How to Be Productive With an Overload of Meetings and Messages

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Can you ballpark the number of times in the last week you have opened your work email or phone only to put it away because of the overwhelming number of notifications sent your way? Too many people want a meeting with you, and even more people want to connect with you via a digital message of some form. In totality, this is just too much. If we are being honest, you are in no way alone in this experience.

The massive influx of work-related technology platforms, the drive for peak efficiency, and the “always on” nature of our electronic devices is responsible here. But is efficiency truly being achieved if more and more people are feeling overloaded with everything we just mentioned? You would likely say no, and you might be right. So how are you supposed to circumvent this outcome from becoming the norm? It starts with your mindset. Productivity consultant David Allen highlighted this by saying, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

While we give you a minute to wrap your brain around this idea, we will begin looking at the other options you have for being productive with an overload of meetings and messages. Just sit back and do your best to learn all you can here. You might find that your own efficiency will increase. 

1. Get Organized and Stay There

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It can easily be argued that the number one cause of inefficiency in the workplace, or even in personal life, is disorganization. How can anyone expect to fulfill their duties if they do not know the details of what is being asked of them? The same can be asked of the person who is completely unaware of a particular professional duty. To prevent either of these scenarios becoming a reality in your life, take a practical step toward organization.

“Everyone could stand to be a little better organized, even the people who keep a daily calendar,” said Carrie Shaltz Haslup, Founder and CEO of Tabeeze. “Be it reminders for work tasks or just a tidier house, there is certainly an aspect for everyone to change.”

To the perennially unorganized, this may come off as one of the more daunting endeavors you have thought about taking on yourself. Thankfully, modern problems have modern solutions. The ever-popular sticky note is as widespread as it is for a basic reason—it works. But it is not just the post-it note that is responsible for this. No matter what you need to remind yourself to do later, being intentional about it is the only way for it to happen. 

“Organized people aren’t born that way; they’re self-created,” said Liza Kirsh, CMO of Dymapak. “If you want more productivity in your work life, start by thinking about how you can be organized both physically and digitally.”

2. Rid Yourself of Distractions

Speaking of the digital world, it is more than probable that you have two or more screens at your disposal during work hours. Your personal phone is one, and it is certainly not going anywhere. Of course, nothing is getting done without your work computer. Yet, these two devices keep getting pinged with notifications, pulling you from one to the other in cyclical fashion; this is no way to achieve productivity. 

“Our devices have advanced to the point where we can set them to behave in certain ways during work hours, but we can’t be sure about how many actually use this feature,” said Alex Novak, CEO of SexLikeReal. “For me, it’s the best thing I’ve found for staying on target.”

Distractions can be much larger than just the notifications about news headlines or emails about a new seasonal sale; this is especially true if you work from your home or another personal space. Pets, children, significant others—basically your whole personal life exists here. It is not naturally geared towards a productive work environment, but it has become that by default, so you must make the most of it.

“Create a spot in your home where you feel like you can close off from the world and hone in on your work,” said Lyudmyla Dobrynina, Head of Marketing North America at Optimeal. “The distractions of home are endless, so you can’t just skate by hoping for the best.”

3. Be Mindful of Yourself

However you choose to look at the working world as a whole, one thing is readily apparent: it is incredibly demanding. For some positions, the amount of hours demanded per week are enough to kill an elephant. For others, the stressors of interpersonal relationships with coworkers and outside parties are absolutely draining. It seems that regardless of any factor, much will be required of you in some capacity. Unfortunately, this statement is true, but that does not mean you should continually take on this burden without pause. 

“Sometimes, the best thing for your brain when it is being overworked is a break,” said Rachel Roff, Founder and CEO of Urban Skin Rx. “It sounds simple, but it’s been proven to make a difference.”

But mindfulness goes much deeper than taking five minutes away from your desk in moments of high stress. Are you eating well? Have you been sleeping well? Is physical exercise part of your weekly routine? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you are not being as mindful of yourself as you could be. But the good news for you here is that we just gave you some of the big answers to the question of mindfulness. 

“Overworking may as well be defined as a disease with the damage it does and how prevalent it is,” said Melanie Bedwell, E-commerce Manager of OLIPOP. “But people insist on continuing in it, even at the expense of productivity. 

4. Find Your Groove

While the idea of stepping away from what you perceive to be too much work is incredibly appealing, it may not always be realistic. Do you really think so many people want to spend their extra time focused on work? Hardly, but they are being asked, or required, to put in these long hours. But who is to say you cannot get ahead of the curve here? No one, actually, so you may as well lean into your natural work habits. 

“If you’re a morning person, identify the things that need to get done with a higher level of attention and take care of them in the morning,” said Christy Pyrz, Chief Marketing Officer of Paradigm Peptides. “Conversely, if you function better right after lunch, save the high attention-needing tasks until then.”

This does not come without a little trial and error. That is, unless you are already incredibly informed on how you and your body best respond to work responsibilities. For starters, you can track the time it takes you to complete a routine task at different times of the day. After this, take time to reflect. Is there a difference? Why or why not? It is a little time intensive, but in the long run, you will thank yourself. 

“The older I get, the more I find myself agreeing with the idea that the body is a well-oiled machine,” said Drew Sherman, VP of Marketing at Carvaygo. “But it is only well-oiled if we, the owners and operators of our bodies, make it so. If you implement good habits, good habits will be produced, plain and simple.”

5. You Are in Control of Your Time

With the hustle and bustle of the average business day, it can be easy to forget you exist. Not that you cease to live, but that you have a valued opinion, emotions, and thought processes worth voicing. This forgetfulness is not an uncommon trend—many people lose sight of themselves when they are in the thick of a work-related event or busy work day. Be it a meeting or a high number of emails, when those notifications pop up, some of us just go on auto-pilot until the matter is handled. 

“Obviously, you have to fall in line behind your boss and whatever instruction they give,” said Omid Semino, CEO and Founder of Diamond Mansion. “However, you don’t have to become a working husk with no life. Remember that you have more than a little personal agency.”

If you are looking for ways to be practical about this, you may consider setting boundaries for yourself. Though, coming face-to-face with this may be a tad unsettling. What do we mean by this? Well, telling a coworker you do not have time in your schedule for their unnecessary check-in is never going to be a fun experience. The same can be said about asking your boss to send fewer, more concise emails. 

“In the working world, people are more than happy to use up your time unless you take a stand,” said Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce at La Blanca. “Just the act of saying ‘no’ to a few things goes a long way.”

Navigating any work day will certainly leave you tired by the end of it, and doing so with an overload of meetings and messages may leave you comatose. Hopefully, the ideas above will help you avoid this. If you remember one thing from all of this, let it be the words of author Stephen King as he says, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

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