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Stuck in Another Meeting that Should Have Been an Email? Here’s How to Have Fewer Meetings in Your Office
  • February 18, 2020|
  • 17 minute read
Stuck in Another Meeting that Should Have Been an Email? Here's How to Have Fewer Meetings in Your Office

Many of us love and hate meetings in equal measure. Well, some of us despise them maybe more than others. It might be because we have been stuck in one too many meetings that should have really been an email or two.

Some meetings are just bad for business simply because they lack a sense of purpose and clear actionable outcomes. It could also be that the wrong people were invited to the meeting.

Some meetings do actually accomplish a lot, which is a good thing. Others… well, not so much. Halfway through a lengthy meeting and you are there wondering, what was the meeting all about? Was it really necessary?

But it’s already too late. You might as well get over with it.

According to Industry Week, meetings are often just hour-long displays of the power and politics on your team.

If you have realized that most of your meetings are becoming ineffective, then maybe it’s time you and your team had a meeting to discuss how to conduct better meetings. (See what I did there?)

Attentiv

Image Source: Attentiv

Here’s the thing. Meetings are not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of life- and business-changing decisions have been made during or after a meeting. Meetings, however, become ineffective if they are not planned and conducted properly.

Meetings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good

Meetings have numerous benefits but only if handled correctly. Meetings are part of team collaboration. 

They are a good and effective way of interacting with other team members. Departments also use meetings to keep everyone in the loop on what exactly is going on.

Meetings are also good for obtaining feedback and for training opportunities as well. They are also important for problem-solving and idea generation, especially if some team members are struggling with a problem.

They also enable the leadership to rally the troops and ensure that the entire organization keeps its eye on the ball. They are also good for recognizing exemplary employees as well as motivating others to do better.

Meetings can also be about creating and innovation. Your team can use meetings to share ideas that can help the business grow.

Ask Cody

Image Source: Ask Cody

The Bad

Time is probably one of the most affected resources when it comes to meetings. In some instances, meetings can take a very long time to schedule. Getting everyone to agree on a convenient time to meet can be a daunting task for the planner.

Other meetings just go on forever with no end in sight. This is made worse by people in your team that want to dominate and make all the decisions. Hierarchy and protocol also affect the productivity of a meeting, especially if senior managers don’t encourage participation from every member of the team.

The Ugly

Meetings that are not well structured can grossly affect your team’s productivity and morale. If your employees are spending more time than they should on endless meetings that tend to solve very little then this will eventually affect your company’s overall performance.

TheMuse

Image Source: TheMuse

Did you know that the number one time-waster in the office is too many meetings? In terms of losses, unnecessary meetings cost U.S. businesses over $37 billion annually.

Ask Cody

Image Source: Ask Cody

With all the challenges that come with meetings, it is high time you re-evaluated how meetings are conducted in your company. Eliminate time wastage that comes with scheduling and attending endless meetings and free up your team to get actual work done. 

How do you accomplish this?

10 Ways to Have Fewer Meetings in Your Office

The number of meetings you have is largely dependent on the size of your organization. A large company, like a multinational, for instance, is made up of a huge workforce with numerous departments.

Due to a large number of activities going in a big organization, meetings are normally the order of the day. Unfortunately, not all meetings are necessary. Even for a small enterprise with a handful of employees, cutting down on meetings is still necessary.

1. Learn to say NO

This sounds like an extremely hard thing to pull off and, to be brutally honest, it actually is for some people. For many of us, saying no to a fellow workmate is unthinkable. We all want to impress the team by saying yes to pretty much every single request.

A huge part of the reason why most people find it difficult to say no to others in the workplace is mostly because of competition. Most people feel that by accepting every single request that comes their way, they will be seen as better team players than the rest of the team members.

But while competition in the workplace is healthy, it should not also affect your output in terms of productivity and time wastage especially on tasks that are really not that necessary.

Such requests end up distracting you from doing actual work like getting most of your tasks done and deadlines met on time. Why is it important to say NO? It will help you keep burnout at bay and you’ll be able to deliver more at work. 

Learn how to say NO at work. It will not be easy at first, but you will eventually get the hang of it. However, do it strategically. Also, say it politely. It could be something like, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I have too much on my plate right now.” There are so many ways of saying no without really hurting their feeling.

2. Have a No-Meetings-Day

Meetings are notoriously known for time wastage. Did you know that over 31 hours are spent in unproductive meetings over a month? Crazy, right? 

Wait, there’s more!

Atlassian

Image Source: Atlassian

According to a report by Atlassian, 47 percent of respondents complained that meetings were the number one time-waster in the office while 45 percent felt overwhelmed by the number of meetings they had to attend.

Atlassian

Image Source: Atlassian

The statistics paint a somewhat worrying picture of just how meetings can negatively affect your business not to mention your employees’ morale and output.

So, how do you take control of your meetings and ensure they remain effective for everyone? Well, by having a ‘No Meetings Day’. Again, this might seem difficult but it is an important action you need to consider taking.

Having designated days where no meetings are held whatsoever unless for very urgent matters such as a crisis that can bring down the company, can actually work magic.

This way, everyone can really focus on their respective tasks at hand. Productivity on those particular days can also be enhanced. Take Facebook, for example, they don’t have meetings on Wednesdays. They have been doing this since 2012.

Star-ups and millennial-led businesses are at war with unnecessary meetings and so should you. So, huddle up the team for a quick standing meeting and agree on a no-meetings day or a do-not-disturb day. 

No, wait! 

Better yet, do it via email. It’s easier for everyone. It’s also one less meeting for everyone.

3. Meetings must have an agenda

Meetings that do not have an agenda do not accomplish a lot. This is because there’s no laid-down structure of how the meeting shall be conducted and no time frame either. What you are basically doing is winging it. 

Agendas are a must-have when it comes to meetings and their success. They ensure that the meetings achieve the desired outcome and most importantly, they dictate how much time should be spent.

WikiHow

Image Source: WikiHow

Agendas also give all the participants ample time to prepare and gather their thoughts about what they will be discussing. There’s nothing as bad as walking into a meeting not knowing what is expected of you.

They are also extremely important since they keep all the participants focussed and engaged. There’s also very little room for digressing into other unrelated issues, which often happen in meetings that don’t have agendas.

Meeting objectives can quite easily be reached if you have an agenda to follow. Everyone is well aware of all the goals and so the discussion is kept within the confines of what is important at the time. Agendas are also an effective time management tool as it gives each item adequate time for discussion.

4. Ask if it’s really necessary

Have you ever been in a meeting where halfway through you suddenly asked yourself, is this meeting really necessary? I bet you have. Many times over probably. The truth is, most of the meetings you attend are really not that necessary.

That discussion could have been had over a couple of emails or Slack chats and a decision reached much faster. No time wasted. No tasks put on hold so that you could attend the sometimes lengthy meeting.

If called upon to attend a meeting, study the agenda and then start by asking yourself, can these goals be achieved some other way? Is your expertise also necessary in that meeting? Most of the time people get invited to meeting only to realize that they were really not needed – the discussions could have gone on well without them.

There are numerous ways of achieving goals even without meetings. Video conferencing or conference calls are also effective, especially if the participants don’t have to leave their offices. Platforms like Skype, Hangouts, and FaceTime make this possible.

Your time is valuable so don’t let it be wasted on unnecessary meetings. You can also use this checklist to check if a meeting is absolutely necessary.

OWLLabs

Image Source: OWLLabs

5. Insist on milestones and progress monitoring

Every meeting should ideally have milestones that need to be achieved. These also need to be crystal clear to everyone. All participants should also be well aware of what is required of them so as to accomplish the said milestones.

In the absence of milestones, you will end up having endless discussions that achieve absolutely nothing at the end of the day. These milestones also need to be realistic. This will not only encourage greater participation from all parties but will also be an inspiration to succeed.

The driving factor here is to accomplish the meeting’s objective. Always insist that the milestones are highlighted clearly before or after the meeting so that everyone understands what they need to do.

Having milestones in place ensures that you achieve better deadline management, have better control of the deliverables and stay on track. The milestones should take into consideration three things: timing, accountability, and frequency.

Also, insist on progress monitoring to ensure that you are moving forward and not round in circles. This is extremely important because it keeps everyone involved focussed and their eyes constantly on the ball. When people know that they are making progress, they become even more involved.

6. Evaluate the cost of your meetings

Everything you do in your company costs money. Why? Because everything consumes time and time is money. Meetings however short or long do cost your business some good amount of money in terms of man-hours spent attending them.

OWLLabs

Image Source: OWLLabs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a business will spend more than $780 for just one executive to attend his or her meetings for the week on average. Now, multiply that by the number of top executives that need to attend the same meeting.

Also, throw in a couple of middle managers while at it. The numbers just keep going up. Actually, it is estimated that the average salary cost of a meeting is $338.

ReadyTalk

Image Source: ReadyTalk

So, in order for you to keep track of how much you are spending, you need to learn how to calculate the cost meetings.

It is, therefore, critical that you start evaluating the overall cost of your meetings so that you can ascertain how much they are costing your business vis-a-vis their importance. The whole idea is to keep the meetings at a bare minimum and only attend or organize only those that are super important and have a much higher return.

7. Don’t attend valueless meetings 

This one is a no-brainer, really. Like mentioned earlier in the article, your time is precious. If you devote your valuable time to a meeting or meetings that end up being valueless then you will have wasted an expensive resource.

In an article published by UK’s Independent, a survey revealed that meetings were extremely unpopular in parts of Europe. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said that meetings were generally “unproductive” while 66 percent of them admitted that they make excuses to avoid meetings altogether.

What makes a meeting valueless?

  • Poor planning
  • No agenda
  • Poorly defined goals/milestones
  • Vague objectives
  • Irrelevant discussions that take too much time
LinkedIn

Image Source: LinkedIn

Avoid valueless meetings at all costs. They can slow down your productivity, cause you to miss deadlines, cause unnecessary delays and bring about burnout. How do you avoid pointless meetings?

  • Ensure that the meeting’s purpose is clearly defined
  • Avoid unnecessary suspense. Don’t keep people waiting for too long.
  • Keep a record. Always keep track of what’s being discussed
  • Keep distractions away. Discourage devices such as phones and laptops

8. If you can’t eliminate it, at least make it shorter

Short meetings are always the best. Many people always equate lengthy meetings to be the most productive. This, however, depends on what is being discussed and the objectives set. Meetings that are both long and unproductive in the end are the worst type.

These are the ones you should definitely avoid like the plague. The amount of time wasted attending such meetings cannot be recovered. It’s basically money down the drain.

However, if you can’t eliminate such meetings, at least try and make them shorter. When meetings go on and on, they tend to lose meaning. Most participants even forget what the purpose of the meeting was and they start digressing into other areas of zero importance.

Scott Berkun

Image Source: Scott Berkun

You can reap big returns from short meetings that are just 10 to 15 minutes long. To accomplish this, always set a default time that all meetings should take. This will keep all the participants highly focussed on the agenda and objective.

If your company is constantly battling with the prevalence of long, unproductive meetings, then consider doing the following and see how that works out:

  • Make use of different communication formats
  • Avoid chairs
  • Say no to distractions
  • Discourage chatter and redundancy
  • Save debates for later

9. Do it out of the boardroom

One of the reasons many people dread going into meetings is that they are usually held at one location or room all the time. Monotony is a morale killer. A boardroom is a place where good ideas are hatched. It is also a room that unfavorable decisions such as firings are made.

So you can understand why people get intimidated when they are asked to attend meetings in the boardroom. Some even become hesitant and give flimsy excuses as to why they are not able to attend a meeting.

Give your employees a break and start scheduling meetings at different locations or settings. In doing so you will encourage participation, spark creativity, improve their morale and boost camaraderie.

There are numerous advantages of having a meeting outside the office such as fewer interruptions and people feel more relaxed outdoors. The change in scenery also keeps people awake and focussed.

10. Don’t invite everyone

Stop inviting everyone to meetings. A meeting with many people doesn’t necessarily make it more effective. Even if it’s a brainstorm session. It’s not the quantity that matters, it’s the quality of the discussion to be held that’s more important.

How many times have you been in a meeting and it ended without you or some of your workmates not saying a word. The only thing you ended up doing is nodding at other people’s points and jotting down inspiring quotes every now and then.

For a meeting to be successful, you need to have the right people attending only. When scheduling a meeting, always try and figure out precisely who should be at the table. Ask yourself, how many people should I invite and who can skip this meeting?

That meeting should really have been an email

Technology has made our work easier. More and more tasks are now being accomplished effectively with the help of technology.

Email is one form of technology that businesses are using to keep things moving at the workplace. It is an effective mode of communication, which helps boost employees’ productivity. 

Email is a really good alternative for meetings. They are great in the sense that you can easily track the progress using periodic updates from others. You can also involve as many people as you want without necessarily dragging everyone into a single room.

So when is the right time to replace face-to-face meetings with email? 

  1. Do you have burning questions? If the answer is yes, then you are probably better off using email (instead of going through the trouble of scheduling a meeting) so that your respondents can come up with relevant and appropriate responses and answer your questions at their own convenience.
  2. You need feedback: If this is what you need at the moment, an email to the team will suffice. If it’s a proposal or plan, the team can look at it when they are free and email you their thoughts.
  3. Just passing information: This can also be effectively accomplished using email. If no immediate action is required from the team, then a meeting is really not necessary at that stage.

Turning meetings into an email is really not that difficult. Ask yourself these two questions:

What is it worth? In terms of time spent preparing for it and attending it Also to be considered is the amount of time you will waste before getting back your momentum after the interruption, which could be up to 25 minutes or more.

Is it the best use of everyone’s time? They have other far more important tasks on their to-do list.

If the meeting will take more time than necessary and they could be doing other important things then just go ahead and email them instead. However, always make sure you indicate why the meeting was canceled. Indicate any critical actions that need to be taken or that are pending and give updates so that everyone is on the loop.

The benefits of turning your meeting into emails are:

  • You will get more done with less effort and less time thus reducing stress
  • Your quality of work will significantly improve
  • You will respond quickly to customer needs and react to market opportunities even quicker
  • Your costs will decrease gradually
  • Enhanced teamwork
  • Inspire your team to deliver more

Conclusion

Meetings are generally good. The tricky bit is when you find yourself attending a flurry of meetings that don’t amount to much. You end up spending valuable time with little or nothing to show for.

So, before you say yes to that meeting request, make sure it is absolutely necessary for you to attend. An email could be your way out of a meeting that would have otherwise derailed you and kept you from completing a good amount of work or even miss a client deadline.

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