Most Meetings are a Waste of Time

It’s time to rethink “meetings.” You know, those get togethers where we discuss issues of vital importance to the organization. Allow me to be blunt. Most meetings are a waste of time. “Oh contraire”, the meeting organizer exclaims! We must meet to discuss strategy and develop a plan!

Some Meetings Are Necessary

Okay, so some meetings are necessary. A well-organized staff meeting keeps team members informed and lets the right hand know what the left is doing. A key meeting with a client, donor or customer may help close a business deal or garner support for a cause. A lunch or breakfast meeting can further a business relationship or a positive exchange of ideas.

Most Meetings Are Unnecessary

However, most meetings are a waste of time. Routine meetings with no agenda and impromptu office huddle-ups top this list. “Hey, you got a minute to talk about our great new plan to take our department to that proverbial next level?” That minute turns into an hour of claptrap dominated by the departmental social butterfly. You spend five minutes discussing the plan and the rest listening to stories about your talkative co-worker’s cat coughing up a hairball during American Idol.

Most Meetings Do Not Add Value

Too many organizations are flushing some of their best productivity down the time-wasting hole of meetings. Staff meetings, zoom meetings, teleconferences, working lunches and the like sap organizations of the one commodity you can’t make more of…time. And the list keeps growing.

As an executive, I receive weekly requests to watch “training webinars.” People contantly ding-dong me to attend their functions. I’ve learned that most of these things waste my time and add little value to either me or my organization.

Meetings generally start for all these best reasons. “Let’s meet next month to discuss how to better coordinate our efforts at blah, blah, blah.” One year later the now monthly meeting is still going strong but nothing has been accomplished. I’ve learned that meetings are a great way to appear busy without actually doing any work.

How to Reduce Meetings

If most meetings are a waste of time, how do you cut back on them? Simple. Stop attending them. These days I routinely decline invitations to outside-the-office meetings that I once felt obligated to attend. I refuse most invitations for training webinars, much to the chagrin of vendors seeking to sell their product.

I still attend some meetings and sit in on certain zoom conference calls. However, I attempt to limit such events to those that will actually improve my life. For example, I had an hour-long zoom call this morning with a leadership coach helping improve my game. I recently had lunch with a fellow nonprofit leader to discuss ways to mentor young executives.

The best way to reduce the number of meetings is to stop agreeing to every invitation. However, you can’t always escape the boring work meeting. Once the gavel sounds and the staff meeting from hell commences, it’s hard to escape. I’d advise against behind the back eye-rolling and assorted facial gestures. (I’ve been busted doing that, and it isn’t pretty.)

Why Are Most Meetings Unnecessary

Most meetings are a waste of time because we talk about the same stuff over and over again. I typically lose about two days per work week to meetings. That’s ridiculous when you think about it. I could spend those two days doing something worthwhile instead of listening to co-workers drone on about stuff that I already know. I literally could have written a book in the time I’ve spend in meetings this year alone.

However, the “meeting” won’t go away anytime soon. So here’s what you do. Ask yourself the following. “Is my attendance at this meeting required or necessary?” If so, you have to go. “Is my attendance not required and not necessary?” If not, don’t go. Cut back on the frivolous webinars and conference calls.

Most of all, decide first thing each morning your top priorities for the day. Complete those one or two tasks, regardless of meetings. That way, when you get caught up in the meeting to better coordinate our meetings, you’ll already have accomplished something actual worthwhile.

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