Pause Month is coming! Here are a few tips to help you purge your calendar

July 28, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Announcements,

Michigan Medicine CEO Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., recently suggested August be a “No Meeting” or “Pause” month in his “Less is More” blog.

While many of us welcome this special time to pause and reflect, research shows that an invitation to relax work habits can sometimes trigger stress in those who have become overwhelmed with their work. They can’t imagine how to fit a break into their overloaded calendar — so finding time for themselves becomes just one more task.  

The pandemic has added to this stress, and that can be seen at Michigan Medicine through engagement survey results and the stats shown in the Wellness Office’s Burnout Tool Kit.

So how do faculty, staff and learners who work in a fast-paced academic medical center learn how to slow down, reduce meetings and pause for the sake of their own personal wellness?

Here are a few ways:

Prioritize your time

Experts suggest regular calendar audits to help you prioritize your time properly. First, count how many hours of meetings you have scheduled. Then, compare this to how many hours you would need to complete your work and take some needed wellness breaks. (Read the science behind 15-minute breaks.) The tough part is deciding which meetings need to stay and which ones go. 

According to Julie Grunawalt, associate chief nursing officer and adjunct clinical instructor, nursing, it’s all about prioritizing your time.

“You need to ask yourself, ‘What am I doing each day that really provides value?’” Grunawalt said. “More meetings aren’t always the answer. If you add something to your calendar, you need to take something off.”

If you are not a leader and you are assigned a meeting or task, think in terms of priorities, not time. Consider asking your supervisor: “Where would you like me to prioritize this against x, y, and z?”

This opens the opportunity for you and your leader to have a collaborative discussion about what is most important.

Other questions you can ask yourself while reviewing your meetings include:

  • Is this meeting repetitive? Are there other meetings that meet a similar purpose?
  • Are there coworkers on my team who attend this meeting? Can we take turns attending and share notes?
  • If you are a leader, is there someone on my team who I can delegate the meeting to who would see it as a learning opportunity?
  • If you have standing meetings, consider if they could become less frequent. For example, should the team decide to not repeat meetings when there are no updates?

Looking to have an impact beyond “No Meeting“ August? Use this Formal Calendar Review Process and this Free Up Time Form Letter to ensure your coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders understand your priority-based decision around removing certain meetings. 

Make your meetings count

Once you choose the meetings you will keep, make them relevant.

  • Set an agenda. It will give team members a purpose.
  • Remember to start on time.
  • End with an action plan, with clear action items.
  • For more tips, see these Meeting Guidelines.

Don’t lose your free time!

Once you have made some room on your calendar, don’t leave it open for new meetings to take its place.

Block time each week or each day, depending on your workload, to complete your work, schedule wellness breaks, or plan personal and professional development sessions. For more support, see these wellness resources.