not mean that your meeting needs to be 30 minutes. There is also evidence, that in very long meetings the attention span is highest in the beginning and has another elevation towards the end. I am simply cutting out the unproductive middle.
Just in the spirit of Scrum, a time box represents the maximum available time. But what I have noticed in the past, is that hardly any of my meetings ended earlier than expected, long or short. So I keep using short meetings and even if I need the entire slot, the initial investment of time is still short.
If I am invited to lengthier meetings, scheduled by someone else, I sporadically ask "if we are done" when it seems that we had covered some ground. Check the reaction in the room and make a decision if that meeting can be stopped.
My 15 minute block is not to be confused with a Daily Scrum. Not a repeating specific agenda and not automatically scheduled at like in Scrum. Just using time-boxing.
If the topic appears to be bigger, I will schedule short follow-up's meetings in the same style, possibly even the same day and possibly multiple ones. Breaking down a big topic into small topics and tackling them in short separate meetings is a natural thing for agilists.
That's not it yet. Two more things, with a 15 minute on my calendar, I will try to automatically reserve the 15 after as transition time. I either wrap the previous meeting up by taking notes, comments, action items and so forth. Last but not least, reserve and protect a 2-3h of time on your calendar to get bigger chunks of work done.
Do you have a crowded calendars? -> Time-boxing to the rescue!