How to have fewer (and better) work meetings

Time: it's our most precious resource. It's the only thing in the world that is 100% unrenewable.

And so it's about time that we start treating our time with a bit more respect, especially when it comes to the many hours we waste sitting in boring and pointless work meetings.

This latest guide from BusinessFinancing is the perfect resource for putting the time we spend at work to much better use.

It explains how to have fewer work meetings and better work meetings.

But first, let's look at just how much time we waste sitting in the boardroom and why those unproductive meetings are so (so) annoying.

How much time do people spend in meetings?

The short answer is too much.

But let's take a closer look at the data.

The average professional spends over 20 hours a week sitting in the boardroom; that's over half of a standard work week.

And as far as those workers are concerned, some of these meetings are a complete waste of time.

A third of professionals say they lose up to five hours of weekly work time on calls that are unproductive.

Why too many meetings are bad for people

Nobody likes having their time wasted. It doesn't matter whether you're bussing tables as a summer job or managing a multi-million dollar marketing budget: the effect is exactly the same.

It makes us angry and frustrated. And for a good reason; this stuff is in limited supply. It makes us feel like we're not being respected or taken seriously.

It saps our physical and emotional energy and is a serious motivation killer.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, up to 75% of professionals say they regularly feel disengaged during meetings. And up to 33% say they dread going to work when they know that most of the day will be wasted sitting in meetings that don't need to happen.

Why excessive meetings are bad for business

Excessive meetings consume precious calendar space, forcing employees to make trade-offs with their time. Over 1 in 4 employees say they often put off or dedicate less time to crucial tasks to make it to another meeting.

Moreover, managers or supervisors who call unnecessary meetings are often viewed as less organized and less competent than those who don't.

Then there are the time costs. Even the briefest catch-ups or afternoon huddles add up to some serious losses in overall productivity. For example, a 30-minute daily meeting for a team of 12 eats up 120 hours of monthly work and focus time.

In business, time is always money. So the more time you waste, the more money you lose.

A study published by suggests that employees spending just 2 hours a week in pointless meetings adds up to billions of dollars in wages and other resource costs. In the UK alone, cutting out just a few weekly meetings and allocating resources to more productive tasks could add an extra $36billion to the national economy.

The most annoying things about meetings

Time isn't the only issue. Here's a list of some more reasons why so many people hate these unnecessary work meetings. A few of them will probably sound familiar:
  • You have nothing to contribute to the meeting
  • One person is talking too much
  • Too many people are trying to talk at once
  • People use them to suck up or show off to their managers
  • People don't listen enough
  • The meeting is not results orientated
  • The timing is ambiguous
  • The timing is bad. Who calls a meeting at 4.30pom on a Friday afternoon
  • The meeting keeps getting rearranged

Can't we ditch meetings altogether?

Unfortunately not. Meetings are central to the way businesses run and how people communicate.

This is especially the case with in-person meetings, which are far more effective and productive than Zoom calls.

'Real life' meetings provide a sense of intimacy, connection, and empathy that is almost impossible to replicate on a Teams calls. They create the environments and psychological conditions we need to fully engage and trust each other. In short, they're essential for building stronger and more meaningful relationships - and that's what all good businesses and working partnerships are built upon.

How to have fewer meetings

We can't escape from the work meeting. They're a necessary evil of corporate life.

But we can reduce the amount of time we spend sitting in them.

It's not hard.

All we need to do is ask ourselves (or are bosses) one simple question: do we really (we mean really) need to have this meeting?

In most cases, the answer will be no.

But some people LOVE meetings. They look for any excuse to have (another) one. Meetings make them feel important. Others just want to goof off for a few hours.

But you're not like that. You want to get stuff done.

If that unnecessary meeting is still scheduled to go ahead, start dropping the more specific questions, including:
  • Do we have a good reason to ring people together?
  • Is this something we can share by email?
  • Is there a person who needs to be there?
  • Is this a time-sensitive update that needs to go out to everyone at the same time?

How to have better meetings

If you have to have that meeting, you might as well make it as productive as possible. Start by:

Planning out the meeting before

A set agenda keeps the meeting on track. It's the best way to ensure you don't need another meeting about the last meeting.

Establish ground rules

This keeps everybody focused. It also reduces unnecessary interruptions on Zoom calls. Some of your team might think a dog jumping in on a work call is cute. And it might be. But it's also unprofessional. This is work people. Work.

Let someone else take the meeting

Delegation! It's the busy manager's favorite leadership technique. So utilizes it to full effect. Let that meeting be someone else’s problem. Sorry, we meant to say someone else’s ‘responsibility.’

It’s simple: better meetings equal fewer meetings. And fewer meetings mean more time for doing the 'real' work.

Read next: The 6 types of annoying co-workers. And how you can deal with them (infographic)
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