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Increase productivity by having fewer meetings

productive meeting

In our culture that seems to celebrate busyness, meetings (specifically unnecessary ones) can slowly creep in consuming your time and becoming your entire work day. Often, unnecessary meetings make people feel productive, but do not actually help you move toward your project’s goals – especially when considering how many employee hours are taken up in said meeting.

Meetings have their time and place, but the number of unnecessary ones in our work culture seems to be increasing. At previous jobs, I have been double, and triple booked through the entire day and had meetings from 9am-5pm with no breaks in between – and obviously, no time to eat or even take a bathroom break.

This caused my actual work to happen in the evenings before collapsing in bed and starting the cycle all over again. Often more than half of these meetings did not need me to attend – I spoke to my colleagues and they felt the same way. The meeting organizers seemed to involve everyone possible instead of being deliberate with their colleagues’ time.

That is obviously an extreme example, but even a less insane meeting schedule can seriously decrease your productivity. Multiple studies have confirmed that distractions, including meetings, disrupt our flow and decrease our productivity. For example, a study from UC Irvine showed that it takes 25 minutes after you’re interrupted by something, such as a meeting to get back into the right mindset to complete the task you were originally working on.  

So before sending out that meeting invite take a breath and ask yourself if this meeting is necessary. Here are a few questions I ask myself to ensure I can help optimize productivity and respect other people’s time:

1. Can this meeting be an email?

Many meetings are unnecessary because they could have been solved in a quick email instead of a 30 minute or 1-hour meeting. If you’re not sure, one way to test this out is to send the question or issue you have in an email and if it is not solved in a response the issue has passed the threshold of ‘more complicated than an email’. It’s time for a meeting.

2. What are the objectives of this meeting and what information should each person bring to reach those goals by the end of the allotted time?

Ask yourself this question and use it to prepare for your meeting. For example, ask colleagues to come to the meeting with solutions to the issue instead of asking people to think of something on the spot in the meeting.

3. Does this meeting need to be more than 15 minutes?

Typically, the default minimum length for a meeting in the US is 30 minutes. Start-ups have started to break away from this custom by having ‘stand-ups,’ which are 15 minute or less meetings where you stand – the idea being the meeting should be so short that you don’t need to sit. Ask yourself this question about your own meeting and set the meeting time accordingly.

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