Do Meetings Negatively Impact Productivity?

Last week, during a meeting with a client’s leadership team, we got on the topic of just how much time they spend each week in meetings. One of the managers told me that meetings take up about five to six hours of his day, every day! That only leaves him two hours to get his work accomplished. When I asked him to tell me about his meetings, his list went something like this:

8 AM- Meeting with team 1 to discuss issues

9 AMM- Meeting with team 2 to determine what issues from 8 AM meeting are critical

10 AM- Meeting with team 3 to determine how to manage/resolve critical issues determined in 9AM meeting

And this is EVERY day! Three hours of his day are spent discussing the same topics with different groups.

How often have you attended a meeting and walked out thinking “that was a waste of my time” or “that could have been said in an email.” Have you ever gone to a regularly scheduled meeting for months and then have someone in that meeting tell you that there probably isn’t a need for you to attend?

Studies show that high level executives spend on average over twenty hours per week in meetings. That’s half of their workweek! Lower level managers spend between about ten and fifteen hours per week in meetings. They are such a part of our lives that companies like MeetingKing.com  and Meeting Stats  help to quantify time and money spent on meetings as well as help to organize and track meeting information.

While we can’t eliminate meetings from our workday, there are strategies that we can use to make sure those meetings are successful and lead to an increase in productivity instead of a decrease.

  1. Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Can you accomplish your goal by sending an email, or picking up the phone for a quick call? Are you duplicating information that is covered in another meeting?
  2. Invite the right people. As you add others to the meeting invite, ask yourself if they really need to attend, or if the information presented during the meeting can be passed along to them afterwards. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, has the “two pizza rule”.  Never invite more people than what two pizzas would comfortably feed.
  3. Prepare in advance. In order to maximize your time, plan the meeting out in advance and send a copy of the meeting agenda out to the attendees at least 24 hours prior if possible. Then stick to it (both the agenda and the allotted time). According to Meeting King, research shows that 39% of employees admit to dozing off during meetings. Don’t let your meeting drag on so long that you’re putting them to sleep!
  4. Designate a scribe or secretary. Have someone take meeting minutes that can be distributed afterwards to those employees who were not invited (or couldn’t attend), but need to know what was discussed or decided during the meeting.  
  5. Reassess the need. If you have standing meetings, reassess them occasionally to determine if they’re still necessary. Is the content still relevant, do they overlap with other meetings that could be combined, are those in attendance still required, and are they effective?

If you tallied up the time you sent in meetings in the last month, how much of that time would you consider productive versus unproductive?

Guest Blogger

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