How do I deal with a calendar full of meetings that are wasting my time?
StrategyDriven Response: (by Roxi Hewertson, StrategyDriven Principal Contributor)
I love meetings… when and only when they produce something useful. When they don’t, I stop going. Seriously, I gave up useless meetings just like I gave up greasy food, cold turkey, so to speak!
Dave Barry once said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.” Well, lousy meetings anyway.
Indeed, there are great meetings and important ones I’d never want to miss. People need to congregate and exchanges things. We need to network, learn, collaborate, decide, discuss, chew on ideas, mind-meld, team-build, brainstorm and have fun together. There are plenty of fabulous reasons why people should have meetings, gatherings, and get togethers.
Yet, we have a serious meeting epidemic in this country. This is not my opinion; it’s a fact. Smart people study this stuff, and the reality is, we have been meeting for more hours each and every year since they started keeping track back in the 1950’s. It’s a bit like global warming – it creeps up on you and before you know it, your life is one big meeting desert or tsunami or both, at the same time, in the same meeting!
Email didn’t fix it. Whiz-bang meeting software didn’t fix it. Today, you can just throw on a t-shirt, sit at your computer, and be in a meeting with virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime. Yes, it’s a short commute, and convenient, but now instead of commuting, you are simply in another meeting. How’s that working for you?
There is a whole planet full of people suffering from bad meetings. You’d think it was contagious. Well, you’d be right. The way meetings are run in your organization IS a result of your internal culture, meeting protocols, and the meeting skills of the person running them. Every new person coming into the system generally conforms to those norms. So… ask yourself, “How healthy and productive is the meeting virus I am passing around?”
For those meetings you attend but don’t run, remember, it’s YOUR calendar. So take control of it. The next time you are about to agree to a meeting, try asking yourself these 5 questions:
- WHY are we having this meeting; what is the goal; what are the deliverables?
- WHOSE meeting is it?
- WHAT kind of a meeting do we need to have? In person, on the phone, virtual, standing up, off-site, formal, informal, etcetera.
- WHO should be there? Why?
- WHAT are our meeting ‘norms,’ and do I like them? If not, why am I going to this meeting and/or what am I going to do about it?
Once you decide, yes, you need a meeting, you need a purpose and an agenda. Every item on your agenda should have one of three purposes or a combination of them or it shouldn’t be there at all.
Information – Discussion - Decision
Information: no more than 20% of any meeting should be spent on information sharing – there are plenty of other and cheaper ways to share information other than meeting time.
Discussion: means getting input and ideas, hearing from the people in the group. Make sure you have a method to do that well.
Decision-making: use best practices and ask all the important questions when a decision needs to be made
Take control of your life and work by taking control of the time you spend in meetings that don’t matter, and making the time you do spend in meetings an investment that DOES matter.
About the Author
Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through AskRoxi.com, Roxi — “the Dear Abby of Leadership” — imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success.
The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the actions that help create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results. We look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].