How to “attend” two meetings at the same time

Sooner or later, when you are overemployed (have more than one full-time professional job), you’ll run into meetings conflicts. Generally, there are two types of meetings: 1) active meetings where you need to actively participate (run the meeting, speak, comment, interact with others); and 2) passive meetings where you just need to show up, listen, take notes and maybe occasionally do a thumbs up. 

Here’s what you can do if one of the meetings is a passive meeting. 

Record one of the meetings that is type 2 (only listen). The MacBook has QuickTime or you can use any other fancy paid software. Bonus is that you can watch at 1.5x-2x later or fast forward to the relevant part thus saving yourself valuable time.

Just skip a passive meeting all together. Especially if your boss is not there. Most likely, no one will notice for meetings with over 10 attendees.

Be mentally absent but show your virtual presence by joining early, putting your mic on mute and turning your camera off… and leaving at that. Don’t listen. Mute speakers. Leave the laptop alone. This works well for large all hands type of calls with 50+ attendees and webinars. Can get risky in a small size (just your team), because you may be called out. Even if they call you out, and you don’t respond, they’ll think you stepped outside and will come back.

If both meetings are somewhat important, then things are tougher but still doable. Let’s say one meeting is a standup where you talk only 5% of the time. Put an AirPod in one ear with one meeting while listening to another meeting on a loudspeaker. You can have laptops and cameras side by side, or turn off cameras if you are extra cautious. Have both calls on mute. Then, when it’s time to speak at one meeting, turn the camera off on another call, mute the speakers on another call; then unmute the mic where you want to speak. It’s a lot of movements so don’t rush. Don’t make a mistake of leaving the speakers nor mic not on mute at a call where you don’t want to speak. 

If it’s a recurring meeting, then you know the agenda and can volunteer to go first or vice versa, wait until the last moment to talk so you can speak at another meeting.

Sometimes conflicting meetings get canceled or end earlier. It’s always fun luck when that happens. The worst time of a conflict is when you have 1-1s with your boss and/or when you need to present or run a meeting yourself. In this case, you’ll have to reschedule one of the meetings. I’m sure you know what is job #1 in terms of priorities and what jobs are #2, 3 and 4. You can say that you have a doctor’s appointment that took 2 months to schedule and it’s very hard to move. Everyday, monitor your calendars for key 1-1s and important meetings with your management. Once you see them, block that slot on all other calendars! Most managers are adequate and won’t get too mad if you move a meeting once or twice. Just try not to make it a habit. Last tip is having a job that requires less meetings. Keep interviewing until you find one. Or maybe your field is just meetings heavy (like sales or management). In this case, maybe it’s time to change careers?

It’s not an “if” but a “when”, that you’ll have overlapping meetings. Don’t fret. Follow the tips and you’ll be fine.