Using Outlook to Make Your Meeting Processes Better – Really

The dreaded meeting tools in Outlook
The dreaded meeting tools in Outlook

Like so many office workers, I manage my email and work schedule via Microsoft Outlook. I prefer Gmail for my personal and blogging life, but in the “workosphere” we seem destined to live with Outlook.

Several times a week, a “Meeting Notice” arrives in my inbox. Given how many of us will say we spend too much time in meetings or are expected to attend too many meetings, it seems odd that we don’t re-think this. So here are a few ideas I’d like to suggest.

Meeting Notice Guidelines

  1. Stop calling them meeting notices. Or stop calling the event a meeting. How about inviting your coworkers to a “Collaboration Event” or a “Decision-a-thon”. Something to be more indicative of what you want to do. Put it right there in the subject line. Subject: Collaboration on next year’s budget opportunities.
  2. It might be helpful to make the purpose clear: This is why I am asking for your valuable time. Maybe you can’t help me so a decline would be OK on that basis.
  3. While you’re at it, it might be good if you told those whose time you are requesting your proposed process for the meeting. Open debate and discussion? Is there a pre-read that would be helpful, and is it attached?
  4. How’s about including a specific outcome you plan to achieve? Perhaps you could suggest what you would like the participants to bring in terms of information or past experiences.

Meeting Duration

Microsoft and your personal settings determine the default interval for a meeting. So on my calendar, a new meeting request defaults to 30 minutes and can be set to 30 minute intervals. In reality, our meetings don’t fit that nicely into the 30 minute blocks. This causes people to over-schedule. “This meeting might take more than 30 minutes, so I’ll set it for an hour and then give people back some of their day.” But if you think you can do this in 45 minutes or less – you can enter a 45 minute duration. Better still, schedule a 37 minute meeting. Take no more of a person’s time than you think you actually need. Not only will they be grateful for your excellent planning skills, but whoever scheduled a meeting at the top of the next hour won’t have to wait for the room that you over-booked.

Still Complaining About Meetings?

This is an area we all can do things about. We can be committed to improving the quality of everyone’s meeting experience and contribution through a little bit of planning. If you own the meeting, don’t you want willing and prepared participants? It’s up to you!


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