Break the Back-to-Back Habit

Last week’s post included social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister’s recommendation that in order to avoid decision fatigue, “do not schedule endless back-to-back meetings.” I strongly second that opinion. Busy leaders who need to see many people throughout their day are tempted to schedule as many appointments as possible and even “work people in” between the scheduled appointments. This is self-defeating behavior. What may appear to be maximizing the use of time is really sabotaging their effectiveness. Baumeister’s research clearly found that continuous decision-making, especially under stressful conditions, seriously compromises the quality of thinking and decision-making. Leaders must discipline themselves to break the back-to-back habit.

Food for Thought ~

What to do? The requisite corollary is to develop excellent time management tools, especially meeting management skills. If you and your co-workers don’t have them, get someone to teach you. Also, a leader should set aside preparation time for every meeting. If it’s important enough to meet, it’s important enough to be prepared. Showing up physically is not enough. You need to be intellectually and emotionally present as well. It takes time to shift gears between meetings. Try reallocating an hour’s appointment with 10 – 15 minutes for planning and preparation and 45 – 50 minutes for the meeting. (And let me know how it works out.)

Question of the day ~

What are your guidelines for scheduling appointments? Do you make time to think, plan and organize before meetings?

If you didn’t read it yet, click here to read my excerpts from the excellent New York Times Magazine article by John Tierney on decision fatigue.