The Four Day Marathon

Four days, 34 meetings.  That was my week so far as I write this Blog on Thursday night.  To put is delicately, I’m beat.  This kind of schedule is extremely unusual for most people in Business and Industry although I am sure there are more than enough controllers, officers and C-suite CPAs that would say that kind of schedule happens more than once during a year. 

My marathon week was brought on by a convergence of several factors.  First, at the beginning of the week, month-end close for April was still finishing up and that created a few regular and issue induced meetings.  The second cause was a rare occurrence.  My employer, AT&T closed on the sale of a Billion Dollar piece of the business, our yellow page and related local search internet operations.  That event alone caused more than a third of the meetings to deal with various aspects of the deal.  The third major factor was the ongoing schedule recovery from missing a day and half the week before while I was out sick.

Going through so many meetings, the hardest thing to do is to stay focused on the topic of each meeting.  It’s easy to let your mind drift to the next meeting topic or to the dozens of emails buzzing on your BlackBerry, but that defeats the whole purpose of the meeting in the first place.  The meeting is scheduled because someone either needs to pass information on to you, they need you to pass information on to them or they need your council, advice or approval for something they want to do. 

Passing information on to someone else is the easiest meeting to stay focused in because generally you are the active leader of the meeting. There is also a danger though of moving too fast through the information because you are looking to save a few minutes at the end of the meeting to clear out some of the emails building up, make a phone call or simply take a nature break.   It’s important to not only talk but listen with your ears and your eyes to make sure that your message is being received and more importantly understood. 

The other two types of meetings can be made even more difficult to stay focused if they involve conference calls.  It is all too easy to become distracted by the email chime or the papers sitting on your desk.  No one will notice if you take a peek for just a second, but anyone who has worked for a while can tell you that is when they invariably say something really important or ask you a question and you are caught asking them to repeat themselves.  One trick I use is to have a wireless headset and get up and pace around the office.  This gives my body something to do while my mind is focused on the topic at hand.  Walking to the other side of the desk is a great way to avoid clicking the mouse to look at an email.  You can even do a few low impact exercises, although you might want to make sure the mute button is on so people don’t suddenly wonder why you are breathing heavy.

I survived my marathon and can say I only lost focus in two or three meetings.  I just hope I didn’t agree to anything I will come to regret in those few meetings.

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