Working On Tasks In Between Meetings

November 15, 2010

Whether meetings are harmful or an alternative to working they do take place. We all probably have one or two meetings this week, entered in our calendar by ourselves or someone else. My observation though is that most people do not track these scheduled meetings when estimating time required to complete tasks. Although I think it would be quite useful. Functional team members work on their tasks in between meetings so the more time is taken by meetings (let alone the time spent on context switching) the less time you have to work on your tasks. So at minimum every meeting pushes out your schedules.

What each of us on the team does for estimating tasks is he uses our visual work-hours calendar. The calendar defined by your work-hours time profile (i.e. Mon-Sat, 9am to 5pm, minus 1hr for lunch) shows only your available work-hours. Additional per day adjustments to the initial time profile make it quite flexible:

  1. Any meeting hours scheduled in your Google or Outlook Calendar are cut out from your work-hours calendar automatically (you don’t work on your tasks in the meetings).
  2. Some days you work more hours than the 8hr time profile, and some days less. So any day in the calendar you can be adjusted by +-Nhr. You usually do the adjustment for the day that is ending (at the end of your work) to reflect how it actually went.

Keeping the accurate trace of how many work hours were and will be available could add more clarity to estimating and communicating on schedules and commitments. It could also serve as an explanation of why schedules are slipping, the next time your manager asks you (because he set up all these meetings). Plus, next time a person setting up a meeting for you may find out that his own task shifts, because it depends on your deliverable. Just another reason to think if requesting that meeting is really necessary.

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