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How to Stay Productive During a Day Full of Meetings

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on March 24, 2015 10:53 AM

At the office, meetings are the bane of your existence, especially if, for some reason, they're not billable. That means you're spending half an hour to an hour waiting for the meeting to end so you can go bill some time. Your life becomes unbearable if you're spending a whole day in meetings instead of doing billable work.

Meetings don't have to make your day awful, though, and you can still stay productive throughout a day of Meetings That Won't Die. Here are five tips to stay productive even though you're being dragged into a conference room all the time.

1. Avoid Meetings Altogether

The best defense is a good offense, and even though you've been roped into a meeting, you might not even have to be there. Check with the meeting organizer to ensure that your presence is required; it may just be that you got invited to the meeting because you report to someone who reports to someone else ... basically, no one asked if you actually had to be there.

This technique comes with a caveat: Use it too often and colleagues or superiors might think you're trying to weasel out of responsibility. So determine whether you really, really need to pull this lever before you do.

2. Prioritize

What if you simply can't escape a day of meetings? Then you need to spend your day like an EMT, doing triage on the tasks you absolutely have to get done. If something can be put off until tomorrow, then do it. If an email or phone call can go unanswered, then put it on the to-do list.

3. Talk to the Boss

If a senior associate or partner keeps scheduling irrelevant meetings, bring the subject up (but please, don't use the word "irrelevant"). Point out that the whole group could be more productive, and bill more hours, by skipping meetings and instead handling tasks over email.

This presupposes, though, that your superiors are easy to talk to and won't automatically think ill of you for criticizing their "day full of meetings" strategy. Approach with diplomacy and forethought.

4. Keep Meetings in Check

If you're not the meeting organizer, but you notice that meetings largely consist of pointless discussions that don't have to last 30 minutes, find a way to politely interject and bring the group's focus back to the task at hand. Ask whether the fine points can be discussed offline. Like the others in the room, your time is valuable, and you didn't sign up to listen to other people debate.

5. Work in the Meeting

If it's just your presence that's required -- in the sense of, people want to see a live body in a chair -- then you can do other work while you're in a meeting. Answer some emails, mark up a draft, or do anything else you need to finish today. (Of course, if your input is expected, you might get startled when someone keeps yelling your name: "Hey, Dave! Wake up!") Again, use this approach with care and an understanding of your firm culture. What is and isn't OK about multitasking during meetings? Then, take it from there.

How do you stay productive through a day full of meetings? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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