How can I get UX work done when I have so many meetings? UX Question #48

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Joanna from Camden, New Jersey, says: I have way too many work meetings. I can’t focus on design because I’m stuck in team meetings. What should I do?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Joanna. This is UX Question number 48 and I am Ben Judy.

How can I get UX work done when I have so many meetings? Well, I get it, Joanna. I’ve worked in many corporate environments where we had a meeting-heavy culture.

Every day, 5, 8, 10 meetings, one after another. And it does start to feel like there’s no time to focus on UX work.

True story: I once worked in a company where we discussed that the amount of meetings we had was a problem. And the VP of our department said, “If you are in a meeting and you don’t see value in it, feel free to leave and get back to work.”

So, the next week, I did exactly that. I was in a staff meeting, I didn’t think what was being discussed was relevant to me, so I just got up and left.

Everyone stared at me in shock. And they were like, “what’s wrong?” And I said, “Oh, I’m just doing what we talked about.” And, naturally, the VP said, “Oh, actually I do want you in this meeting. Would you mind staying?” So, there went that idea.

Here’s the thing about meetings now. We live in the information age. We do knowledge work. And that means, theoretically at least, the meetings are the work.

When we gather together to exchange information, make plans together, provide updates, compare notes —that is our work.

If the meetings you are in are necessary, the problem isn’t too many meetings. It’s that you are being asked to do too much, or to work at an unsustainable pace. That’s actually a different problem.

I hear people end meetings early and say things like, “I’ll give you some time back.” I cringe whenever I hear that. I want to say: hey, the time wasn’t mine or yours to begin with, we have both already traded this time in exchange for a paycheck. You don’t control time that you can give back to me. We have been hired to maximizing our efforts toward our collective goals, for the good of the company.

If meeting together is a good use of company time, so be it. If not, then let’s do something more productive. You owe it to your leaders and your teammates to raise concerns about unproductive meetings or inefficient work practices. Just make sure you’re seeking solutions together, rather than complaining about too many meetings.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: How should I handle professional jealousy?

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