Meetings are an inevitable part of work-life. They are the cornerstone of collaboration and one of the best ways to get stuff done.
This doesn’t apply to every meeting, though..
A lot of our meetings are without a clear purpose and defined objectives. In fact, 50% of all meetings are unproductive. When you add in the fact that employees spend 35 percent of their work time in meetings, it means a lot of wasted time on unnecessary meetings.
Too many meetings add up to interrupted work-flows, lowered productivity and meeting-fatigue. Before you even noticed, meetings end up absorbing most of our work week – scary!
How to cut down the number of meetings?
Before scheduling a meeting, you ought to ask yourself if you really need this meeting. If the purpose of the meeting can be fulfilled in an alternative way, it might be better for you and your colleagues.
Here are the 7 reasons to not have a meeting:
1. You don’t have a clear purpose
Try to end the sentence “The purpose of this meeting is to...”. It may sound cheesy but give it a go – and you might just find that it is, in fact, not an easy task. Your meeting purpose must be simple and involve all of the meeting attendees. If you cannot define a clear and important purpose you should reconsider having the meeting. However, if you’re able to determine a clear purpose, you should jot it down as the first thing in the meeting agenda. This way, the attendees can better prepare for the meeting.
2. The meeting is only for information sharing
If your purpose is to update or share information, do your colleagues a favor and update them on email. Anything else is a waste of precious time. If you are already in a meeting for valid reasons, then it’s fine to include updates, but don’t use too much time for this. If you want feedback or input on information you are sharing, a meeting could be the right fit but consider other formats first.
3. The meeting is just to get feedback on your work
If you are asking for input for a project or feedback on your work, email can sometimes be a better option, especially for longer documents. It means your colleagues can look at it in their own time, when it suits them. Be strategic with what you are asking for. Craft clear questions for your colleagues to answer. What do you want from them specifically?
4. You can substitute the meeting with one-on-one discussions or interviews
Sometimes the goal of a meeting can be achieved by a few one-on-one discussions. Plan some strategic questions and try an informal setting like over coffee or a walking meeting. Asking three colleagues for 15 minutes of their time for a one-on-one discussion will use the same amount of time for you as a meeting organizer, but a lot less time and resources for those three people.
5. You only have the meeting because you usually do
Have you ever been at a weekly team meeting where no one actually had anything important to discuss? Whether you are in charge or one of your colleagues is, make sure you consider the need for reoccurring meetings. It might make perfect sense to have a weekly meeting in busy times, but maybe not others. Take action and cancel the meeting when it’s not essential for the efficiency of your teamwork.
6. You don't need to meet face-to-face
Sometimes a phone or video call, or online chat can be more convenient and less of an interruption for your colleagues – especially if you’re placed several floors, buildings or even cities from each other. Sending an email with clear questions or discussion topics ahead of time, will mean they are prepared, and you use your time more effectively. Remember to make sure the technology works. People can be very efficient when having online meetings because the context reduces chitchat, but online meetings can be stretched out too, if there’s technological difficulties.
7. The goal could be achieved better in another format
Basically, this all boils down to one simple question - do you really need that meeting? If you can achieve your goal with another format - go for that. Consider the options of using email, online chat, phone calls or a shared document.
Have you been invited to an unnecessary meeting?
Even though you’re not the one in charge of setting up the meeting, you can still do something to cut down the number of meetings. If you receive a meeting agenda without a clear purpose where no decision-making is required, it’s okay to decline the invitation. Email the person in charge that you’re in doubt about the need for this meeting.
The best way to conquer an unproductive meeting culture is to put focus on the problem and not just show up to numerous unnecessary meetings because your calendar says so.
Conclusion: Before scheduling a meeting or accepting a calendar invitation, ask yourself if you really need this meeting. A meeting may be the right fit for the situation but there may be a better alternative.
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