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Michigan Medicine

A Minute with Marschall

Less is More

July 16th, 2021

Prioritizing Wellness During “No Meeting August”

If you are like me, you probably can’t remember the last time you worked a full day without having a meeting. So, how could this organization of highly driven professionals in a world-class academic medical center slow down long enough to make “No Meeting August” a reality?

Still, for the past few years we’ve introduced “No Meeting August” as a way to pause, reflect and recharge before gearing up again for the busy fall season. And while I agree it is nearly impossible for many of us to go a full month without a meeting, I, along with the rest of the leadership team, agree that now more than ever we need this pause.

We need it because the pandemic has taken its toll on all of us and our engagement survey results reflect the needed reprieve. Overall, our responses under the “Resilience” category were low, representing an early indicator of burnout. Employees often replied negatively to statements regarding being able to free their mind from work when away from it and being able to enjoy personal time without focusing on work matters.

So, I invite you to join me in the spirit of community wellness, to participate in “No Meeting August” with the understanding that one size does not fit all. Don’t look at this as an absolute proposition, but as a new way to prioritize your work and remap your schedule so you can find time for your personal wellness. 

I recognize that reducing meetings isn’t a solution for everyone, including front-line workers who don’t find themselves at a desk very often. For those who can’t adjust operational huddles and safety-focused rounding, I encourage leaders and employees to be mindful of daily schedules and find ways to prioritize work differently, use the Recharge Rooms, find unique ways to connect with each other, and utilize wellness resources

Most importantly, I encourage you to not feel guilty about slowing things down or removing meetings from your schedule. Many high achievers make the mistake of trying to squeeze hour-long meetings into short work sessions, or worse, hallway discussions, to become more productive. It makes calendars look more manageable but in reality, this attempt at time management can increase your stress because you still haven’t removed any tasks. This Harvard Business Review Article  has tips to avoid this trap. 

It’s not just about adjusting meetings, but about rethinking how you work. This Less is More Video  explains how our brains are wired to add more when we are trying to solve a problem, when quite often subtracting, or simplifying, is the true solution to a problem.

So, whether you reduce meetings on your calendar, learn to say no to low priority obligations or adjust your schedule to find time for 10 minute breaks, I encourage you to make August your pause month. Watch for resources in Headlines from my task force team on Stress and Burn Out to help you Pause to Reflect in the coming months.

When things aren’t adding up, start subtracting. Less is more. Sometimes we need reminders that it is OK, and to everyone’s benefit, to take a pause. 

I don’t have all the answers for how to best prepare to have a stress-free “No Meeting” or Pause month of August but I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share them in the discussion box below.

2 Comments

  • Dr. Runge, I would like to take a moment at the close of August to thank you for initiating this effort. Across my department (HITS Academic Applications) it was well-received and my team gave a collective endorsement for the focused work that resulted.

    The data speaks for itself: in the 2nd quarter, my team had almost a 40% increase (compared to the 1st qtr) in requests. This is primarily due to staff transitions and on-boarding of new House Officers, but by decreasing meetings, our response time was comparable to the 1st quarter with continued customer satisfaction.

    As a manager, I struggled to ‘let go’ of meetings – but I ultimately found the pause was very much needed and gave the opportunity for greater analytical/planning work that I cannot always devote the time to do.

    Leadership support is key to success – while not all meetings can be canceled, many could be reduced – small efforts added up to a noticeable change.

    • Jennifer, I am so glad “Pause” month worked for you. I agree, it is hard to let go of meetings at first, but it is nice to hear that you had great results once you did. I hope you continue to consider ways in which you and your team can pause to find time for wellness, or other productive ways to spend time. Change can be a good thing.

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