Meeting Fatigue

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How do you combat meeting fatigue?

As a leader, you find yourself with too many priorities and it’s hard to know which to tackle first. You go from meeting to meeting with no gap and no space to do the actual work.

It can leave you feeling like you don’t have control. Worse, you start feeling a sense of anger or frustration at the people around you. Your heart rate increases and it’s easy to snap and say the wrong thing or be harsh to the people around you.

At Institute Success, we understand how it feels. You're not alone. We work with hundreds of executives, and what you're feeling is common. It's such a major problem that I want to show you why it happens so you know how to regain control.

Imagine feeling like you're in your rightful place, back at the wheel. You're confidently making decisions no matter what life throws at you. You feel in control. That's what you'll gain by reading this article.

What Causes Meeting Workplace Stress?

Workplace stress can be caused by a number of factors. One of the most common is exhaustion. You lack the energy to complete your work or tasks at hand.

This may happen because of a variety of reasons including: not getting enough sleep; having too much on your plate; being overworked; feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities; dealing with an illness such as depression; experiencing relationship problems.
Everything adds to workplace stress. Nothing takes away from it unless you take action yourself.
A key factor adding to the levels of stress executives feel is Meeting Fatigue.

Meeting Fatigue

Meeting Fatigue happens when we don't plan, fail to hold our boundaries, or allow our drive to get a result take over. 

In an ideal world, we'd only schedule meetings that need to happen. We'd limit the time to 30 minutes. We'd have an agenda... and stick to it. We'd have clear actions to take. We'd have a buffer between one meeting and the next.

The reality is very little of that happens. We're human. It's an immediate source of stress to know we're heading into a meeting because the last one didn't come to a conclusion, forcing us to hold another meeting. 

Zoom Fatigue

The challenges of virtual meetings are more frustrating that in-person meetings. People rely on microphones encrusted in dust running on ancient laptops so the sound is muffled. They have Zoom backgrounds that distract you. Every time they speak you have to say, "You're muted".

It's draining. These are issues we don't face during an in-person meeting. Transmission delays can ruin the natural cadence of language, making it hard to stay engaged and focused. We're also unable to rely on non-verbal cues so our brains have to work harder to understand.

Meeting fatigue is a major driver of workplace stress. 

The Difference Between Virtual Meetings and an in-Person Meeting

Imagine you've finished a virtual meeting. What's the first thing you do? You thankfully close the connection, stretch, and rub your eyes.

What do you do after a real life meeting? You tend to stay a while and talk. There's a gap where you make connections with people. You talk about personal life. You relax. There's little wonder back to back virtual meetings can be a source of chronic stress and impact your mental health. 

The Connection Between Zoom Fatigue and Work-Related Stress

When your stress increases, everything gets harder. Think about your normal workload, and then add in one single extra unrealistic deadline caused by something outside of your control. Job stress immediately impacts how much emotional gas you have left in your tank.
Virtual meeting fatigue adds to your normal sources of stress and amplifies it. Your sense of control diminishes and it's at that point the problems start to accelerate. We find ourselves snapping and taking our frustration out on those around us.

The Amygdala Hijack

The reason we find ourselves overwhelmed and snapping is that our brain has been hijacked.
If something negative happens, a primitive part of your brain hijacks the rational part of your brain.
You immediately lose the ability to think logically.

Imagine a big red button on your desk. If that button is pressed, your brain instantly stops thinking rationally. Instead, it goes into flight or fight mode.

Now imagine that button is behind a screen. You can see it, but you don’t have control of it.
Instead, your inner caveman has total control over it. And your caveman loves to hit buttons.
It’s not looking good is it? Yet that’s the reality.

If you are feeling relaxed, your caveman is sleeping. There’s no danger of him smashing that button.

But if you feel stressed, or you’re tired, or you’re not sleeping well, then your caveman is awake. He’s looking for trouble.

And trouble can be anything, especially something that causes an emotional response. Remember, there is nothing rational about this. If a team member might be late with a report.

Someone interrupts you when you're in the middle of an email. A cashier gets your change wrong. These tiny things don’t normally matter. But if your underlying stress is high, it’s like someone’s thrown a rock at your caveman.

In a heartbeat, he’s slamming that button. It’s impossible to think rationally and you’re responding emotionally.

In technical terms, it’s called an amygdala hijack.

The amygdala is a primitive, emotional, part of your brain. When it kicks in it completely overrides your rational brain. The caveman is in charge.

It’s a great protective circuit in your brain. It helps you survive real, sudden physical threats. Imagine a car has an accident and skids into your path. It’s your amygdala that will save your life by getting you to jump out the way.

The trouble is, it’s trying to do the same thing in an office environment. And your response can be out of all proportion. Out of nowhere, suddenly you find yourself saying things you later regret and you ask yourself, “What's this going to cost if you don't regain control?”

A better question may be, "Do you want to keep doing this? And living like this?"


When there’s an elephant in the room, you can’t pretend it isn’t there and just discuss the ants.

There are three key aspect to an amygdala hijack.

  • A strong emotional reaction
  • Sudden onset
  • Regretting your actions later

Any strong emotion can trip off the amygdala. And when we’re feeling stressed, it happens so easily.

It's not fair. Nobody should work so hard they're exhausted and find themselves acting in a way that's not who they are. It leaves you feeling like you don't have control. You feel angry, frustrated, and it's all too easy to upset people.

There are two things you can do reduce the impact of the amygdala hijack. One is to force control back. You can attempt to do this by labelling your emotions. “I feel angry” or “I feel frustrated”.
This starts to directs your attention back to the rational part of your brain.

It’s not easy. You won’t want to do it in the moment. But if you can feel it starting to work, follow up by trying to identify the emotion and what triggered you to feel this way.

This starts to build your awareness, and you can get rational control back. But don’t forget it's a caveman hitting the button. He’s hard to wrest control from.

And, even if you can get this to work, there's an important point to realize. This is nothing more than a temporary sticking plaster over a bigger problem.

The root cause is the underlying stress. If you weren’t stressed, your inner caveman wouldn’t react in this way. He’d stay fast asleep.

But the lack of delineation between work and home life is exhausting. It drains your tank of emotional energy.

There are many stressors at work. “Why won’t my team just do what I need them to do?”
As mentioned above, one of the biggest sources of chronic work stress are the endless meetings. Work is relentless and you go from meeting to meeting without a real buffer between them. Each meeting creates more work, and you don’t have time to do the work because you’ve got another meeting.

How To Regain Your Sense of Control

If that’s where you find yourself, we’ve created a short course to show you how to regain control.

We’re going to give you a simple, immediately actionable technique. It's going to transform how you feel about whatever is giving you stress. You’re going to leave with a brand new way of getting yourself feeling relaxed, confident, and in control.

Next time you see your calendar filled with endless meetings, or you have so much to do and don’t know where to start, don't worry. You'll be able to use our Emotional Trigger Sweep to take back control.

Work and life are so busy. There are too many important things you need to do. This sense of overwhelm can make you feel angry, frustrated, and that you’re the only one who is going through this. It’s not right.

You shouldn’t be in a position where you’re exhausted and you’re not acting how you normally would.

Connect, Engage and Lead

As you sort through how your life and work will be changing throughout the coming weeks as a result of COVID-19, we want you to know--We’re Here for You. 

We are committed to providing you with the resources and knowledge you need to connect, engage and lead exceptionally well during this most turbulent time. 

Throughout the next few weeks, we will be sharing content on how you can thrive in the midst of this crisis. You can follow us on social media and sign up below to receive updates.

Our team is ready to help you face your challenges with courage and confidence. Together we all emerge more resilient and better equipped for the future.


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Solve for Happy

The Key to Happiness is Your Expectations

Happiness is simply the state when your expectational are met.

You will be happy when you

  • have no expectations
  • have expectations and they are met

You will be unhappy when you

  • have expectations and they are not met

Try it! The next time you find you are unhappy, ask yourself

  • What was my expectation?
  • Was my expectation realistic, reasonable or even known?
  • What expectation is realistic or reasonable?
  • If it was unknown and may not be met in the future, how can I establish that expectation for next time?

If you want to dive deeper, check out Mo's talk below and his new book Solve for Happy.

Gaining Perspective

The best leaders, we know don't know it all.

That's right, even right now when everyone is looking to you, you don't need to know it all.

This is the time to draw on others, to ask those you trust what they see that you may not see.

The landscape is changing and your strategy might be shifting.

Think about where you look for knowledge and thoughts to gain perspective.

This video is part of a video series we launched in mid-March 2020.  If you would like to see past video or subscribe to receive updates as we release new videos, sign-up for Connect. Engage. Lead.


Feeling Lost

Just because you are in charge it doesn't mean that everything is clear.

The pressure of leading during uncertain times can leave us feeling like we are spinning.

While you may be able to hold it together on the outside, that feeling can be overwhelming.

Listen to Harvey's thoughts on how to manage that spinning feeling.

This video is part of a video series we launched in mid-March 2020.  If you would like to see past video or subscribe to receive updates as we release new videos, sign-up for Connect. Engage. Lead.


Creating Positive Routines for Teams

We know routines are important, and now we are rapidly creating new routines for ourselves and our teams.

Creating agreements and accountability are some of the keys to a successful team routine.

Hear what our CEO, Harvey Smith, has to say about how to create the mindset where your team is ready to engage.

This video is part of a video series we launched in mid-March 2020.  If you would like to see past video or subscribe to receive updates as we release new videos, sign-up for Connect. Engage. Lead.


Remote Working Tips

It has been a couple of days and it is all new for those that are not used to working from home.

Being productive and happy working from home requires some setting up, and some boundaries.

Christine Kinney has some tips and best practices for working remotely.

This video is part of a video series we launched in mid-March 2020.  If you would like to see past video or subscribe to receive updates as we release new videos, sign-up for Connect. Engage. Lead.


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GTD Guided Mind Sweep

I want to take you through a Guided Mind Sweep. The mind sweep is a technique gleaned from David Allen in his book Getting Things Done. In the Getting Things Done methodology, or more commonly known as GTD, there are five phases of the GTD method. The first is to collect things, get them out of your head, get them off of your desk, get them out of your notes, and then process them, organize them in your system, continuously review them, and take action.

In the first phase, the Collect phase, the mind sweep is one of the most powerful tools you can use to get things out of your head.

One of David's most famous quotes is, "Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them."

The mind sweep is a tool that is going to help you get relief and get things out of your head. It's going to give you a sense of calm and control. You can download our Mind Sweep tool. It's a simple PDF tool, where you can use this to capture things as we go through this guided mind sweep. So, you may want to pause the video, download the PDF. Print it out. You may want to print a couple extra pages before we get into the mind sweep.

This is going to take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. You may have so many things in your head and in your systems that you need more than 30 minutes. But in just five minutes, you're going to get a sense of control and calm from getting these things out of your head.



Before you get started

Download and print out our Mind Sweep tool before we get started.   

Ground Rules

Couple ground rules before we do get started is, don't try to overthink things. Just simply write them down, get them out of your head. You can throw this away when we're done. This is just a simple exercise for getting things out of your head so you can see what it feels like to start to get control in that first step of the GTD methodology.

Mind Sweep

Top of Mind

  • What's currently on your mind?
  • What has your attention?

Whatever's coming to your thoughts, just write those down. You may want to pause the video while you're just capturing those until you're at a stopping point.


Now, look at your calendar. If you have your phone handy or your planner, just take a quick look.

  • What has happened in the last two weeks?
  • Is there anything that you need to follow up on?
  • Any unfinished projects?
  • What's on your calendar in the next two weeks?
  • Is there anything you need to do to get ready for some critical deliverables or critical meetings?

Just write those down. You may want to pause the video while you review the last two weeks and the next two weeks.

Conversation, People, Follow-up

Are there any conversations or meetings that you've had recently that may not have been on your calendar?

Did you run into someone?

Did you have a conversation, and there was some follow-up that needs to happen out of that?

Let's take a look beyond the next couple weeks.


Do you have any vacation coming up?

Any vacation planned in the next couple weeks or couple months?

Is there anything you need to do to get ready for that vacation?

Is there anything you need to delegate before that vacation?

And while we're on the topic of vacation, is anything with your family that you need to do?

Events, Special Occasions 

Any upcoming events?

Any birthdays? Anything with school?

I'm sure still thinking. Pause the video. Just capture everything related to the family, friends.


Let's take a look at your office. If we were to walk around your office right now, what would you see? If you're physically in your office, then you can do this. Walk around your office. Are there papers around with unfinished things that you need to capture? Is there any equipment that needs maintenance? Any supplies you need to buy? If you're not physically in your office, just walk through it in your mind. Coming to the door, look around. Is there things written on on your whiteboard? Capture those things.


We could do the same thing for your home. If you're at home, this is a great time to do this exercise. Walk around your home.

  • Are there things that need to be fixed?
  • Do you need to call someone for service?
  • Any unfinished projects?
  • Walk around the yard and look for anything that needs to be done... Maybe from a seasonal perspective, if you're getting ready for the spring, or maybe it's coming into the summer, or even fall?
  • Are there any seasonal items you need to be thinking about?

And if you have any other locations where you spend a good amount of time, maybe you have two offices or you spend time in multiple locations, just go through those areas as well in your mind's eye.

30,000 Ft. View

So let's step up to the 30,000 foot view. Is there anything that's going on in your life that's longer range planning? Looking to get a degree, do you need to register to go back to school? Are there any certifications that you need to work towards getting? Any longer-term initiatives at work? Any personal goals? Any financial goals? As these come to your mind, just write them down.


Think about all the projects that you currently have going on at work and at home.

  • What are some things that needed to be done to move those forward?
  • What's the next action item on one of your projects?

If you've got a project list. This will be a great time to pull that out. Start just reviewing those. If you've got a notebook where you're keeping notes, flip through that.

Anything Else?  

One last time, think about any other open loops you may have.    

  • What comes to your mind?
  • Anything do this week or next week?
  • Any commitments?
  • Are there any opportunities?
  • Any new client that you need to reach out to?
  • Any potential new employee?
  • Anyone you've been meaning to to connect with?

Just write those down.

Events, Fun!

Any new special events? Any fun that you need to write down. Any concerts coming up? Any special events, and the family may have planned? Or, maybe it's a celebration at work? Any other relationships that you need to foster? Personal relationships, professional relationships? Anything else, just anything else come to mind.

This was a quick guided mind sweep. Hopefully by doing this exercise, you've filled out both sheets of paper, maybe even more.

By getting this information out of your head, what we refer to as open loops, and starting to capture them somewhere that you potentially will start to trust is the first step of that GTD process. At this point, you probably have an immense sense of relief. You may even feel a little more relaxed. You may also feel a little bit of anxiousness or overwhelm, because wow it's a really long list and that you were holding on to a lot of information in your head. But that's that first step of the GTD methodology. Getting those items out of your head and into a system so you can then organize them, review them, and take action.

So, hope you found this guided mind sweep very useful.

Let’s face it, if you’re as busy as we suspect you are, you don’t want to make the investment of an audiobook, a Kindle edition, or a paperback if you’re not sure you are going to read it. Even if you do intend to read a book, the insights there may be valuable to you now… so why wait to benefit? A brilliant concept for boiling down business and development publications into videos of roughly twelve minutes apiece, gives you the essence of a book so that you maximize a quarter of an hour by learning something new without even having to pick the book up. Then later, if you have the chance to do so, you’re conceptually one step ahead. We love so much, we have partnered with them to offer a selection of three curated books each month to our readers.  Enjoy our gift to you, a free subscription to and consume the essence of that next essential read in less than twelve minutes.    

Golden Questions™

Two simple questions that can change the course of your next conversation.


How were you taught to treat others? Think back, how did your parents teach you to treat one another? How about your teachers? How did your coaches teach you to treat your teammates? And, how did your family members teach you to treat one another?

As I've asked this question thousands of times, I get two simple answers. The first, is respect. The second, is the Golden Rule. That Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is one of the primary rules that we are wired to think about how to treat others. As I ask those that give the answer of respect, I get back the same answer. Respect is defined from your own prospective.

The Golden Rule and respect, are a way that we see the world not as it is, but as we are. This is our emotional filter, this is how we are wired. What I want to do today is introduce you to something different. We are different. There is communication in behavioral diversity with each and every one of us. The work that we do here at Institute Success, we see that over 80% of the folks you interact with on a daily basis have a different natural style than you do. That means only 20% have a style that is similar to you. Not exactly the same, but similar.

As you see your daily interactions, there's potential conflict with four out of five people. Where, you are processing through your emotional filter, how you think someone might need to treat you the way you want to be treated.

We introduce the Golden Questions™, a different way of framing this problem. The Golden Questions™ are intended to replace the Golden Rule. That first question is, who am I communicating with? Instead of using the default and treating that individual you are communicating with the way we want to be treated. We ask ourself, "Who are they? Are they like me, or are they different than me?" Remember, four out of five times they're often someone different than your natural style.

Then, comes in that second question. How can I adapt to be successful with that person? If I know who they are and they're different than me, then I need to adapt. My communication style, my behavior, to match their preferred style because they're wired the same way we were wired, which is with that Golden Rule. These are two really powerful questions.

I'd like to share a story with how this played out for me just on a daily basis, so very simple example that's got to start out with understanding who I am. This is my DISC style. I'm a moderate D, a low I, a high S, and a high C. I'm what you would call an SC style, I'm more introverted, kind of a blend of people in task. But, I'm more in my head, more introverted, more quiet, more reflective.

I'm also very habitual. One thing I do every day, is I go to Starbucks. I hate waiting in line, so as a good introvert, I'm going to pull out the app. Don't have to interact with anyone, simply place my order, my breakfast sandwich, my coffee. Voila, in three to seven minutes it'll be ready.

Well, about two years ago my typical daily routine changed. My son had changed schools, and so I started going to a different Starbucks. But as usual, I dropped him off at the bus, pulled out my phone, placed my order. Three to seven minutes, drove to that new Starbucks, walked in the door, and there I was greeted with this lovely customer service person sitting at the register, and my ticket still sitting on the printer. My coffee wasn't ready, my sandwich wasn't ready. It was eight minutes in, and that three to seven minutes had long gone by.

There I was, not too dissimilar from this picture. I think I had, my arms were probably crossed. Not really happy, standing at the end of the bar where you pick up the mobile orders. Staring down the lady at the cash register, and staring down that ticket. Not a happy person.

Well, this went on for a couple of days. It didn't really change much. But then I was like, "What about the Golden Rule? No, that's not working. So, let me try these Golden Questions™." I asked myself, "Who am I communicating with?" Now, I didn't have a DISC assessment on this individual, but I could pick up behavioral clues, as I was trained using the DISC assessment. That, based on the fact that she was highly talkative, she was talking with the other customers, distracted, not grabbing my ticket and dealing with it, she was less task oriented and more people oriented. I had a sense of what style she was. As we know now, she was a high I, high S style. I decided to adapt my communication with this person. Read a name tag, her name was Kathleen. I started to employ techniques to be successful with Kathleen, right?

She's a high I, high S style. I wanted to make sure I made eye contact. I needed to smile, no, there's no crossing my arms. I needed to say hello when I walked in. Actually, even better, I needed to say, "Hi Kathleen." I needed to start up a conversation and find a common connection. This is what Kathleen valued. I started doing that, and after a couple of days things changed. Because, no longer did Kathleen see me as just another ticket, I was now a person in her mind 'cause she's people oriented. I had a name, it was Andy. When that ticket rolled off the next time she's like, "Oh, there's Andy. Andy's coming back in."

When I would walk in and my sandwich wouldn't be ready, she would say, "Hey Andy, your sandwich is in the oven." Things changed dramatically over those next couple days, next couple weeks. To the point where I could still walk into that Starbucks today, and I'd get a good morning from Kathleen, and I'd say good morning, and we acknowledge one another. It's a win/win for both of us. I employed that set of Golden Questions™ to have success in that interaction with Kathleen.

I didn't have the luxury of her DISC assessment, so it's if you're working with folks that you're not able to pick up on their styles yet, it's a great tool to understand their communication preferences. One of the sections in the DISC assessment is ways to effectively communicate with one another, and things to avoid when communicating with an individual. So, some really powerful tools that you can leverage to your benefit to employ theGolden Questions™ even more effectively. So, wonderful success with my interactions with Kathleen.

What I'd like to leave you with today is .... How could the Golden Questions™ impact your next conversation?

Here's to success in your next conversation.