How much will unnecessary meetings cost you this week

Mar 30, 2016 | Categories: talent management


Meetings – they’re one of the most debated aspects of work life. Employees either cherish them, valuing them as time to spend collaborating and having lively discussions. Or, they dread them, viewing them as waste of time and a productivity killer.

In a recent study by Atlassian they found:

  • Only 53% of scheduled meeting time is actually spent on agenda items
  • 73% did other work (like returning emails) during meetings
  • 47% asserted meetings were the #1 time waster at the office
  • $37 billion is the salary cost of unnecessary meetings for US business

The University of Minnesota conducted research by psychologist Kathleen Vohs found that we have a finite amount of “executive” resources, or cognitive ability, to process information and decisions. Vohs found that those are rapidly depleted in meetings. Too many meetings literally drain our brain.

CEO’s are the hardest hit with almost 40% of their workweek in meetings.

CLICK HERE to CALCULATE the cost of your meetings.
ASK YOURSELF these 7 questions before scheduling a meeting:

  1. What is the desired outcome of the meeting?
  2. Do you have to have a meeting to reach that outcome? Is there another way?
  3. What contribution will each person make to that outcome during the meeting? Do all the people you are inviting really need to be there?
  4. Is the meeting being held only as a way to hold people accountable for tasks they are responsible for? (HINT: This is a REALLY bad reason to hold a meeting)
  5. Is the meeting the best way for each executive to spend their time and energy?
  6. What is on the agenda that doesn’t need to be discussed but could be reported out in another way?
  7. Could you have a “stand up” meeting in a few minutes rather than scheduling an hour or more for it?

If you determine you need a meeting, according to Al Pittampalli in Read This Before Our Next Meeting, here are some suggestions on making them more productive, other than the standard criteria of having an agenda, and distributing it in advance with relevant information:
Be Mindful of Time. Always start the meeting on time, regardless of people who are late. Do not review the contents of the meeting with the people who are late for the part they missed. Reduce the length of meetings to one hour maximum, and preferably less—try 30 minutes, even try 15 or 10 minutes. Lastly, end the meeting on the agreed-upon time, even if the agenda is not finished.

Gather the Right Individuals. Invite fewer people to the meeting—productivity goes down with increasing numbers of participants. Allow employees the right to decline their attendance, without having to justify themselves and without penalties. Ask each meeting participant to prepare for the meeting in advance in response to a meeting question that will be dealt with in the future, not a rehash of the past (not just an agenda item);

Set a Positive Tone. Don’t allow individuals to hijack or dominate meetings by frequent and endless conversation. It’s the responsibility of the meeting leader to control this. The meeting leader should enforce only one person speaking at a time, and to the point. At the beginning of the meeting, ensure that the desired outcome(s) are stated clearly.  Interrupt people who either repeat what they have said, or repeat what someone else has already covered. These are time wasters.

Employ a No Technology Rule. No laptops or phones are allowed to be active in meetings. Allowing people to be interrupted or diverting their attention lowers the value of the meeting. Don’t tolerate meeting participants working on other things during the meeting. If they don’t oblige, ask them to leave.

Limit the action items. Each meeting should have no more than three action items.
You could reduce the time you spend in meetings by 80% by starting on time and having a detailed agenda, according to the Wall Street Journal.

If you could only attend 2 meetings this week what would they be for and who would they be with? Answering that question could be a good start to prioritizing your time spent in meetings.

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Lynda McNutt Foster

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