I recently came across this very interesting study on the subject of back-to-back meetings by Microsoft Research Proves Your Brain Needs Breaks (microsoft.com) where the key takeaway is taking breaks at the end of each meeting. This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit lately, as this back-to-back phenomenon is quite common in our industry., Before the pandemic, the notion of multiple back-to-back meetings would have been the exception and not the rule in my world. On a typical day I might have had one meeting in the office early in the morning, then headed out to visit a customer or two. What you had, was the time to think both before the meeting and afterwards and in effect had time to let the “Ink Dry” in your subconscious. How many times in a online meetings do you hear someone say on the hour or half hour. “Sorry I have to go to my next meeting”? too frequently for my liking. The resultant effect is the interesting world of Context Switching which will be impacting you immensely in these circumstances and not allowing enough cognitive time to ingest important elements from the meeting. I looked back at my pre pandemic calendars for 2018 and 2019 and can see quite a bit of “dead time” during the day when I was travelling between meetings, and even when working in the office there were regular gaps between meetings. Obviously with the lockdowns and closed offices here in New Zealand the result was, that everything changed. So how do we get out of this malaise? How do we take back the thinking time that has all but disappeared and gain the time we need for the ink to dry? Going back to the office will help, but with the new normal being a hybrid model of office and work from home, not everyone is going to be on the same page on the same day. I believe it is time to take back your time. And not just for the 5 minutes breaks that the article above suggested. If you are the meeting organiser and you have access to the prospective attendee’s calendar, think before you just slap the meeting adjacent to another on the calendar, don’t just look for the first gap and plug it. Another thing that we used to do way back in my Corporate Banking days was to allocate a value to internal meetings and ask the question, How much is the meeting costing us? We did that at the start of most meetings, and it was very successful in trimming the numbers of attendees. Ask the question, is this really necessary? and if so, should all the participants be there? Above all, start talking about it, as the study by Microsoft shows, the result of doing nothing is stress. We all know that stress is a killer.