The other day, my 5-year-old daughter asked me what my plan was for the day. I told her, I’m going to work. “What are you going to do there, Daddy?” she said in her ever-so-inquisitive way. “Well, I’ve got a bunch of meetings” I answered. Next came the question that stumped me: “Why do you always have meetings Daddy”? I didn’t have a good answer.
Meetings are a way of life at most organizations. There’s a lot of truth that the more senior you become, the more time you spend in meetings, in lieu of doing actual/productive work. While not all meetings are created equally, the majority, if not planned and thought out, can become a waste of time.
Time is about the only thing we don’t have in abundance nowadays and many of us struggle to manage our calendars as they start looking more like a Tetris game board.
Meetings can also be very costly. According to research, more then $37 billion per year is spent in unproductive meetings. It is estimated that 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings—a percentage that has increased every year since 2008.
A few months ago, I took on a personal experiment to reduce the amount of meetings in my calendar to take back some of the time to dedicate to efforts that matter.
In four weeks of practicing some of the key principles below, I’ve managed to:
- Avoid 8 meetings – Re-directing 6.5 hours back to higher value activities
- Shorten 6 meetings by leveraging pre-reads and focused agendas – Re-directing 3.5 hours
So to sum it up, I got back over a full day’s work by practicing some very simple principles that literally everyone can leverage.
Some of these are such common sense, it’s almost embracing to share them, but alas, we often times take them for granted.
Question the Objective for the Meeting
One simple question to ask when you receive a meeting invite gets everyone on the same page. When setting up a meeting, taking a few minutes to explain what we are trying to achieve and the clear outcome helps keep everyone focused and saves considerable time at the beginning of the meeting. If you’re receiving a meeting invite that looks ambiguous, politely question it.
If there isn’t a clear answer, perhaps you shouldn’t have a meeting. If I got push-back, I would usually attached this cartoon. It’s a great way to neutralize the situation, have a good laugh and have the other person understand that you’re not trying to give them a hard time.
Is It Necessary or Could we Accomplish our Objective in Another Way?
Before sending out a meeting invite, ask yourself whether there’s another way to move the objective forward. Can you get input via e-mail? Can you gather a sub-group or speak with individuals to solve the current issue?
Keep Meetings Small
I’ve been to calls that have dozens of participants and frankly speaking, those calls are mostly ineffective and are largely dominated by 2-3 individuals. Based on research, the Rule of 7, states that every attendee over seven reduces the likelihood of making a good, quick, executable decision by 10%. Once you hit 16 or 17, your decision effectiveness is close to zero.
There are calls that are meant to inform multiple individuals. Those are the exception, but if you’re expecting a productive meeting with 25 people in the room or on a call, it’s time to rethink having a meeting.
Keep track of Objectives during the meeting
Just because a meeting has been scheduled for an hour doesn’t mean you should take the full hour. If your objective was reached sooner then when the meeting was scheduled to end, give back time to the participants. Everyone appreciates it.
Arguably the most important when combating meetings is applying common sense. Meetings obviously do serve a purpose, so use good judgment and common sense when applying the above principles.
Practice Meeting Etiquette
Are you a meeting hog or a late-arriver? Check out this infographic for some great tips that can help you avoid getting dirty looks.
Got any more tips? how do you “hack” your calendar and make sure your meetings are productive?