Are Meetings Worth Your Time?
To meet, or not to meet?
That is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous meetings,
Or to take up arms against the sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them?
I have several friends who work at what I consider to be large companies. They complain about having to sit in meetings all day long in lieu of getting work done. Many a night and weekend are spent doing said work. I’ve looked at their calendars; some days had six hours blocked out for meetings. When one factors in drive time, bathroom breaks, eating and preparing for future meetings, there’s not much time left to breathe. (Their sex lives must be awful.)
My meeting schedule has never looked as horrific as above (I attribute this to working for a small company), but I’ve definitely had my share of multi-meeting days.
I started working from home two years ago. That’s when everything changed. The number of meetings I attended dropped by 90 percent. My effectiveness and productivity increased dramatically.
What have I learned? Most internal company meetings are a waste of time.
“The heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”
In many cases, the person putting on a meeting doesn’t need to—or want to. In most cases, the work can be accomplished in a more effective manner without having to attend a meeting. I’m not sure why employees don’t protest. Perhaps they are on autopilot or think meetings are just part of their job. Or both. Aren’t you hired to ask questions, drive change and provide new solutions? Why not challenge the concept of company meetings? Have you done any research? Are meetings worth our while?
Before I accept an invite to any company meeting (or hold a meeting myself), I consider the following:
1) Who the hell is putting on the meeting?
Determine the role and motive of the person putting on the meeting. If the motive is not credible, I question the real reason behind the meeting. If the person is not a decision-maker, what is the meeting going to accomplish? How is the meeting going to benefit the company and/or move people closer to accomplishing their goals?
2) How long is the meeting?
30-minutes max. Anything beyond that makes me think that proper preparation is lacking. Proper preparation means limiting the number of speakers and limiting the speaking time. A designated person can summarize and present most information.
3) What time is the meeting?
Different people perform best at different times throughout the day. I’m a morning person. I’m most productive between 5 and 11 a.m. Knowing this, I do my prospecting, lead generation, research and outreach time in the morning. I schedule meetings for the afternoon. My best friend is not a morning person. She does her best work at night, so she prefers to have meetings mid-morning.
Make sure the meeting does not interfere with your most productive work time of the day. It’s more important to focus on getting your revenue-generating tasks completed without interruption rather than attending a meeting that will distract your concentration.
Identify your “value” time. Block it out on your calendar so you do not accept meetings during this time.
4) What is the goal?
Ask to see the agenda. If there isn’t one, run. It’s a sign that the meeting lacks preparation, will be chaotic and that the goal will be foggy at best. If there is an agenda, look closely. Look for organization, who is speaking, how information is being presented and how the meeting is setup to accomplish the set goal. If there’s no goal or the result can be accomplished via email or a forum, don’t attend.
Make sure the goal is defined. It should be clearly stated on the agenda and in the correspondence leading up to the meeting. I’ve attended too many meetings where people take turns giving status reports on their work. Snooze city. Status reports can be communicated via email. Only goals that require an exchange of ideas, testing or immediate action and feedback warrant face-to-face time.
If, after going through this process, you feel it’s not the best use of your time to attend the meeting, let your boss know. Provide him or her with your reasoning. He or she will respect you more for it and appreciate that you are maximizing your time to carry out the company goals, instead of sitting through mindless company reports. Results speak for themselves. If you outperform, hit your numbers and increase revenue, you may even be praised for thinking on your own. I challenge you to go an entire week without a meeting. See what this does to your productivity.
5) Is reading the meeting notes sufficient?
This is the most important step for me. Make sure there’s an identified note taker and that this person will be publishing the notes post-meeting. Determine if reading the notes will be sufficient. Ask yourself if interacting with others at the meeting, sharing your insight, hearing other’s insight or reading body language will have an impact? If not, don’t attend. If necessary, you can share your insight before the meeting with your boss or other team members. You can get the action items after the meeting.
Company meetings may not be Shakespearean tragedies, but they can be Much Ado About Nothing. Take the time to make sure that your meetings are not a waste of time.
To meet no more.
There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life. (Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 1)
Sarah Scudder is the president of Procureit5, Dallas. Sarah, who is the youngest executive to ever have served on the Print Services and Distribution Association (PSDA) board, is the CEO and founder of the Young Innovators Group, focusing on innovation and how to attract, hire and retain young people in the print industry. She co-hosts a weekly radio show, Career Conversations, in which she interviews entrepreneurs, community leaders and people who have made major career advancements. Most recently, she was chief growth officer of The Sourcing Group.