Too Much Work Wearing Planners Out

Meeting planners, it seems, are like everyone in our society: They're stressed out.

About one third of planners responding to a survey by SM's sister publication MeetingNews reported high levels of stress, and three-quarters said they are at least moderately stressed. "The problem is, planners are seriously overcommitted," says David Allen, president of executive coaching and management firm David Allen Company, and author of Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

Allen believes stress comes from disorganization and fear that people won't be able to do what they've agreed to do. "Most people don't have a successful systematic approach to the commitments they've made," he says.

When asked to name the most stressful aspect of their jobs, participants' number-one response was volume of work. More than 20 percent of planners indicated that workload-related matters are "extremely stressful." "There has been a reduction in the planner workforce," says LoriAnn Harnish, who recently left a job with a nonprofit organization to become a meetings consultant in Scottsdale, AZ. "I was one of three planners at my previous job, and we planned up to 500 meetings annually."

Harnish, who says she worked up to 90 hours a week, felt like a gerbil on a spinning wheel. "I didn't know when I was going to stop," she says. "If I didn't leave, something disastrous could have happened to my health."

Almost half of surveyed planners say they work at least nine hours per day when not on site at a meeting. When on site, many planners report putting in up to 18 hours per day.

Says Brad Gemeinhart, director of communications for the U.S. Junior Chamber in Tulsa, OK, "There are so few of us, we have to put in extra effort to get things done."