4 Ways to Avoid Pointless Meetings at Work

The average office worker sits through dozens of meetings per month. Frustratingly, the majority of these meetings could be avoided altogether if there was a more intentional strategy in place.

If you want to protect your team’s time and develop a culture that’s centered around productivity, adopting a more intentional outlook on meetings is a must.

The Problem With Meetings

Meetings, meetings, meetings.

More than two-thirds of professionals say they spend too much time in meetings that distract them from performing required work. More specifically:

  • 34 percent of people say they waste 1-2 hours per week in unproductive meetings
  • Another 34 percent say they waste 2-5 hours in weekly meetings
  • 15 percent say they waste 5-10 hours of productivity in meetings each week
  • 6 percent say they waste 10+ hours in unproductive meetings

Just 6 percent of professionals surveyed say all of their meetings are productive. And an astonishing 35 percent say they go to a meeting even when they know it won’t be productive (instead of declining).

On average, workers spend 21 percent of their time sitting through meetings. This number increases in lockstep with seniority. The higher you climb on the corporate ladder, the more meetings you’re expected to attend.

The problem with meetings is that they’ve become a comfortable crutch. We plan meetings in order to plan other meetings. And then when meetings don’t offer clarity, we plan more meetings to review what happened in the previous meeting. This dependence on meetings clogs up calendars and prevents employees from performing actual work. This results in a massive drain on productivity.

4 Ways to Avoid Meetings

The good news is that most meetings can be avoided. And if you’re willing to redesign how your team operates and communicates, you may be able to eliminate 70 to 90 percent of all meetings. Here’s how:

1. Be Smart With the Meetings You Do Have

Some meetings are necessary. And if you learn how to execute these meetings well, you can reduce confusion and prevent unnecessary follow-up meetings. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep the meeting size small (ideally no more than five people).
  • Use a note-taking app to record all major takeaways and action steps.
  • Keep meetings to a maximum of 25 minutes. Always start on time and skip the small talk.

A more diplomatic approach to meetings will ensure maximum efficiency. This will create more valuable exchanges and prevent unnecessary follow-up meetings.

2. Block Off Personal Time

Encourage employees to block off “personal” work time on their calendars to prevent a situation where meetings overtake their schedules. Employees should have the right to block off at least two 90-minute chunks of time per day. During this time, they are not to be disturbed by meetings.

3. Use a Project Management Application

So much of what’s covered in a typical meeting can be handled within a basic project management application. Learn to be an effective communicator by creating simple action steps, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and clear chains of command. You should be able to manage 90 percent of most projects within a simple platform like Slack, Asana, or ClickUp.

4. Encourage People to Say No

Meeting organizers need to make it clear what the purpose of the meeting is and what role each individual will have (prior to the start of the meeting). Each person in your organization should then have the autonomy to decline.

As Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes says, “One of the best ways to have productive meetings is to not attend them at all. Hone your ability to say no at work. If you get invited to a meeting that you have doubts about, don’t be afraid to reach out to the organizer and ask what exactly the purpose of your attendance is.”

If a team member deems a meeting useless or unnecessary to perform a particular task, they should have the right to say no. The meeting organizer can then provide a copy of meeting notes (or a recording of the interview) afterward.

Say Goodbye to Pointless Meetings

There’s a time and place for meetings. However, if your average team member is spending several hours in meetings per week, they’re not being as efficient as they could be. By eliminating pointless meetings and redefining what necessary meetings look like, you can improve your team’s productivity and morale. We recommend starting as soon as possible!

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