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"We Need a Chat" About Meetings

When working as a designer remotely, every request of your time costs you. And not just in the typical, financial way.

Breaking up your flow to jump on a 15-minute chat that could have been resolved in a brief couple of Slack messages isn’t something that should be taken lightly. You should value your time and resources more than that.

The next time you are invited to or asked for a meeting. Think on the following two sections meetings fall into, and validate if you should sacrifice that energy, progress and the time you could be spending doing shit you actually want to do.

Meetings You Should Be In

This all comes down to two things:

  • Value
  • Your Work

If the meeting isn’t focused on something that you can share valuable information upon, or help shape the direction of something you’re working on, it’s highly likely you’ll be wasting your time, or sit there muted playing a game or checking on your phone while other people talk.

Sounds like a waste of time.

It is.

To make sure you don’t fall into this unproductive trap. When asked for a “quick chat” or to “link up”, ask why. Get an agenda or brief summary on what the meeting will be about, and if you don’t think you’ll provide value, or get value from being there: Politely excuse yourself and explain that you like to dedicate your time to focus and staying in your flow.

When there is a point to discuss or a topic you think you’ll be able to have a significant impact with, schedule the call in advance and make sure you’ve got a set of rules in place to keep order and ensure people value your time. Here’s my own rule list. Feel free to steal it for yourself.

At Least 24 Hours Notice

I’m a very process orientated person and like to plan my time and activities in advance (I linked an excellent resource for dedicating yourself and work out what exactly how to map out your week by my good friend Matt Sandrini). Because of this, nothing annoys me more than unexpected or unplanned requests for my time. “Can’t we just speak now?” is the enemy of productivity and sticking to your plans. So for all meetings with me, I ask I have at least 24 hours to make sure I can not only dedicate a window of time but prepare or research whatever may be needed during the discussion.

One to One (When Possible)

Conversations naturally function and flow better in one on one situations. The more people added from there, the higher the chance of having too many chefs in the kitchen, and the more probable it is people speak over one another, or the narrative gets off track. In my client projects, I ask for one key stakeholder and decision maker on the other side to be identified, so that they can present a united front, you understand what you need to do, and you can build a healthy and trust-driven relationship with that key individual.

Never on Monday or Friday

Even if Jesus Christ himself got in touch with me and asked for a meeting on Monday or Friday, he’d hear the same answer everyone else gets: “I can’t do that day, how about X instead?” — They say “sure”, and the world goes on.

To set expectations when entering client relationships, you should always let them know how you and your schedule work with your own set of rules (Pro-tip: Put them in your contract) so that there’s no confusion later down the line.

Meetings You Should NOT Be In

The most terrifying thing in the world of a remote creative is: being invited to a recurring call. Even more so if there’s a word like “Check-in” or “Standup”. Calls like this will have 10 people invited to them, and they’ll take it in turns to bore you to death with shit that isn’t relevant to you, or your work.

You’re a great designer. You provide value. So it makes sense people want you around on the off chance your opinion will have that impact. But spending all of your time in every meeting, standup, check-in, quick call, will mean you’ll be stagnating and stuck waiting around on a pointless call, breaking your flow and not getting any fucking work done. Which you should be.

So question everything. Ask yourself if you see how you’ll provide value or gain more knowledge from being there. If not, explain that, and go get on with your life and work. Otherwise, you’re putting together a recipe for spending more time pissing around, rather than creating.

So next time you’re invited to something, don’t mindlessly accept it as something you HAVE to do, just because someone else wants it. Saying “no” does not make you a bad service provider, or seem like an asshole, it means you have a spine. It means you value your time.

Showing others that you hold your time in high regard will mean that they respect it too. And always keep the boundaries you’ve set in mind when speaking to you. They stop taking you for granted and understand how you can best provide the benefits they hired you for.

Take control.

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