Conflicting meetings are unavoidable when working two jobs. We’ll go through some strategies we’ve developed to manage conflicting meetings when you’re working two remote jobs.
Since everyone likes frameworks in business, we thought to create our own framework and strategy for managing job conflicts working two remote jobs. However, we want to caveat that no one solution fits all. Everyone’s job requirements, seniority, and work demands are different. So, here’s our “GREAT” way to manage conflicting meetings with two remote jobs.
Goals pRevent dEcline mitigATe
In a nutshell, you are minimizing the “unknowns” and controlling the “knowns”. It all goes back to perception and expectation management and how you can control the narrative.
Goal of meetings when working two remote jobs
First, we want to understand the goals of meetings, besides the obvious, to get a business objective done. With two remote jobs, we have a secondary goal for each meeting. That goal is to use the meetings we must attend to architect fewer meetings in the future. Not only is mastering efficient meetings great for preventing follow-ups and conflicting meetings, but it will also help brand you as a good “leader,” executing with efficiency.
1) Prevent follow up and conflicting meetings by running efficient meetings
HBR has an in-depth article that decomposes the types of meetings and roles everyone plays within a meeting. Understanding how to categorize the types of meetings will help to get the most out of each meeting. This is the key to minimizing follow-ups and key to managing conflicting meetings.
This is an understated skill that takes conscious effort to master. After every meeting, ask yourself how this meeting can be shorter, did it go off-topic?, could I have intervened? etc.
- Start meeting on time, don’t wait
- State the goal and purpose at the start of every meeting
- Have the questions documented, pre-shared and use that to guide the meeting
- If conversations go off track, it’s a great time to delegate the discourse to the 2 parties to solve (so you don’t have to)
- Delegate follow-ups to others for all the lingering questions. “Victor, can you follow up to answer this?”
2) Make your presence felt during meetings you attend
“Did you even attend the meeting if no one remembers you were there?”
The other soft skill goal for meetings is to make your presence felt. You want to create the impression you are there at all the meetings. This is important because when you need to decline or drop, attendants won’t have that impression that “you’re never there” since you’re always “participating” in meetings. If you’re not leading the meeting, or you don’t have much to contribute, you should still take opportunities to speak up make your presence felt.
- Ask non-questions, restate what someone just said in different wording.
- While waiting for everyone to join, speak up, make a joke, ask a question, let people know you’re there
- Interject with compliments, “wow that’s great, I didn’t think of it, must have taken a lot of work”
Preventing conflicting meetings while working two remote jobs
1) Block up time on the calendar with easy to cancel meetings
1v1’s – People often set up re-occurring meetings for 1v1 syncs, but no one ever keeps to them. If you back out of a 1v1 sync because of a meeting conflict, no one will ask twice. So this is a great use to block a half-hour so that you can have a meeting with your second job. Schedule 1v1 sync’s with everyone you can.
Family time – It’s common now for people to block off a time for “family time.” These blocks are usually well respected, thanks to the guilt of bothering one’s family.
Focus Time – Another strategy to manage that has been popular during WFH is the “Focus Time block” or No Meeting Block, to focus without meeting distractions. Either one of these strategies serves an unintended purpose. It partly will also help brand you as someone who’s organized.
Knowledge Syncs – Sync time to “learn more” about a particular topic with a cross-functional business partner. Since they are outside your department, it’s easy to cancel since knowledge syncs are usually a low priority.
2) Proactively set meetings you need to be in
Be the one to volunteer to create meeting invites whenever you can. “I can set up that meeting.” By proactively volunteering to set up meetings, you can control the meetings on your terms. It’s ok if some people are unable to join. As long as the main stakeholders are in there, you’re good.
3) Create a scheduling framework for yourself to make your scheduling easier
Say you use the rule of thumb even hours is one company, odd hours is the second. It won’t usually work out this way, but it can make things easier mentally to have some guidelines to operate on. Find a system that works for you. Also, you can try to consolidate calendar apps in one place if you are comfortable doing so.
Decline meetings politely to manage conflicting meetings
If conflicts do pop up on the calendar, the next step is to determine the value of the meeting. Do you need to attend? Which of the two is more important to participate in. Is it better to join and leave, decline, or not show up?
The best thing is to decline politely to retain great working relationships. Doing this as soon as possible can save any angst from the meeting participants. If you inevitably get some conflicts, the next option is to decline. Again HBR has great research on ways to decline a meeting politely.
Sample excuses to decline and manage conflicting meetings
|Meeting conflict with another individual||Medium||“I need to meet with Steve, and this is the only time they can meet. Mind if we re-schedule? How about MM/DD/HH? ”|
|Need “head down focus time” to finish another deliverable||High||“There is a document I need to finish by EOD, I can hop on a Zoom later, I’ll ping you when I’m free”|
|Another person may be a better SME fit or knows just as much.||Low||“Angela might be more knowledgeable to answer. Can you reach out to them instead?”|
“I won’t be able to attend, but you can talk to Angela, who’s just as knowledgeable.”
|I / [team] need more time to prepare.||High||“Mind if we push this meeting out a day [time], I’m still working on putting together the research, and think it would be more impactful if I have more time to prepare.”|
“It may be more effective if we wait for engineering to finish their assessment before we meet on this. I can check on when that will be”
|Question if we really need this meeting. Message the person to chat about the topic and get enough context to scratch the meeting.||Medium||“We covered most points in our chat earlier. Do we still need a meeting? I think we have enough in our convos to put together a brief doc.”|
Declining with a reason. and a follow-up action would be the best way to handle declines. Being tactful is another skill when it comes to managing conflicting meetings with two remote jobs.
Mitigate meeting conflicts if they are unavoidable
Sometimes last min requests are unavoidable with two remote jobs. If all else fails and you need to attend a meeting, here are some excuses if you need to drop from a live meeting. For the extreme “multitaskers” and adrenaline junkies out there, you can try your hand at attending both meetings at the same time. We would not recommend that whatsoever. This all works best if you’re not the active presenter. You can mute yourself and go off video if you’re just a spectator.
Break your meeting conflicts into first half and second half availability
Utilize the first half and back half of the meeting blocks to traffic light your availability during a scheduling conflict:
Meeting 1: “Hey, I have to drop the during the second half, can we go over questions for me first?”
Meeting 2: “I’ll have to join a few min late, can you can save the questions for me until the end?”
Managing two conflicting meetings at the same time
Here are some tips if you need to attend two meetings at the same time. We do not recommend it. It is a developed skill to juggle 2 meetings at the same time. Multitasking has been scientifically researched to not exist. Our brains switch context from one steam to another quickly but can not process 2 things at the same time.
Use text transcripts
One strategy is to use text transcripts. Some video conferencing programs allow for live transcriptions, including Teams and Google Meet. With these live transcriptions, you are skimming for the general topic discussion and be on the lookout for your needed participation. On the other hand, you are listening to the audio from your other meeting.
Utilize push to talk
To prevent accidental speaking in the wrong meeting, utilize the push to talk function. These features allow only your audio to go through when you’re actively pressing on a key.
Excuses to drop an ongoing conflicting meeting
Should you need to drop a conference, mid-meeting here are some excuses. If you intend to drop a meeting, consider only dialing in with your mobile phone. This gives the impression you are busy and probably shouldn’t be attending, but for the good of the meeting, you’ll dial in. If you disconnect or don’t respond, you’re most likely out doing something that requires your attention to be safe. Things like cutting people off on the highway so you can get back on video at home ASAP.
Sample excuses to drop from a meeting:
|Have an important phone call I have to answer||“Excuse me for a second, I have a call I really need to take, I’m trying to (excuse) re-finance my house”|
|Kids school & needs||“My kid’s school just called, going to call them to see what’s going on”|
“I have to drop this meeting to help my kids with [excuse]”
– Connecting to their class
– Make lunch/snack
– Kid’s broke something it’s a mess, need to take care of it now
|Another meeting||“Have to drop for another meeting, feel free to ping me for any questions”|
|The doorbell rang||“Someone was at the door, let me go check”|
|A personal errand that can only be done during work hours.||“I have to go to [excuse] before it closes at 5″ |
-Passport Office / Post office
-Banks / Notary
-Pick up my car
|Connection Issues Internet||If you need to drop from a meeting, drop the mic. While you’re in the middle of a sentence, it’s great to be speaking, and click press “leave” meeting mid-sentence. This would help simulate connection issues.|
|Connection Issues Phone||While dialed in on a mobile device only, the impression is that you are out of your home setup. Walking, driving, running errands. In these cases, it’s normal for people to miss a response or have a faulty connection.|
|Mic / Video not working||Buy you some time to “restart” the computer, If you need to jump into another meeting quickly. If you are using an external mic, you can mute it externally so you can talk, and there’s no audio (no logo shows up)|
Now say no and go manage those conflicting meetings!
Depending on the type of work and seniority level, these strategies mentioned above may not be applicable. Let us know some of your strategies to handle meeting conflicts in the comments section below. There’s no one-size solution to fit everything.