Our ways of working have changed since 2020, but our desire for meetings or ‘synchronous working’ has not. Meetings take up a lot of our working week, often with very little productivity or outcome. They can leave us feeling tired and distracted, or suffering from meeting fatigue.

Also, when meetings are spaced throughout the day, it can be very difficult to get into the flow of actual work in between sessions. We’re here to help.

In our Better Meetings series, we look at advice from productivity experts to help you to have fewer, more productive meetings with actionable outcomes and to free up your calendar and work smart. We hope you find it useful.

Why you need to have fewer meetings 

How many hours per year do you spend in meetings? Did you need to attend all of them? How many of these meetings could’ve been an email? How many are regular meetings with no agenda? One worker at Samsung found that he spent 1800 hours in meetings – while he has been working from home. When you consider that in billable hours, the income lost alone is enough to make you reconsider clicking ‘attend’ to every meeting invite. To free up your time for client work, and to ensure that every meeting is of high quality, you simply need to have fewer meetings. Here are our top tips. 

Give priority to meetings for urgent and important matters

Rather than holding general meetings, try to hold meetings only for specific, important matters which need to be discussed. Big meetings can be a massive drain on your time, but shorter, necessary meetings with a specific outcome can get the results you need. Try to schedule these meetings for just 25 minutes, with the option to extend by 15 minutes where required. Setting a strict time limit will force you to get right into discussion of the urgent matter and help you to stay on track. 

Dedicate one day per week to work only 

Meetings could be massively slowing your firm down and a day without meetings can allow for maximum productivity. How often do you lose time in your day not only to meetings, but to time between meetings, preparing for meetings and chatting to colleagues afterwards? When considering how much time a meeting will take, we fail to recognise the impact of being taken out of our working flow. Cal Newport discusses the importance of uninterrupted work in his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

“To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work.”

Meetings detract from our ability to carry out deep work, but just a single meeting-free day per week can help you to regain a long stretch of uninterrupted work time. 

Judge whether you need to attend a meeting based on ‘opportunity lost’ 

When you are invited to a meeting, or you have a lot of meetings in your calendar, you should conduct a meeting audit to find out whether you really need to attend. Ask the following questions:

  • Will the meeting improve the outcomes?
  • Will the meeting further a goal of the firm?
  • Is your presence required?
  • Is this the best possible use of your time?

If the meeting doesn’t adequately satisfy all three of these questions, you should probably consider abandoning it.

Use the ‘tomorrow test’ 

We often schedule check-in meetings or general meetings way into the future. To make sure you want to attend the meeting ask yourself ‘if this was tomorrow, would I agree to attend?’. If the answer is no, it is unlikely you will want to attend the meeting when it really is tomorrow, so don’t punish your future self, simply decline.

Clearly identify each person’s role in the meeting (if they don’t have a role, don’t invite them)

An agenda is a great way to cut down on meetings. To avoid tangents, make sure each person understands their role and what they should contribute to the meeting beforehand. As a general rule, where a person does not have a specific role in a meeting – don’t invite them

Build confidence in your team 

Many firms have meetings quite simply to keep track of what everyone is doing. Perhaps you have a relatively new team, or you like to be in control of what they are working on. Strive to build confidence in your team that they understand their role and obligations. As you become more confident, you can reduce the regularity of team meetings.

In our next guide to better meetings, we will be discussing how to have more productive meetings. We hope you have found this content useful.

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