The first step to reclaiming your inbox is understanding your communication behaviors and baselines – do you spend more than 20 hours per week in meetings and do you schedule more than 2-3 meetings per week with your team? If so, you may be distracting your colleagues more than you think.

One of the primary functions of scheduling a meeting is the vital act of information sharing and it’s a necessary evil. Given that employees spend an average of 12.5 hours per week in meetings around the globe, how can we balance a need to remain “in the know” while getting our core work completed? FOMO or the fear of missing out is a constant concern for employees since many appreciate the opportunity meetings provide to participate and contribute to conversations and the decision-making process. Also having face-time with colleagues provides an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge outside of traditional job descriptions and job functions.

Meeting Overload for the Highly Distributed Workforce

The global enterprises of today have highly distributed workforces. In fact, research suggests that back in 2009, 15 percent of the U.S. workforce spent one or more days a week outside a corporate facility and the number was projected to soar to over 25 percent by 2014. This means over 50 million knowledge workers will work in multiple locations during the course of a normal work week, making face-to-face communications less and less common in getting work done.

With the rise in telecommuting and global teams people are even more conscious of being inclusive, to the point of sending wide-reaching invites for meetings, but this has a definite downside. When a calendar invite comes from a team in Hong Kong or London that takes place after hours in the U.S., colleagues may not realize their attendance is optional and feel obligated to attend. Even if they could easily gain access to meeting information from others or through a simple email status update.

When in the midst of global planning initiatives, important meetings can certainly take place during inopportune times but if you are the meeting planner, try to find times that work best for everyone involved to maximize productivity. If you are a meeting attendee, don’t hesitate to ask for a better time to make sure it aligns with your schedule.

Prioritization Overrides FOMO

Once you have a better understanding of how you use your time, you can assess the impact of decisions around meetings and re-prioritize your time a bit better to use it wisely; so if you are in a meeting with 20+ people is everyone an active participant – are you? Or are you more likely multitasking with one ear open to what’s happening – thereby guaranteeing you’re not doing anything really well. Maybe that meeting about a stalled project can be rescheduled for when things get going again. How about those bi-weekly vendor meetings where your main contact is out on vacation for the next 2 weeks? Employees around the globe are using personal productivity tools like Microsoft MyAnalytics to understand their behaviors and reclaim their time at work.

Remember that your time is valuable and that your FOMO may be real but that doesn’t mean you need to act on it. Make decisions that are best for you and your team first and foremost. Your calendar will thank you.