Fooxes Consulting

Productivity hack - Alternating meeting and working weeks

Artikel - Hannes Kleist - 28.05.2020

Productivity hack - Alternating meeting and working weeks

Do you ever feel like your day consists only of pointless meetings while you cannot get important stuff done? At best you are able to tackle the urgent stuff. I thought I had solved that issue by highly structuring my day.

Do you ever feel like your day consists only of pointless meetings while you cannot get important stuff done? At best you are able to tackle the urgent stuff.

I thought I had solved that issue by highly structuring my day.

Getting up at 5:00, I quickly clean the inbox and write for an hour (this article, for example), working off one important (not urgent!) topic. Hitting the weights at 7:30, then one hour blocks of meditation, thinking and reading.

After that, 6 hours of meetings, emails and other minor todos.

At 5, it’s time for cooking and the family.

After putting the boys to bed, I read for an hour or so before falling asleep around 21:30.

More details on this.

The Problem

This all went to 🦀when we hired an agency to do outreach for us. This even got “worse” when we hired our own sales manager. All of a sudden my calendar got blocked solid for weeks in advance with calls with potential clients and partners. I had no time left for internal meetings or to work of my loving todos list (Rules: Nothing can sit there for longer than 7 days). I had some 60 todos in there. The oldest todo was 2 months. I also could not properly follow up on all those potential partnerships properly.

I was getting crazy and stressed out again. 😱

Something had to be done. Some highly effective people must have faced the same issue.

The Inspiration

I read some time ago that Warren Buffet had this brutal method to not allow any meeting being scheduled more than one day in advance. You had to call his secretary the day before and Warren would decide every morning, which meeting is important for his next workday.

I also remembered reading in Deep Work that Bill Gates disappears twice per year for a week into the woods just to read and think.

The Plan

I got so stressed having to juggle a full meeting schedule, with most calls being cold outreach 😰, urgent todos and important stuff that needs to be done and the corona crises hitting the world.

I reflected that a single call in any given day has the power to stress me out the entire day. If it’s just somewhat exciting my 🐒 mind would constantly remind me and I could not work concentrated and never get into the flow.

I needed full days with no meetings and that meant I need to block — Tetris style. First I considered alternating meeting-days and work-days. But that would create an imbalance (either 3 meeting days vs. 2 workdays or vice versa) and I couldn’t properly get into a flow of working stuff off my list either.

So I considered doing this for full weeks at a time. One week I would do only 30-minute meetings and every other week I would take no meetings whatsoever and just burn down my todo list.

Call to Action

After hitting rock bottom in April with 60 todos on my “must do” list with the oldest item being 2 months old — I decided to not allow any meetings for two weeks to work off my todo list. I called it “Power Week”.

I worked my way down to only one open todo.

It felt amazing so I decided to give the alternating meeting vs work weeks plan a try.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I had trepidations though.

Could I really work off todos for 6 hours straight? I tend to lose drive after 2–3 hours and a meeting usually breaks the routine a bit.

Could meetings really wait for two weeks — or even four, if my schedule is already full for the upcoming meeting week?

Could I actually be strong enough to not allow any meetings encroach on my workdays?

Oh, Happy Days!

I am doing this now for two months and it turns out to be working better than expected.

Here is my calendar in two alternating weeks

The first block in the workweek is “writing”. But it turned out, that I seriously could not push through, doing no meetings whatsoever at all in the working week. So I added a 1-hour-block for urgent meetings at 11:00 (when I start my normal work) with 15-minute chunks of important meetings. Most of them are internal.

It works great. During the workweek, I burn down my todos, have time for some important stuff from our long term projects. Most importantly: I love this week. Because I have no exciting meetings to worry about, I am totally Zen. I stop working before 17:00 most days because I run out of steam, but that feels ok. No FOMO whatsoever.

And during the meeting week, I do not feel stressed, because I am behind on my todos. They pile up alright, but I feel confident that I can burn them off them the next week. But the best thing is, that I get into a “meeting flow”. Especially with the outreach calls. Having 10 sales calls in a row really allows you to hone your sales script and style. It also does not feel as crushing when a call does not go well.

I do use my deep work time at the beginning of the day, though, to clean my inbox and follow up on leads. I simply love having an empty inbox before my day starts in earnest.

I also changed the weekly 1:1s with my direct reports. I used to do 30’ with each of them at the beginning of each week. Now it’s one full hour every two weeks and it is a much better format. It used to be a rushed update on the urgent topics with me deciding things on the fly. Now it’s a reflected discussion on important long-term topics.


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Hannes Kleist
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