How Much Time Are Meetings Taking Up?

** Have you gotten a copy of my new book yet? I Wish I Had Known: A Former Student’s Guide to University and College You can read about it here: **



Meetings are a black hole of time – in more ways than one.

During my limited career in the corporate world I have become about as anti-meeting as they come.  The list that follows is a collection of my own thoughts and observations, plus a few reasons I have picked up from others as to why meetings should be avoided like the plague.

  1. Meetings spawn other meetings – there is rarely a one off meeting, and meetings tend to be viral in growth. One meeting tends to lead to other meetings, and so on and so forth (i.e. “let’s regroup again at the end of this week and discuss such on and so fourth”)
  2. Meetings are often over schedule – if a meeting could take 5 minutes, it is usually booked for 30 anyways. Why? Google calendar, Outlook and every other scheduling software was made to book meetings in 15/30 minute chunks – and thus users take the path of least resistance and book them in those chunks
  3. People underestimate the cost of meetings – if a group of 5 have an hour long meeting, it doesn’t cost the company 1 hour, it costs the company 5 hours. A lot of people seem to underestimate this simple rule. Have a daylong offsite meeting with your division? Just think of all those work hours!
  4. Few results – people (including myself) like to talk. Meetings become a verbal sea of information and input, but they usually result in very little (if any) concrete action.
  5. Show of importance – for some reason, people view you as important if you have a lot of meetings. However, chances are that if you have a lot of meetings you a) do very little actual work,  b) use meetings to justify your status, or c) might actually be a good manager (and thus need the meetings)
  6. Too large – meetings are often too large (in terms of attendees). It is highly wasteful for someone who needs 5% of the meeting content to sit through 100% of the meeting.

So, meetings are broken – a black hole of time from which few escape. But, there is hope! Here are some things you can try to do:

  1. Take responsibility – the best thing to do is have people walk away from a meeting knowing what they are doing. Have summary action steps at the end, so people know exactly what they are responsible for, when it is due, and what is expected
  2. Don’t get comfortable – I never understood why companies get large, comfortable leather chairs for their meeting rooms; do they want employees to lounge ? Try doing meetings standing up, or use the ‘lean rule’ – once someone reclines, the meeting is over
  3. Change Perception – not everyone has the power to do this, but a top down change of perception can work wonders. Let the company know that meetings aren’t what determines your social standings – it’s results. After that, people might feel like meetings are actually not quite as important as they previously thought.
  4. Keep it small – keep the numbers down, that way people can say what they need to say quicker, focus on getting what they need out of the group, and get back to actual work.
  5. Resist – it’s hard to stay out of a meeting, especially one you might want to attend. People feel like they are missing out on the conversation, and might miss the chance to look smart, say something smart, or add to the discussion. It’s hard, but try to take your ego out of the equation and sit out of meetings that you aren’t needed for, or don’t need to go to (remember, going doesn’t make you important!)

Hopefully after using a couple of the above strategies, you will find your productivity rise as you dedicate less and less time to the marginally useful meetings that used to fill up your calendar! Maybe one day, in a utopian future, we will see an end to meetings as we know it… (or just better use)

Blair Livingston


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