Some of us spend far too much time in meetings. I’m not talking about the absolutely critical meetings. I’m talking about the fringe meetings that can sometimes consume far too much of our time.

We often think we are powerless to ward off meeting requests. After all, shunning our colleagues doesn’t feel very career-savvy. Yet you may have more influence than you think.

Thankfully, there are several things you can do to reduce your commitments (without sabotaging your career):

  1. Postpone – Let people know your calendar is full right now, but would be happy to meet next week or next month.
  1. Send someone else – If your colleague can sufficiently represent your input, there is no need for both of you to attend.
  1. Ask for an update – Ask them to send you an update after the meeting.
  1. Book shorter meetings – Suggest shorter meetings (e.g., 25 minutes or 45 minutes). Even better: start the meeting 5 minutes or 15 minutes after the hour so the meeting will naturally wrap up at the top of the hour. While longer strategy sessions are justified once in awhile, I tend to prefer shorter meetings with fewer agenda items. When a meeting tries to tackle too much, the temptation is to delay the next meeting to allow everyone to get the work done. This stalls progress and leads to redundant recaps at the next meeting.
  1. Reduce the frequency – If people are drifting off in the meetings, there might be too much time dedicated to updates.
  1. Give a partial yes – Let people know you can attend part of the meeting. Choose the last part of the meeting to resist the temptation to stay after your part is done.
  1. Block your time – block time for your own work before meetings fill up your calendar. Pay yourself first before other commitments absorb your time.
  1. Ask for an agenda – Make sure the meeting purpose justifies your contribution. If the meeting is not related to one of your top priorities, consider one of the above tactics.
  1. Focus your efforts – Streamline your projects and focus on top priorities. The less you are trying to tackle right now, the more progress you will make (and the less time you will spend in meetings). In the long run, this will help you get more done and make a bigger impact.

That sums up our suggestions for managing your meeting commitments. What else would you add to this list? What strategy works best for you?