I hate meetings. In my opinion, there’s nothing more time consuming and annoying; and it’s often such a waste of everybody’s time.
With a few exceptions like updating non-tech-savvy higher ups, establishing initial contact with new peers or potential customers – There’s no real need for meetings.
Everything you can do in a meeting can be accomplished from your computer including (but not limited to):
- Talking to your colleagues, supervisors or employees.
- Displaying visuals such as charts or presentation.
- Voting etc.
As I said, all of the above can be done by other means, so why do companies still meet around the traditional round table?
Old habits die hard. Company culture in the western world dictates that everyone needs to be updated (or justify their salaries, as I like to call it) in tedious face to face meetings. This system works, according to management manuals; and, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Wrong. This system is flawed.
This system costs $37 billion dollars annually in the US alone. On average, we attend 62 meetings on a monthly basis; I’m sure most of us can avoid at least half if not more.
That’s 31 hours spent on average – We spend each month more than 3 days in meetings, wow!
That’s an insane number and I hope, for you and the company you work for, that you’re on the left edge of the bell curve.
Knowing what we know, we realize that we can forgo with many meetings. But alas, you and I are prisoners of the existing system; it might take some time before we’ll be able to shake this nasty meeting habit.
What’s the alternative? Optimize, optimize and then, optimize some more.
One-on-one meetings are the best
I can’t imagine a reason why 5 people will ever have to spend time together sitting in the same room for long meetings. Even if you are working on a project, most of the time, you can and should cut down the number of people present to the required few. All other, non-essentials, can be updated after the meeting via email, Skype, etc.
Having unnecessary people in the meeting causes:
- Missed meetings due to cancellations – those meetings are the last priority for someone who’s not relevant.
- Extreme fatigue later that day after almost falling asleep during the meeting.
- Poor results because when we’re not an active part of the meeting, we try to multitask; we do a horrible job at it.
- Anger! I don’t know about you, but I get angry when someone wastes my time which ruins my day…
If you really need to manage an effective meeting, make it a one on one meeting. It’ll be shorter, to the point and way more effective.
If you reduce the number of attendees you can also reduce face time
Now don’t get me wrong, face time is important sometimes, particularly, if you need to deliver an important piece of information.
But I’m sure that during most meetings people don’t transmit important information, they create busy-work; i.e. look occupied to earn a salary.
Moving meetings to Skype, Video Conferencing or (even Email) saves a lot of time by not removing you from your workstation. Also, it reduces the amount of time you need to recover from the meeting that interrupted your work…
- Interruptions you experience while working inside your work station cost you on average 10-15 minutes, after a Skype session you’re already on your desk so for that matter a Skype session will be considered as a normal interruption (not including the meeting time).
- When you go out of a meeting you walk from the meeting room to the kitchen, hang around the water cooler talking to someone and only than sitting down… add to that 10-15 minutes.
Yes, that’s why you need to avoid physical face-to-face time. Your team or company should be empowered by you to make most decisions on their own and agile enough to do so over 2D or email.
If someone is necessary for only a portion of a meeting; then fine. Get their 2 cents; send them an email summary after the meeting. They won’t be offended; but rather relieved.
If you must…have meetings first thing in the morning
Schedule your meeting in the morning if you want to get the information you’re after. Things will go smoother and you’ll get more honest results according to a recent study.
Apparently we’re much more likely to lie or hide the truth during the afternoons, probably because of decision fatigue.
We naturally have more energy in the morning. It’s an almost magical time in terms of productivity (less in terms of creativity FYI), so start early and set your agenda to hit the ground running during your mornings.
Send Meeting Notes & Tasks following the meeting…
If you wasted everyone’s time, why not follow up?
After each meeting, no matter if it was a one-on-one, face-to-face or multi-attendees, everyone should get meeting minutes, reference materials, and “going forward” tasks.
- Make sure that everyone knows what they have to do, don’t be stingy; you spent the time, now draft the group email.
- The last thing you want is to arrive to the next meeting with dropped balls or missed deadlines, make sure you setup a shared calendar and monitor the progress of your team.
Don’t count on everyone’s good will or serious intentions. Due to the stressed environment most of us work in, some things tend to fall between the cracks.
Skip meetings altogether
Some people will claim that there is no substitute for meetings. Some argue that you must have them from time to time; I stick to my claim that they’re a complete waste of time.
More and more research arrives every day claiming that group brainstorming is a horrible way to find creative ways to deal with problems. They argue that for the majority of decisions, meetings are not necessary. They show clearly that meetings don’t propel people to do the work they have to do; confidence, autonomy and trust on the other hand do.
I’ll finish with the following closing argument, successful and productive people have empty schedules and that includes no meetings.
Until next time.