How many hours have you spent in meetings that could have (and potentially should have) been emails?
When you have a to-do list longer than the Padella queue on a Friday evening, every minute counts. Wasting precious time that could be spent on actual work is simply not an option.
That’s not to say that meetings don’t have their value, from team bonding to the creativity that comes from face-to-face brainstorming.
However, they can often veer off track and run over, draining your time without offering benefit to all in attendance.
One study revealed that executives spend almost 23 hours a week in meetings, while Harvard Business Review found that 92% of employees consider meetings costly and unproductive.
Additionally, these unnecessary get-togethers have been shown to negatively impact staff mental and physical wellbeing, all while reducing productivity and job satisfaction.
Something needs to be done, but it’s not quite as simple as turning down your digital invites (at least if you don’t want a disciplinary). Instead, you need to streamline the meetings you do have to ensure they don’t rob any more of your day than strictly necessary.
Reclaim your time with these tips from Joshua Zerkel, CPO and Head of Global Engagement Marketing (Community) at Asana.
Conduct a meetings audit
‘With 58% of the working day spent on “work about work” (unnecessary meetings and work coordination tasks such as chasing deadlines or searching for information), employees are being continually distracted from the expert jobs they have been hired to do,’ Joshua tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Tackling meeting bloat is one of the quickest ways teams can start to get time back.’
To do this, take a look at the meetings already in your diary. If the majority are booked in for the same amount of time (typically 30 minutes or an hour) this can suggest ‘a lack of thought about how to maximise time’.
You can then bring your analysis to your boss and the wider team, keeping things factual rather than leaning on opinion-based statements.
Joshua continues: ‘It takes the collaboration of each team and department to fix this. Leaders can empower their teams to clear individual calendars for 48 hours, and then only re-add recurring meetings which are deemed to be of genuine value and necessity.’
When Asana conducted a ‘meetings doomsday’, a collective 265 hours were saved from low-value calls and conferences. How’s that for efficiency?
Speed things up
Now you’ve separated the meeting wheat from the meeting chaff, it’s time to ensure those you do have are as brief as possible.
Joshua advises: ‘If a meeting is supposed to be a quick chat, set it for 10 minutes instead of ring fencing an entire half hour, as employees will automatically assume that all of the allotted team needs to be used up.
‘Furthermore, wherever possible, try to shave meetings down by five or 10 minutes. Letting people go early, rather than dragging a meeting out to fill the time, can make a meaningful difference to the working day.’
If it’s dragging or people are on unrelated topics, mention what else you’re working on or highlight areas where your input isn’t requires, then request to duck out depending on priorities.
‘I often encourage people to schedule two back-to-back 15-minute meetings,’ adds Joshua.
‘This has at least two benefits. First, people are more inclined to wrap up the first meeting on time to avoid being late for the second one.
‘Second, research shows that the hour before a meeting feels shortened due to the anticipation, which negatively impacts focus. Scheduling two back-to-back 15-minute meetings helps minimise that negative anticipatory time and can help boost productivity.’
A lot of time can be wasted when meetings are unfocused, so an agenda is necessary to keep things structured and succinct.
If you’re a manager, consider creating an agenda ahead of each meeting, or if you’re an employee, suggest the practice to your boss. Frame it as a way to help you stay on topic rather than a criticism of their management style to avoid them becoming defensive.
‘To make a true impact here, leaders should empower employees to decline meetings without agendas,’ adds Joshia.
‘It is essential to make sure that all agenda points lead to productive discussions, avoiding unnecessary talking points that can be handled through a quick message.
‘When employees know that meetings will be short and to the point, they will be more likely to pay attention and contribute in a meaningful manner.’
Quality over quantity is the goal here, alleviating the stress and burnout you feel whenever you get a calendar invite as a result.
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