Ready for August Pause Month? Read these four steps to reduce meetings and relieve stress
Back by popular demand, August has once again been designated “No Meeting” or “Pause” Month. Even better news, it will become an annual tradition going forward.
As Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., explained in his announcement, the large number of requests to repeat Pause August showed that “many not only found it helpful to remove meetings from their schedule, but that collectively we recognized the importance of taking a moment to pause for our own well-being, and those of others.”
Last year many benefited from taking time out to pause, reflect and recharge ahead of the busy fall season, but others remain concerned that slowing down their fast pace and/or reducing meetings could cost them more work a month later.
Here are some proven tips to reduce workload effectively without adding more stress about lingering work in the future:
Review/rethink your priorities
Experts suggest regular calendar audits to help you prioritize your time properly. It’s important to compare how many hours of meetings you have scheduled with the hours you need to complete your work, while also taking some needed wellness breaks.
If the ratio of meetings to necessary work time is off-balance, you need to cut some meetings. The tough part is deciding which meetings need to stay and which ones go.
Dana Habers, interim chief operating officer for pharmacy, makes it a point of reviewing her calendar frequently, but gives this planning a little extra time before Pause Month.
“For the month of August, I spend a little more time and go through the full month. I assess whether the agenda is time sensitive or can be deferred to September or beyond,” Habers said. “Many times we cancel standing recurring meetings when it is possible to cover topics later in the year. Some ad hoc meetings have to happen, but I try to keep them brief and purposeful. My goal is always not to just replace meetings with more emails, but to truly look at content and prioritize.”
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?
To really dive into a full calendar audit which can build more long-lasting work efficiencies, review the tips on this time management/calendar review webpage.
Make your meetings count
Still have some meetings you must keep? Make them count.
“Typically, I go through my calendar two weeks out to review the schedule, reconcile attendees, reach out to guests, prepare materials and ensure agendas are all mapped out,” Habers said.
Here are some additional suggestions for highly effective meetings:
- 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.
It’s not just about meetings
Reducing meetings is not an option for everyone. Frontline workers, for example, have difficulty finding moments in their day to pause and reflect. These employees may need to work with their leaders and teams to share workloads, prioritize work differently or take turns using Recharge Rooms for needed breaks. Sometimes taking a few minutes for casual conversation to connect with others represents a helpful stress-reliever.
“Last year I was both inspired and impressed with the unique and creative ways many of you found to take time out to pause, reflect and recharge,” said Runge, referencing the teams who were involved in the task force’s challenge for well-being.
For example, the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion (OHEI) and The Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR) teams scheduled walks in local parks during huddles or meeting times. The Cardiovascular Acute Care Physical Therapy Team, which had to work in person ?throughout ?the pandemic, implemented multiple on-site wellness activities to help reduce burnout, including a hydration challenge, 10-minute meditations and a Zoom squat challenge, among others.
If you are wondering if a few minutes out of your day may not seem worth the extra effort, read the science behind 15-minute breaks.
Think beyond August
Once you have made some room to pause, don’t lose it. Block time each week or each day, depending on your workload, to schedule wellness breaks, or plan personal and professional development sessions.
As Runge stated: “Let’s not make this pause in August an isolated moment. I hope it becomes a movement toward a change in our culture — a culture where we value and celebrate time outs for wellness, for the betterment of ourselves, our teams, our patients and our community.” For more support, see these wellness resources.