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I'm at a stage in my career when I'm taking over coordination/ management tasks for the first time.

This means, among others, that I have 4-8 h of meetings every single day.

I'm more on the introverted side. I'm not a person who enjoys spending time alone all the time, but my perfect job would include around 3h of meetings every day and solitary conceptual work in the remaining 5h.

The constant communication (4-8h of meetings, plus around 30 emails a day and some short calls/ conversations in between) is a bit much for me, especially given that most of the meetings aren't necessary at all. (I don't organize such meetings myself but unnecessary meetings are common in big companies and I couldn't change the culture if I tried). I feel drained.

Are there any strategies to make this huge load of communication easier?

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    What does your direct supervisor says? Do they believe you should be present at all these meetings? – svavil Apr 3 '20 at 10:26
  • @svavil, I do need to be there. These are different kinds of project meetings, management meetings, 1:1s with team members. I've already tried reducing the number but it won't work. – BigMadAndy Apr 3 '20 at 10:30
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    You probably need to decide if this role within the organisation is for you. I am certainly not trying to pigeonhole you, but if you find that more than half your day is incredibly draining, you may find an alternative role more fulfilling. – Gregory Currie May 11 '20 at 8:41
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You're wise to understand that you draw strength from the time you're alone. Try to schedule your workdays so you get that time. Call it whatever you want, "planning time" or "think time." But set expectations among your co-workers that you'll be unavailable for scheduled meetings in those times.

A few minutes three times a day has worked for me. Once in the morning, when I go over what's coming up for the day. Once at noon, for lunch at my desk, when I just take a few minutes to relax. And again near the end of the day.

Some other schedule for "alone time" will probably be better for you than mine. Don't hesitate to try various schedules, to find one that works.

Keep in mind that other, "extroverted," people draw strength from being around others. Do your best to respect their kind of work style, and don't hesitate to ask them in return to respect yours.

This language of intro- and extro- version comes from the work of philosopher-psychologist Karl Jung. Yes, he has elaborate, even Byzantine, theories about peoples' minds, and yes, they should be understood as ideas, not truth. But he maintained that introversion and extroversion are not opposites, but rather they're complementary. That's important, because it means that introversion is not destiny, and neither is extroversion. Instead, it's a life path, and an excellent one (just bragging a little :-).

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First, I believe that a lot of meetings is a given and necessary when you start working in coordination and management. I'm looking at some of my direct supervisors to draw experience from: people who managed a team of four employees had 20 hours of meetings and 20 hours of focused work a week; for a team of 10, the split is 30/10; in larger teams, supervisors never worked alone.

Next, I think the only type of meetings where you are truly indispensable are one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Typically, that's where your management efforts are the most valuable and have the most impact. Your direct reports rely on your coordination skills, so you have to be there for them.

For all other sorts of meetings, your degree of involvement and interaction with other meeting attendees will vary. If some of those meetings only involve you listening to talking heads, you might need some sort of a personal assistant. This might be informal: have one person from the team you manage join you at the meetings. As your assistant learns more about your daily job and meetings, this person might be able to attend those meetings without you, bringing you back the key points from the meetings, and winning you time for focused work.

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Meetings are a huge time sink. Surely they can be necessary, but only if they have a purpose for everyone involved and are run efficiently. Oddly, poorly timed scheduling may be the biggest problem.

This SEI blog post has some actual data to back up what many of us already believed. https://insights.sei.cmu.edu/sei_blog/2020/05/stop-wasting-time-manage-time-as-the-limiting-resource.html

(Edit to more specifically address the question) In the blog I make a few points about managing your time that I think are relevant.

I realized that I am unclear if you are still doing the technical work, or taking on more management work. They are two very different work styles. They are so different that I strongly urge people to avoid trying to do both.

1) You need focus time to actually get technical work done, everything else supports that effort. I've had the most success by declaring a "focus time", typically a block of about 2 hours, putting it on my calendar to block it, and turning off the phone and email. This is uninterruptible time. In a team environment, it is usually necessary to get a common agreement on that time.

2) If you are leading meetings, look into good meeting practice, including having an agenda, facilitating, finding a good time for everyone, keeping on time, and most importantly, only having people in that meeting that must be there. Meetings are about coming to a decision.

Moreover, a well crafted agenda can make it clear whether or not that is an appropriate meeting everyone's time. Personally, I found all these to be highly valuable for the introvert that is me. Well managed meetings made me prepared reduced stress.

3) many of the other communications and can be handled in a similar way, prepare for a discussion and keep it focused on the needs. In my projects, we set up specific roles to co-ordinate specific topics, such as design, technical support, product content. The roles made it much easier to know who to talk to, and most importantly, I (the team lead) didn't have to get in the middle of every discussion.

4) other "pop-up" communications can be managed with fixed "e-mail times" or phone call times. Structure your day to get these out of the way in a block. This tends to be most efficient. THis works best for reading e-mails, responding via phone has real time issues that affect the other party as well.

Introvert or not, structuring your day can make a huge difference in both your productivity and stress levels. But the final point is

5) All this requires co-operation and support from management. I stress the productivity because that is something management is unlikely to ignore. As Heinlein said" don't appeal to his better nature, appealing to his self interest gives you more leverage"

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    Welcome to The Workplace! While this may be interesting information, it doesn't really answer the question at hand. – Glorfindel May 9 '20 at 21:27

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