Outlook Overload (Pt. 1)

Too many meetings!

This has historically been the number one complaint I’ve heard from developers. Developers are not the only ones to complain though, I’ve heard it directly from project managers too, and they traditionally schedule more meetings than any other role. One project manager floated the idea of no meetings on Friday – but it didn’t happen. Then no meeting Mondays which didn’t float either.

Meetings are the life-blood of any large company and without them seemingly nothing would get done. What is needed is a consolidated effort from the entire team to create some rules and then play by them. I did this in my last assignment and by permission of my employer am able to reprint them here for others to take away and use as they will to tame the beast.

Creating Calendar Events

Do:

  • Do ensure that all calendar invites are sent with an agenda. If it is just a holding spot, then the agenda should come ASAP or at least within three days of the event. Creating an agenda forces the requester to think about what the purpose of the meeting is and who the right personnel to attend are.
  • Do be sure to identify bullet points on your agenda where input from one of the attendees is expected.
  • Do follow the agenda during the meeting to ensure that each individual speaking point is addressed and answered or specifically deferred.
  • Do be sure to identify any action items needed for completion before the meeting (ex: read wiki link).
  • Do use Outlook’s Scheduling Assistant to ensure that all required parties are available to attend your meeting. If you cannot avoid conflicts, then as the organizer you should be expected to reach out to the party with a conflict and see if they can resolve the conflict by moving the other meeting.
  • Do use the “required” and “optional” flags for your invitees. This allows folks to know whether they are being “cc’d” about the meeting for information purposes or if their attendance is actually required.

Don’t:

  • Don’t schedule a meeting during lunch or during non-working hours for required attendees.
  • Don’t assume that a person that has a conflict when your meeting was scheduled will “figure it out and let you know”.

Accepting Calendar Events

Do:

  • Do ask for an agenda if you receive an invitation without one.
  • Do reach out to the requester if you find that their meeting is in conflict with another on your calendar. This can be done with the Reply button on your invite w/o actually accepting the meeting.
  • Do use the Propose New Time button on the email invitation. This leaves your original invitation as tentative until the reschedule takes place at which time you can accept the invite.
  • Do look at the attendees of the meeting when there is a conflict with another meeting. When the list of attendees is large or involves folks with a significantly higher pay grade (VP, SVP, GM) then it is likely that the requester is unable to find a time that works for everyone. Assume they did their best to do so and see if your conflict can be rescheduled.