Meeting Reminders Kill Time, Too

tl;dr: Use 5-minute meeting reminders unless people have more than a five minute walk/travel time to the meeting site.

The Problem

Copyright: neyro2008 / 123RF Stock Photo

Meeting reminders are just as much an impediment to productivity as meetings themselves are. Ok, fine, meetings aren’t always an impediment to productivity, but they do prevent attendees from accomplishing their own individual tasks, etc…

Anyway… back to meeting reminders. What happens when your Outlook pops up a reminder? One of several things happens:

  • You completely ignore the reminder.
  • You acknowledge the reminder but go back to what you were doing.
  • You dismiss the reminder, hoping that you’ll actually get another for this meeting you’re supposed to attend.
  • You fully acknowledge the reminder, attempt to go back to work until meeting time, but you focused on not missing the meeting.

As you can see, the only option that gives you a solid chance of making the meeting means that your focus cannot be on something else. Add to this the setup/teardown time involved in switching contexts from your normal tasks and being engaged in the meeting. (This assumes that you are only going to meetings that you actually engage in—I’m sure that’s not an issue for anyone, right?)

A Solution

All of this brings me back to the problem of the meeting reminder. Think of the meeting reminder as a part of the meeting as well. If you have a 15-minute and no one has to travel more than a few feet to attend (or just has to boot up GoToMeeting), then don’t make the reminder 15 minutes as well (or worse, AN HOUR before). A five-minute reminder should be enough for a 15-minute meeting. Realistically, five minutes should be adequate for anything that isn’t going to block out a significant portion of the day.

Actually, no… reserved reminder more than 5 minutes for abnormally early meeting start times. And make them end-of-day reminders for the previous day.

Read Receipts in Outlook

Read receipts can be obnoxious. Outlook’s handling of them can be equally obnoxious.

I curiously received a read receipt in Outlook when I scheduled a meeting, that meeting was forwarded by a invitee of the meeting, and the recipient of the forward accepted.

Why, Outlook? Why? I don’t want read receipts. I don’t want a read receipt for every recipient of the 100 emails I sent last week. I have enough time balancing between my inbox quota and keeping the necessary emails on the server so that I can access them remotely.

Of course, after seeing the read receipt, I was curious how many people I’m sending read receipts to and not knowing it–so I turned on the option to “Ask me before sending a response” to read receipt requests:

  • In Outlook 2007, select the Tools menu.
  • Click on “Options…”
  • In the “Preferences” tab [the default tab], click the “E-mail Options” button.
  • In the “E-mail Options” window, click the “Tracking Options” button.
  • You have three options for setting the response.
    • Always send a response
    • Never send a response
    • Ask me before sending a response

Apparently, “read receipts” also mean “send a message if recipient deletes the message without reading it.” That concept is creepy enough, but apparently, even the messages that are just notifications that a recipient has accepted a meeting invite send receipts back if the recipient of the acceptance notification deletes the email.

I wonder if it sends a read receipt when I’ve read someone’s “Out of Office” message. I wouldn’t be surprised.