Conquering your agenda
At this point in the year, I can say that the most common and recurring problem I am finding in each and every organisation I interact with is one and only one: people have totally and utterly lost control of their own agendas.
I remember 5 years ago, just when I was starting my life as an entrepreneur and doing my first projects collaborating with other companies, one of the things that surprised me the most was to see that, in some of them, agendas were open and shared and that anyone could block times and organise meetings by entering colleagues’ calendars. I had built my corporate career in large companies where this practice had never been done before. Agendas were a private thing and each person managed their time and meetings at their best convenience. Perhaps organising a meeting implied an effort of synchronisation, but in the end, whoever attending the meetings was the one who had to do so and, precisely, the difficulty involved in prior synchronisation meant that calling meetings was the last option to be resorted to and all possible previous forms of communication were tried to be exhausted first.
Nowadays, seeing the Outlook of my clients, I really wonder when they can think, execute, project, tangibilise, deal with issues with their teams, invest time in learning or growing talent… In other words, work. Microsoft Teams sessions follow one after the other, often even overlapping (the famous “death by Teams“). People spend the day rushing out of one session, rushing into another and with their minds on the unfinished work on their desks. What is urgent for others comes dangerously ahead of what may be important to us because we have no opportunity to practice critical thinking and we lose clarity. Meetings and trainings relentlessly appear on agendas, unannounced and unbidden, and in the end it is as if everyone is working in a new role that could be called meeting specialist.
It is undoubtedly laudable that companies and governments are legislating in favour of digital disconnection and that efforts are being made to set timetables for sending emails, but I sincerely believe that there are previous steps that should be taken into consideration. To what extent is it necessary for my agenda to be exposed to my entire corporate community? What problem is there if I decide to block my own working time? How many of the people who attend a session do so actively or is their presence essential? Is it absolutely necessary for all meetings to be held in real time? The new time management is not about whether I put first the big stones or the pebbles in the vase, but about asking ourselves whether we really own our agendas. Before discussing hybrid models and open spaces, it is worth prioritising the fact of giving privacy to agendas, of empowering people to block their own times (and that these are respected), of asking before calling a meeting and of embracing asynchrony and being able to listen to meetings anytime, like a podcast, if your attendance is simply to “keep up to date”.
Because legislating is all very well, but there are a few chapters to consider before that. And the first one is called “Conquering your agenda”.