no-meeting Wednesdays, why you should say “done” more often, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: the increasing use of no-meeting days, how saying “done” can make you more productive, and more. You can read it here.

{ 77 comments… read them below }

    1. Artemesia*

      This is the basis of the Dave Ramsey advice for those in debt to work off the smallest debts first — that steady stream of ‘done’ gives the incentive to stick with it. And now apparently there is actually a physiological response that helps account for that.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      I know when I’ve got a lot of projects on the go, I will sometimes tackle the smallest one first — or smallest piece first — so that I can have that “done” feeling. There really is something about having a list of things you need to do and crossing off some. There are days when just having that one thing, no matter how small, it does make me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Plus, once I’ve got the easiest and quickest piece done, I know more, so that the next project is a bit easier. I build knowledge as I get things done. By the time I get to the biggest and hardest task, it’s not nearly so hard.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        I reserve my favourite pen* for ticking the checkboxes on my paper to-do list. What a great feeling!

        Metallic purple. Coloured inks are one of my favourite “small pleasures” that brighten a work day.

        1. Prismatic Professional*

          +1 Make life more beautiful! :-) I love sparkling pens. When metallic gel pens first came out I bought every single color. Several times. :-)

        2. Dana*

          I still make paper to-do lists with little checkboxes and everything, oftentimes in fun colored pens. My job doesn’t lend itself to anything like that, but holy cow, when [ ] LAUNDRY gets checked, it’s an amazing feeling!!

      3. Meg Murry*

        And days when nothing on my to-do list gets done, and more gets added? I add the list of things I actually did that weren’t even on there and then mark them done, so I can see that I got something accomplished for the day, even if it wasn’t what I originally planned on.

        And then there are the days that I add “brush teeth”, “wash face” and “eat lunch” to the to do list, so at least there are a few checkmarks there ….

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          Guilty. A lot of my to do lists looking like
          1. take shower
          2. do makeup/hair
          3. breakfast

    3. JPixel*

      I have a lot of tight deadlines and time-sensitive projects, and I’ve learned that I need to let things go when they are good enough. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to send in sloppy work or to cut corners, but it’s liberating to send something in and just move on!

  1. blu*

    I feel like the no-meeting on X days thing only works if your meetings are all internal, small, and fixed. If you have to meet with clients, have to respond to changing requirements, or need to work with a lot of schedules, I can’t see how that would work.

      1. einahpets*

        This. I work with a client that is based in the UK, has another vendor on the US East Coast, has users in Asia. And I am on the US West Coast. So, sometimes it takes a week to figure out a time that works for everyone, and sometimes I take calls at 6am my time or the client takes calls at 9pm their time. I can’t imagine just saying no to meetings at a certain time / day (well, within reason — I am not sure how happy I’d be to have regular calls at 4am).

        But a day without meetings scheduled would be glorious!

    1. Meg Murry*

      And if you have plenty of conference rooms to have said meetings. I’ve worked at places where there was no place for even 2 person 1-on-1 type meetings except conference rooms (even most midlevel managers were in the cube farm or had shared offices), so the conference rooms were booked solid for 90% of the day – cutting a whole day out of availability would be a problem.

      But I could see how this could work if you didn’t have that constraint – its nice to have a chunk of your week blocked off to actually do your job, instead of trying to do your job around meetings. There were times when I felt like the answer to “so what have you done on Project XYZ since last meeting” was “nothing, I’ve been in meetings”

      1. blu*

        Oh my goodness, I’m dealing with something similar with a client now. When we visit their site was have to book space weeks in advance. They have a huge campus with hundreds of people and only like 6-8 conference rooms and most only hold 10 people are less so larger ones are really at a premium. I cannot understand who decided to build multiple, multi-storied buildings and then only include 1 or 2 small conference rooms on every other floor.

    2. The IT Manager*

      My team sometimes has no meeting Fridays because a lot of people have that day off every other Friday. It’s nice if you can get a quiet Friday. OTOH sometimes I had to schedule meeting with my team on Friday because it was the only day I could find free time since everybody else was crammng all their meeting in Monday through Thursday.

      1. Mike C.*

        I love it when Friday is set aside as a quiet, no meetings, catch up or work on special projects type day. It’s a nice way to ease into the weekend, prepare to things that are coming up and so on.

        1. Chriama*

          Oh man. Fridays can go either way at my jo. Sometimes I’m planning to catch up on stuff and all this work comes in because people on other teams are catching up on their stuff, and their to-do list basically says “email IT” for every action item :P

      2. Heather*

        I have a theory that only jerks schedule meetings on Fridays, and double-jerks schedule meetings on Fridays after lunch! But I’ll grudgingly admit that sometimes it IS necessary if it’s the only time that can be found and the meeting is important enough.

        1. Jill 2*

          People in my office offer up meetings at 5pm on a Friday as a reasonable time to meet. So far, they’ve been canceled, but it still gets offered up as if it’s a completely sane thing to do.

    3. Jennifer*

      I can’t ever see that working on a Wednesday. MAYBE a Friday, for the reasons stated by someone else, i.e. less people around.

      1. OhNo*

        One of the places I work has no meeting Mondays, which also seems a bit odd to me. Pretty much everyone is in on Monday (although they may not be real happy about it). Why cut a day out of the meeting calendar when it’s one of the few that you know for sure everyone is going to be there?

        1. Kyrielle*

          For me, that would be hugely useful (alas, we don’t have it). When we come in Monday, we have a weekend-worth of things ranging from “unimportant” to “fairly urgent but not quite worth calling the on call phone” lined up. Having Monday free to hit the decks running and clean up any issues that came up on the weekend would be huge.

        2. Windchime*

          Most of my team works from home on Mondays. We planned it that way, so we are all out of the office on the same day (there are a few people who choose to come in). It’s wonderful; we all connect via chat, email or phone if necessary but otherwise we all have a huge chunk of uninterrupted time to really focus. The people who choose to come into the office also have a quiet, meeting-free day.

  2. LUCYVP*

    One of the most productive people I know says ‘done’ out loud at the end of almost every task. When I worked with her her ‘done’ enthusiasm was contagious and especially helped keep group projects moving forward.

    This made me think I should take on that habit.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Ha. I used to have a co-worker who had received one of those Staples “Easy” buttons for free in an office products order, so whenever she would complete a task, she would push the button, and a recorded voice would proclaim, “That was easy!” So, at the end of a week-long event for which we had prepared all semester, when the last guest had departed, we all gathered around and, as a group, pushed the button. “That was easy!” — and we were done with it until the upcoming year.

  3. Mike C.*

    I just wish I could get people to stop scheduling meetings during lunch. A whole day would be amazing.

    “Oh gosh, everyone seems to be free, lets schedule a reoccurring meeting here!!1!”.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, people lunch at too many different times around here to avoid that. At least at some informal meetings here you can bring your lunch.

    2. Sparrow*

      I work with people in two different time zones so it can be challenging trying to schedule around everyone’s lunch hour. I try to avoid it, but if it’s a meeting for a critical issue sometimes that trumps lunch. Only good thing is that most of my meetings are conference calls so I can at least eat at my desk.

      1. blu*

        Multiple time zones are tough. I’m working on a project right now where my assembled team members sit in Seattle, Omaha, Boston, Baltimore, London, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Manila (Philippines), & Sydney (Australia). There is literally no time we can meet that will not be in the middle of the night for someone.

        1. Ama*

          Ugh, and here I thought my committee of every North American time zone plus Germany was bad.

          Although the group that’s giving me fits right now consists of just two people in the same time zone that have somehow managed to be on exact opposite schedules for an entire month now.

        2. Cath in Canada*

          Yes, this is why I (sole West coast representative) have 5:30 am and 6 am teleconferences every couple of weeks. At least I can take the calls from home in my PJs. If they ever introduce videoconferencing, I’ll probably have to quit.

        3. College Career Counselor*

          I feel your pain. I’ll be working on a project shortly setting up meetings between people in US Eastern time, Australia, Thailand, and a time zone to be named later. Add to that a student schedule (“I have class from 8:10-9:40, from 10:10-12:20, and from 3:00-6:15”), and there’s some real fun.

          1. blu*

            It is painful but I will say timeanddatedotcom has some awesome features including one where you can plug in all the time zones and it color codes various time slots as green, yellow, and red to recommend times that could possibly work (i.e. fall either during business hours (green), or at least waking hours (yellow).

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              Seconding timeanddate dot com! It’s really useful.

              When I managed a team that was worldwide, our policy was that you had to attend two out of every three weekly team meetings. Then we scheduled the meetings on a rotating schedule, essentially giving everyone one green, one yellow, and one red meeting.

              Worked great for the ICs, although as manager I had a 2am meeting once every three weeks.

            2. Liz in a Library*

              Yep. They are a great service. I used it all the time when I was training and needed to remember all sorts of absurd time zone combos and hour shifts.

        4. Hlyssande*

          I know that feeling.

          …she says, having been on multiple late evening calls with groups in China and Singapore as of late.

    3. Hlyssande*

      I block out lunch in my calendar specifically to avoid this.

      Sometimes the boss still does it because it’s the only hole he’s got, but it cut down on lunch meetings considerably when I did it.

  4. Amber Rose*

    The done thing is why I create tasks in my email for everything. Not only does it help me meet deadlines, there is immense satisfaction in clicking 100% and watching it vanish from my to-do list. And the list of things I’ve completed is a boost to look at too.

    1. Ama*

      I use a combination of Outlook tasks and Google Keep, which lets you create lists that can be checked off. SUPER satisfying, especially for recurring projects (like publishing our newsletter) — I can reset the list every production cycle and check it all off again.

  5. Ed*

    Something similar that is (somewhat) common in IT is “Read-Only Friday”. Changes causes problems and problems often mean you’re working all weekend to fix them. We implement most of our major changes on Tuesday evenings. You need special permission to schedule a major change on a Friday because it could lead to weekend work (though we work a little almost every weekend anyway).

    This is also why I volunteer to be on-call during holiday weeks, including Xmas. We always have a change freeze during holidays because so many people are out of the office. No changes (usually) means no outages which means no calls. If you happen to be on-call the week of a major system update, you could easily put in an extra 20-30 unpaid hours that week. Even if you can’t fix the issue yourself, the on-call person is the point is contact so they will get the 3 AM call.

    1. RG*

      Wait, how on earth do you end up with 20-30 unpaid hours? It seems like you should be covered, nonexempt or exempt.

      1. Kyrielle*

        If you spend 40 hours in the office plus 20-30 hours supporting the major system update issues, overnight and on the weekends, and you’re exempt, you don’t get any more money. (Depending on your company’s policies, but legally, yes, that can happen.)

        1. RG*

          Oh, OK. I guess I still consider that paid, even though your wage per hour has technically gone down. I

          1. Kyrielle*

            You are still technically paid, which is why it’s legal. But if I normally put in 40 hours, and still get the same pay in a week in which I put in 60-70 hours, then yes, that feels like 20-30 of unpaid work to me. :)

    2. Kyrielle*

      Oh man yes. FIXES DO NOT GO IN ON FRIDAYS. Planned, tested fixes may roll in on Thursday during the day, but it had better be a case of “Galactus will eat the Earth unless we do this” if you are putting a change in on Fridays. Or any day that immediately precedes the days-off of a holiday weekend.

      I set someone laughing hysterically once just by the expression on my face when they suggested (in order to see my reaction, as it turns out) that we put a major communications change in to one project on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

      1. class factotum*

        The home corollary is “Major plumbing projects do not get started at 6 p.m. on Friday, no matter how simple they might seem. Inevitably, there will be Drama.”

        1. Rater Z*

          I had been transferred to a small town where the only apartment in my range was a wing on an old farmhouse. They used a septic tank which wound up having problems. So, the guy working on it came out on the Friday before Labor Day, pulled the pipe out and then went home for the weekend. Fortunately, I was working at small trucking office four miles away so I could go there and take showers. I don’t remember what I did about the toilet. It was 1974, way back in the last century. House has been gone since at least 1984.

  6. BRR*

    Sometimes I swear I’m the only person who likes meetings. Probably because I don’t have that many and the ADD in me welcomes interruptions. What’s a career that needs people who thrive being interrupted?

    1. Stephanie*

      Maybe admin work?

      I had a job where I never had meetings (I think I made had two in a two-year tenure) and that much unstructured time was terrible for me (it didn’t help what I did was terribly tedious and dull).

    2. Jennifer*

      Anything involving service/waiting on people. The entire point of your life is to be interrupted constantly.

    3. Rebeck*

      Library Sys Admin with a local council. Open office, not enough computers for the number of staff, constant ‘urgent’ customer service requests, and random Council department meetings guaranteed to be planned for the days when the library is on low staff.

      Not that I’m bitter or anything.

    4. Clever Name*

      Sounds like you need more to do. I’ve had slow jobs, and I definitely went to meetings that weren’t strictly necessary for me to attend.

  7. Stephanie*

    OldJob I did lots of short-term research projects with quick turnarounds. We had to email our supervisors with the phrase “report completed” when we finished. It felt amazing.

  8. College Career Counselor*

    I have recently taken to writing “DONE” on various daily and weekly tasks. It _does_ feel good!

    1. oaktown*

      I had a boss who gave me lots of tasks on paper/with a file, and when it was complete wanted me to put on a post-it with DONE and put it back in her box. I kind of miss that!!

  9. Nobody*

    My company has no-meeting days (well, no-meeting Wednesday mornings, because there are too many meetings to exclude an entire day). I think it’s sad that they’re so proud of blocking off a whole 4 hours per week for people to do their jobs without being interrupted by meetings. The worst part is that these times are not strictly meeting-free; they’re just free of regular, recurring meetings, which makes them a prime time for scheduling smaller ad hoc meetings. People think, “I know nobody’s going to have conflicting meetings on Wednesday morning.”

  10. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    While not everyone in my office and have “no meeting” days on the same day, a lot of people pick their own day – mine if Friday. I do not schedule ANY meetings or appointments on Fridays ever, and it’s been amazing for my productivity – and allowed me to start the weekend feeling like I actually accomplished something that week!

  11. PlainJane*

    At one of my previous employers, we had no-meeting week the last week of every quarter. Some of us kept lists all quarter long of projects to do then, and sometimes we’d bring in lunch (since people would actually have time to eat with others instead of hunkered down at their desks). It was cause for much celebration and did wonders for morale.

  12. Kat*

    I’ve said “done!” Since I was in elementary school. It’s always signaled my brain to stop thinking about whatever the project was and move forward to focus on something new.

    Now if only I could train it by saying, “SLEEP NOW!”

  13. SophiaB*

    The ‘done’ thing is beautiful. I have to confirm all my tasks back to the Project Managers I support, so I get to send loads of ‘actioned as requested’ emails and then I file that task and it’s ridiculously satisfying.

    (I also once pulled off an amazing scheduling trick for my most strategically-minded PM who had declared the task genuinely impossible. It took me about 20 emails to achieve and when I finally did it, I just sent him an email reading ‘actioned as requested’. That one kept me happy for weeks!)

  14. Kate*

    Does everyone else have too many meetings? The internet seems to hate meetings, but I really only have 2-3 per month, and I like the opportunity to connect with colleagues!

    Client appointments on the other hand … drowning in those. Maybe I should try to implement appointment-free Wednesdays. I’m just so bad at saying no to people!

    1. Chriama*

      I think it depends on how you define meetings. I have 1 recurring team meeting per week. However, sometimes I’ll schedule time to talk with someone about a particular issue. If I don’t schedule it, it takes the same amount of time but now they’ve lost 30 – 45 mins of their day to discuss this issue. And on the flip side sometimes someone will ask me a question and it doesn’t have a quick answer so we grab a discussion room and talk it out. A lot of jobs are highly collaborative (and I doubt the people at Facebook don’t have *any* informal or impromptu gatherings on Wednesdays) so I think this really only holds true for large, formal and/or recurring meetings.

    2. Jaydee*

      I’m sure it depends on the job. I also have only a few regularly scheduled meetings and a few more that are more infrequent (quarterly or “as needed”). But client meetings and informal meetings of one or two staff to discuss a case or project are constant. I think the principle still applies in a broader way regardless of the nature of your job: block off time, either individually or office/team/company-wide to focus on tasks that need uninterrupted time.

  15. Dean Jackson*

    Facebook also tends to have the same no-meeting-wednesdays be work-from-home wednesdays for folks with longer commutes. Maybe not coincidentally, when the job breaks down into “write code” and “collaborate”, if you’re not in meetings, you’re writing code, which makes it pretty easy to say “yup, they get stuff done while working from home”.

    Just wish it was more than Wednesdays. :-)

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