Should we "give time back" by default?
Have you ever opened your calendar and experienced a wave of dread at the rectangle of back-to-back meetings before you?
With remote work eliminating the need to so much as walk down the hall to a conference room, never-ending calls are a worsening problem, impacting productivity, encouraging overwork, and contributing to burnout.
Perhaps a simple solution--say, shortening meeting defaults by 5-10 minutes--could help. Or reflecting on when "this could've been an email" applies to a meeting you organized. Maybe politely declining invites when you're not needed could do the trick. Whatever the approach, if your calendar resembles a fortress, it's time to lay siege.
*The fuzzy audio at the beginning of the discussion gets resolved after a few seconds. Classic "meeting software defaulted to the wrong audio device." Thanks for listening!
Microsoft Outlook now lets you end all meetings early to give your brain a rest
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Ryan Purvis 00:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Buckner. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they will help you to get to the scripts for the digital workspace inner workings. We want to get through those those URLs that we've been discussing. She saw the article and first.
Heather Bicknell 00:36
Sure. So this was Microsoft now, letting you set I think that the overall policy level to end use early. So automatic scheduling, making it easier to and meetings five to 10 minutes early, so that you're not poking people, like five hours.
Ryan Purvis 01:02
Yeah, so I'll be honest, I thought this was already there. So I use. So in my settings on my Outlook, I've said that every meeting is five minutes short or 10 minutes shorter depends on the length by default. So so when you book in half an hour meeting is always going to be 25 minutes, when you look at our meetings always gonna be 15 minutes. And that largely has worked. To an extent, what I noticed last night, which I think I sent you a screenshot of is I was sending an email. What time was it must have been 7pm or 8pm, something like that. And it actually popped up with a message across the top saying, Do you want to send this email now? Or do you want to delay the sending this email till tomorrow morning work in time for the people that that you're emailing Who? Now these were internal people. So it obviously worked, it obviously knew the court had the data to know what time they would be in and I said send it anyway. Not because I was expecting a reply straightaway. But I just didn't want to leave it to chance to wait for tomorrow morning. If they read it. If they're if they read it last night, and they could respond to it last night, then that would have suited me. We don't have any any laws where I live and work in either country that says you can't send emails out of out of timezone or out of working hours, at least not in the sort of French, it also France and then the prisoners, I think that is actually something that is legislated still, that you can send emails out of work hours, so I thought it was quite a cool, that was quite a cool feature, as well.
Heather Bicknell 02:48
Yeah, I've triggered that feature. Before to, then it is nice to get the automatic, you know, if you want to delay it to have the automatic scheduling option right there, because I don't even know where to find it normally in Outlook. Usually I don't if I send emails late, I'm not generally expecting late reply. It's more just like getting it off of, you know, out of I'm finished with that. I don't want to forget about it the next day. I think on the on the outlook scheduling piece, I think you're right, it was there before I think what's different about it is that you can now set IT organization wide, if you want. So more like that policy type thing? Yeah.
Ryan Purvis 03:35
Got it ready to get that from article to be quite honest. I was reading very quickly. I mean, I think the thing that I like is that is that, that they have layers Mark soft. And I think the other tech giants would would also need to admit to this, that they are part of the problem. And they need to put in things that help solve the problem. The reason why it's a 30 minute or 60 minute meeting is because that's what the defaults have always been. Yeah. I mean, some poor engineer back in the day of bullying outlook, put those things in arbitrarily. And he had set the whole world on fire.
Heather Bicknell 04:09
A lot of people meet for I don't know, 30 minutes an hour.
Ryan Purvis 04:12
Yeah. Which which offered, I mean, I was loved. We were laughing today, we'd booked an hour for a meeting. We finished the meeting in like 10 minutes and we're like, this doesn't happen very often. Should we should we talk about something else? I like error like No, we've got too much work to do. We can we can end the meeting now. And I think that's, that's that's definitely tying into the digital overload. We have too many meetings talking about too many things. And you could talk for hours and hours and hours and not getting the work done. But at the end of the week, you still have to get worked on.
Heather Bicknell 04:43
Yeah, I had a similar thought about the the technology technology that exists to save us from technology. So whether it's things like enforcing You know, every meeting is going to not be an hour but a few minutes shy of an hour. Or even things like, you know, turning down the blue light on your phone at night or the browser extensions you can get to, like, basically lock the internet for you. So you can't you know, like tying yourself out like there's all these. There's this area of solution that exists to just save you from technology.
Ryan Purvis 05:26
Yeah, I've actually talked about that I've started listening to a new podcast series called siddhar breaks the internet. And he he's a guy that was hired by he wrote a book. I'm trying to remember this now. He wrote a book that Mark Zuckerberg read, and or someone in his team read and they got him to come work for Facebook. And he he was looking at or focusing on all the anti Alterna solve spam, racism, be all the isms really all that stuff that they do down in Facebook to try and clean up the content. He was born to do that with a team. And I've just listened to the first episode. And it is uncanny how a lot of the problems that social media is brought in, you have to use social media fixed to, you know, it's got to it's a it's double, it's a double edged sword in the sense that it's as good as bad as the person using it. Which I think ties into what you're saying.
Heather Bicknell 06:32
It does. Yeah, thanks. I mean, social media is like, yeah, a Pandora's box, I guess kind of from that perspective,
Ryan Purvis 06:38
well, so I use that on my phone, I've got all those things set up for for stopping me to do certain things. And and I've noticed that I hardly hit those not hit those numbers anymore. Like I used to get to a stage where he would say it would pop up and say, Oh, you've run out of time for this today. And I haven't, I haven't changed the setting. But I've just noticed that I hide the cardigan. Notice anymore, which is a good sign I think.
Heather Bicknell 07:04
I think I think we get stuck in you know, we're creatures of habit. So I think if you get accustomed to spending, you know, here's this is the part of the day where I check Twitter or, you know, oh, I'm taking my, like feed break between whatever I have going on. Once you break that habit. I think you realize like, man, maybe that content, you know, maybe what I was doing wasn't really that interesting. After all, maybe it wasn't adding that much value to my life. It's more about Yeah, I think it's really interesting. how you've seen that decrease, because, in my mind, least from my experience, that's what's happened if I break a habit like that, especially with technology, I don't necessarily go back because it doesn't have the same appeal is just, you know, habit. Yeah, I
Ryan Purvis 07:53
think I was reading the other day that if you start your day, like checking your phone for everything, that's how your day is going to be kind of training your brain to be constantly checking, checking, checking. So if you can do wake up in the morning and do a whole bunch of things that don't require look, checking your for your phone, or when other checking your phone, I mean, like the social media check ins and that kind of stuff. They will use then later on in the day, when you check that stuff, it becomes a lot more controlled. I'm doing this because I need to check for all that, you know, it's not a it's not a dopamine check. It's a checking off this, you know, let's I don't know if I don't know how to say it exactly. But I've definitely noticed the days where I come straight to get my phone and I'm checking stuff. I spend the whole day anytime a gap checking stuff. Whereas if I get my phone and I'm going to a workout and I come back and then I do something else, then I kind of check stuff. But it's like not a simulation, for doing it here and I get that hit for doing it. So I think you got to train your brain to large extent.
Heather Bicknell 08:57
I think you do. And I think I think it's like even just turning off notifications for certain apps. It's very helpful in my experience, especially social media. If I don't get a notification, you know, phone lines, like pop up thing, I'm much less likely to go and check it which has led to things like I just um, I still have Snapchat, but I just don't use it anymore because I forget about it. which is unfortunate because I miss a bunch of like photos of my niece because that's where things get sent. So it's you know, it's kind of this is some downside sometimes.
Ryan Purvis 09:38
It's like this other thing when Netflix, I saw posts the other day and listen to another podcast. They also brought it up where someone says, Oh, you shouldn't watch Netflix. You should read a book or you should study a course or whatever it is. And I think in Yeah, that's the generally that's probably the right thing to say. But if you spent the entire day working and you've achieved a whole lot of things and you You've done your you got up early and you studied for an hour and you worked a full day, spend time with your kids, whatever it is. Then who's to say you can't spend an hour or two watching Netflix? And as long as you go to bed, you know, at a good time, you know, I say up to two o'clock in the morning, watch Netflix, you're watching one or two episodes, maybe from nine to 10 to be no longer episodes or, or nine to 11. But that's your normal bedtime anyway. I still go like I still read a book before I read a chapter before I go to sleep. I don't think bingeing Netflix in that sense is such a bad thing. If you're watching, like I know, we've all done this. We've we found a good series, we've watched six hours in a day. You're doing that every day there. Yeah, that's a problem. Same as drinking a bottle of wine every day. Yeah, that's a problem.
Heather Bicknell 10:46
Yeah, moderation is key. Yeah, I don't know, for something that we've really demonized leisure activity, or, like, he kind of said, That's not an important part of life, we can cut that part out. Which I think, you know, depending on what you've been up to that day, I think, you know, I don't know, you know, what's going on in your brain to like, reset, and, you know, love memories and whatnot. But I think if you just keep kind of going and stressing it out. I mean, we've had we talked about burnout on a previous episode. Obviously, it all varies depending on the individual and what else you have going on in your life. But to me, that just sounds like a recipe for, you know, on happiness events.
Ryan Purvis 11:32
Yeah, I think I think you're right, I think I think there's that we, I think we all went through it in during the study of lockdowns and that where you felt like, if you weren't working, you shouldn't be relaxing, either. Because you, you know, you've got to work to, you know, you've got a working day. But because you're at home, we also kind of doing home stuff at the same time. So you know, you might go and start the washing, then go do a call, then come back and take the washing out and hang out and, and that's like stealing from your work day. But you didn't commit for an hour and a half, two hours either. So you're working those hours as well. So there was almost a completely unbalanced view that you had to always be working, not necessarily, and we actually discussed it. And when our team meetings recently, were part of our teams in India, so they're going back into lockdowns now. Because their case has gone home. And we're saying, you know, make sure you are taking breaks, and the guy can go for a walk necessarily, but do some exercise or, you know, do something that's not via screen. Because also go into going straight from your desktop, where you'll be working with a screen and then going to watch TV for half an hour to take a break is not really a break. It is going from one screen to another screen, your brain doesn't know the difference. So you've really got to get out and get some fresh air, if you can. I used to say I guess if you'd want to stuck in a building, or some of these guys are stuck in the building.
Heather Bicknell 13:03
Yeah, I think that aspect is just made it incredibly difficult. But it's, it's great to have those open conversations. And I know we talked about this a lot, but just the culture and communication. That's what allows people to give them that permission that like safety net to, you know, do things like okay, I can go, you know, do I can exercise for 10 minutes, like take a little break doing that, which I think ultimately improves people's mood is ultimately better for their work, like in the long run, you know, makes them happier, more productive. You know, I think there's something to be said for, for breaks. So
Ryan Purvis 13:53
no, you're right. I think that's what this mean, going back to his outlook article. I think that's what he's trying to point to is that having back to back meeting we'll talk about I mean, we've all had that those days, where you in six hours of meetings, eight hours of meetings, and you're like, you know, what am I done all day, I've just talked and you know, just taking a bio break is like an impossible. Mission. My toilets right next to the door. And sometimes I can't get there because it's like meeting meeting and then you just have a break and someone says, Oh, can I chat to you quickly? You're like, Ah, okay.
Heather Bicknell 14:22
Yeah, that was my yesterday, unfortunately, sometimes I find myself it's like, there's like three minutes left in the meeting. And I'm like, fingers crossed. I hope we can wrap it up before the end of the hour. I think like, yeah, I think I'm curious. I mean, I think this is something that organization should use at the overall level, you know, it forces the default to shorten it, you know, I'm assuming you can always go back in and make it a full hour if you want. But I would love to have more 5550 minute meetings instead of an hour.
Ryan Purvis 14:52
Well, it's box's law. I mean, if you if you give me single expanses of time you give it nine times out of 10 Probably probably 99% of the time allotted, which is what 9.9 out of 10. The thing that I, I find interesting is, is how many people get invited to meetings that don't need to be in the meeting, and they sit through the entire meeting. And that is actually, you know, what, it's got nothing to do with me, I'm out of here. But they'd rather sit in the meeting and do nothing or do other stuff, you can see. And if they got, if they got the guts to turn the camera on, you could see them doing something else. You know, it's fairly obvious, but it makes them look like they're busy. Meeting, as opposed to doing some, some real work. Because you're not gonna you can't concentrate more than one thing at a time anyway. So there's no way you're listening in on the meeting.
Heather Bicknell 15:48
I know that's a big, big problem is this meaning explosion for who? Who all gets invited? I think part of it is like I was thinking about this. I think there's sort of like a room where it happens type mentality with meetings that like, you know, I don't, you know, maybe there's a meeting where I don't really get to be a participant, or, you know, half the time I go to this meeting, I don't 90% of the time to go to this meeting, I don't find value. But just like you don't want to miss out on whatever information is shared, I think that can be part of it too. on the off chance that it could be interesting. And then I think again, like just cultural organizational communication, the permission to say, hey, if you are on meetings, and they don't need you there, feel free to, you know, talk to the organizer and say, Hey, thanks for the invite. But you know, you can pull me in if you need me for something specific, but otherwise, I'm gonna drop out of this one.
Ryan Purvis 16:51
So, I do appreciate when people say that, like, I'm not a TED, like we had a meeting with one of our we did a grant to me, you had to do a review meeting. And the monitoring officer said, Look, I'm not involved in I'm not required for this meeting. So I'm gonna go on mute to my camera. And I'll listen then, you know, while I do my other work for you guys are done. And he literally disappeared for for 40 minutes came back as we finished up, he came back said, Okay, I'm back. What do we need to do? Okay, this is, you know, these are the next steps because he's not really supposed to be involved in the main part of the meeting, other than to facilitate the start. Though, I thought that was a great use of time. He didn't interfere with the meeting. He got what he limits and we got done what we need to get done. So it's a good, good angle.
Heather Bicknell 17:36
So did you want to talk about another one of the articles?
Ryan Purvis 17:40
I've got a hard stop now we're back with another meeting, funnily enough. But we'll have to do those other ones in our next catch up.
Unknown Speaker 17:52
Sounds good. Well,
Heather Bicknell 17:53
I hope all your meetings and a few minutes early blessing to you today.
Ryan Purvis 18:00
Even these ones always like these ones.
Unknown Speaker 18:02
Yeah, this is fun. Cool.
Ryan Purvis 18:05
All right. Thanks. I'll talk to you later. Alright, have a good day. Bye. Thank you for listening. Today's episode here, the big nose our producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. for your hard work for this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website WWW dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.
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