What to do if you have too many meetings

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Overwhelmed by meetings?

Sick of ‘getting stuck’ in meetings — emerging hours later and having your whole day derailed? 

If so, the latest episode of the Marketing Mentor Podcast is for you!

Of almost everyone I know, I’m one of the few who
loves meetings. It seems like with vague agendas, too many talkers, and people who don’t pay attention to the clock, meetings can go down the drain and take creatives’ spirits with them.

But as one of my clients (and fellow meeting fans) said, “A meeting can be a much more efficient and complete way to get your questions answered, instead of exchanging a bunch of emails back and forth.” 

The truth is, I love meetings. And I’m hopeful that you can too. I want everyone to get the good from meetings — connecting and learning something new — and leave the bad behind. And as always, I have quite a few suggestions on how to do that (with the language to go along with it)!

First, get some clarity. 

Have you ever actually looked at how many meetings you have — and if they’re working for you?

Take inventory of the different types of meetings you do:

  • Meetings with clients: progress meetings / project management / check-ins
  • Meetings with prospects
  • Networking meetings
  • Meetings with collaborators
  • Video meetings. Phone meetings. In-person meetings of different varieties.

Are some more important than others? Do they fill you up in different ways — financially, emotionally, socially, etc?

Which ones leave you feeling inspired? Energized? Informed?

Which ones invoke a sense of dread? (It’s an important emotion to pay attention to. Dread can be your body’s way of saying something isn’t working here, whether it’s the client, the format, or the feeling that your boundaries have been pushed.)

Tune into what’s not working:

  • Is it the person, the format, the time of day? 
  • Do clients show up unprepared or while they’re still hashing things out?
  • Do agendas and schedules fall to the wayside?
  • Or is it just your precious time being overburdened or wasted?

Since you are in charge of what meetings you take (and you are!), consider:

What is necessary? What is desired? What meetings are worth it to you? (Worth is determined by a number of factors beyond just money.)

We are humans … sometimes it’s nice to talk. But not if our schedules are maxed to the brim, we’re overworked, overtired, or we haven’t had time to eat or take care of ourselves.  

Just because someone asks for a meeting, you don’t have to say yes.

Why? Because it’s your business and you are in charge; you get to be selective!

Whether your “workload doesn’t allow it,” or you’re trying to be “especially mindful” of what you commit to, saying no is always a viable option. 

Try this:

"Thank you for the invitation, but unfortunately, I have other pressing commitments this week. If there are any critical points or updates, please feel free to share them with me via email after the meeting."


“My week is booked — can you send me the request via email and I’ll let you know if I have any questions?” 


"Our web designer has the necessary expertise, so I'll let them take care of this. I'm confident they'll handle it effectively."

And just because you do decide to have a meeting, it doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all.

Back before I got fired from my second job, 36 years ago, I used to have to go to meetings I wasn’t in charge of. Maybe you also worked for someone else previously, and you were a captive meeting-attendee, too. But now — we are the bosses, y’all! It’s your business and you get to decide. (Yes, even if your client is paying you tons of money!) So, don’t respond right away. Take a minute to think. If this meeting is necessary and something you want to say yes to, consider the parameters that will work. This can look like whatever you want! 

Try this:

  • I’d love to have a quick meeting but I have a hard stop after 25 minutes.
  • I can’t do another Zoom meeting this week! I have major screen fatigue. Can we talk on the phone? 
  • I would love to meet about this, but I’m not available until…
  • Wednesday or Thursday before 2PM is best for me. After that, my brain turns to mush. (A real one from my dear friend, Deidre.) 

Maybe some of your clients are operating from the perspective we once had on the ‘inside’ — that meetings can or should happen any time, for a long time. Or maybe it’s part of their company culture to show up unprepared, hash things out, and spend the whole day doing so. You can show them differently. / And that’s fine — they can do whatever they want on their own time … but you get to own your schedule. 

While it’s happening, keep the meeting on-track.

You — in real time — can make the meeting better. And at the very least, stay true to the comfort level and parameters you’ve defined for your involvement. Up front, be very clear about what your goals are, and what your time frame is. Then, put yourself in charge of making those things happen. 

If the meeting starts to derail…

  • Help the non-clock-attuned people stay on course: “Let’s do a time check. We’ve got 30 minutes left.”
  • Encourage the people who aren’t talking: “Maureen, we haven’t heard from you … what’s your take on this?”
  • Politely interrupt the people who won’t stop talking, and bring things back on course: “I’m going to interrupt you now … we have more to cover.” 

If you don’t feel comfortable doing that (even though talkers have told me often that they appreciate someone stopping them!), you might also consider a virtual integration tool for Zoom called Talking Stick, which encourages fair and intentional communication among participants (just like the instrument of Indigenous democracy used by various Indigenous communities).

Pace it and police it:

“Looks like we’re getting into the weeds. Let’s see if we can come to a conclusion in the next two minutes, because we’ll be moving on.”

In a recent meeting about how to have better meetings 😆, one client suggested playing the Oscars wrap up music towards the end of a meeting. I like it. :)

Don’t get stuck. 

You can also excuse yourself if the client is figuring out something internally that they should have figured out before the meeting. If it was defined in advance what this meeting was about, and the client hasn’t shown up prepared, try: 

I understand that there are some internal matters you need to sort out before we can effectively address the purpose of this meeting. To respect everyone's time and ensure we can have a productive discussion, I suggest we reschedule for a later date when you've had a chance to finalize those details. Please let me know your availability, and we can find a suitable time to reconvene. 


Sounds like that needs more discussion. Maybe you can take that and decide amongst yourselves. Let me know what you decide. In the meantime, let’s move to the next topic.

Or if the meeting is breaching its schedule: 

I’ve only got 10 more minutes. Here’s what I’d like before I go.

If a meeting goes over, you can choose to stay, or you can choose to leave. But keep in mind that leaving on time — at the time you designated at the beginning — is a good way to demonstrate your boundaries for next time, when it’s likely the attendees will take your timeline more seriously.

After the meeting…

Efficiency is everything here. If recapping needs to happen, do it right away. Waiting even a day or two can make you miss things. So allow time to take notes, and send follow-ups while the conversation is fresh. This also puts an official pin in the meeting and frees up your brainpower.

See how technology can help.

Some clients like using Otter.ai (which uses an AI Meeting Assistant to transcribe meetings in real time). I prefer just taking notes of the highlights, because writing helps me process and retain.

And in advance, big-picture…

You are allowed to create some guideposts around meetings. You are in charge of how many meetings you take, and how long they last. Pay attention to the rhythm that is most supportive … for example, if your mornings are best spent working, take meetings only in the afternoons. Of course, all rules can be bent under exceptional circumstances, but spend some time thinking about how and when and with whom you’d like to have meetings in the future. 

Have a policy around meetings, or a framework that feels good to you. (If you use Calendly for scheduling, it can help you implement these regulations.) You could:

  • Limit meetings to two days per week.
  • Only take meetings in the mornings.
  • Adjust how you organize your schedule around meetings. (Maybe after every meeting, you schedule a 20-minute meditation — whatever works for you!) 

I have clients who only do meetings on certain days of the week, some who are game for an in-person meeting especially when there’s food and drinks, and some who only do Zoom because they don’t see travel time as an efficient use of their schedule. 

I’ve been putting 15 minutes of padding in between each and it makes a world of difference. I can just sit and think, process what I heard, make connections and let ideas come. It improves my headspace, and the quality of what I deliver.

You are allowed to be as conventional or unconventional as you want. 

The secret power of the 8-minute phone call really stuck with me. It combines two things I adore. Connecting, and clear boundaries!

  • Schedule a 22 minute meeting where you’ll discuss 2 main questions.
  • Have a challenge: Get a meeting done in under an hour and everyone gets lunch.
  • Opt for walk and talks, so you can move your body while meeting.
  • Have a “no agenda, no meeting” rule.

Become the meeting maestro.

  • With clients, define in advance how meetings will look over the course of a project.
  • With prospects, choose a time where you feel energized, but the meeting doesn’t take away from your most creative or productive time during the day.
  • With colleagues, have these meetings if they fuel you, and don’t if they don’t. 
  • With friends and acquaintances (and of course, dogs), find a way to have in-person time, because breathing the fresh air together can be good for the soul. As much “meeting” as we’re doing online, we also need in-person connection, and fresh air. Or sometimes coffee. Or snacks. :)

Maybe I love meetings because of how I wrangle my schedule, which I’ve been honing since this podcast from ages ago that I stumbled on recently. But I encourage you to own your schedule and wrangle it, however you see fit.

When it comes to meetings — and everything else you use your precious time on — think about what you want, and what you need, and whittle away everything else. Maybe "Slow Productivity" is really the best kind. 

Say no

Sometimes the answer may be saying no, taking on less, and truly prioritizing the clients and projects that provide for the business and life we want.

As Marketing Mentor, I officially bestow upon you the esteemed title of 'Meeting Maestro' — may your meetings be productive, efficient, and free from time-wasting trivialities! As Meeting Maestro, you shall make it so!

What have you learned about meetings? 

Are there meetings you love and meetings you hate? What has shaped the way you engage in meetings? Have you taken any measures that improved your feelings around meetings? 

Reach out and let me know – we could even meet about it!

(Photo by Alex McCarthy on Unsplash)

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