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Why You Should Schedule Fewer Meetings In 2017 (And How To Make Sure Of It)


Time is a terrible thing to waste. 

Yet each and every year, companies, brain pickers and managers around the world suck time from others.  A study conducted by the Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics found that  executives spend upwards of 18 hours per week – a third of their working week – in meetings.

That’s a lot of time.

But what’s scary is that they found this: 25-50% of meeting time considered wasted.

But if time is so valuable – Why do we waste it?

Let me paint the picture for you:

You’re heads down working and suddenly an invite hits your calendar. It’s for a meeting that is going to be held in 1 hour and the invite suggests that it will only take up 60 minutes of your day.

But the truth is:

1) The meeting isn’t going to start on time (or end on time).
2) You’re not going to get any value from the meeting.
3) You’ll have a new task at the end of the meeting.

After a three hours of completely being focused on a major project and being close to the finish line, you’ve been summoned like a Genie. Someone has rubbed the bottle and it’s your job to appear and then grant their wishes.

It’s this experience that brings me to today’s blog post.

Before you send a meeting request, determine whether it’s truly necessary.

That “30 minute chat” could be disrupting your colleagues schedule at a time in which they’re focused on something important to them or the entire organization. Realize that just because they have empty space in their calendar doesn’t mean they’re actually free to chat. And understand that if you invite more than one person, it’s not just an hour meeting.

Let’s say you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour, and you invite ten people to attend. That’s actually a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. You’re trading ten hours of productivity for one hour of meeting time.Rework

But it’s only a few minutes, it’s not going to ruin their day!


The impact of a meeting request can be even more disruptive depending on whether you’re scheduling time with someone who works on a manager schedule or a maker’s schedule.

What’s the difference?

Paul Graham defines the manager’s schedule as the traditional appointment approach; the days are cut into one-hour intervals and you can block off several hours for a single task if needed, but by default, it’s broken up by the hour. An hour to do expenses, an hour to do one-on-ones, an hour to update the roadmap and an hour to handle customer support.

The maker’s schedule is a bit different.

Makers prefer to use time in units of half-a-days as they tend to be writers, coders, designers and are constraint by the reality that you can’t create something meaningful in an hour increment. For a manager, a meeting is nothing more than a an extra spoke in the wheel but for a maker, that meeting can result in throw off your entire day.

Put yourself in their shoes for a second…

Imagine you wake up knowing that you have a task that is going to take 5 hours to complete and are fired up to make it happen when you get to work. You take off your coat, grab your coffee, put in your headphones and after two hours of complete flow and productivity – you get a notification summoning you to a meeting in 40 minutes.

It would impact your morale.
It would impact the quality of your work.
And it would impact your perspective of the individual who is interrupting your flow.

Remember this before you send your next invite. Because while it might be just a meeting to you, it could be what leads your colleague to spending an extra hour or two away from their kids school play, an anniversary or even just dinner their family. Whatever it is – understand that it’s possible that you’re taking time away from them that could be spent elsewhere.

So ask yourself these three questions:

1) Would an email suffice or is a face to face meeting necessary?

Most meetings tend fall into one of these four categories: (1) Information Gathering (2) Relationship Building (3) Idea Generation and (4) Decision Making. If you’re looking to simply gather information, ask yourself if an email would do the trick or maybe read that memo sent around the office last week. The other three categories may require a meeting but often times, a decision can be made over email by simply sharing the right information clearly and in the right format.

2) Do you have a clear and specific goal for the meeting?

If you’re going to have a meeting, have an objective behind it. What are you trying to accomplish during this meeting? Are you trying to plan your growth strategy for the upcoming year? Are you trying develop a new process for internal decision making? It’s much more efficient to understand this before the meeting and ensure that everyone else is also aware of what you’re looking to accomplish. Include the specifics in the invite so it’s obvious to everyone around the table what’s going to be discussed.

3) Is this meeting for you or is this meeting for them?

Before you take the time to schedule this invite – understand who is going to benefit most from it. Are you going to be gathering information that you need to move your project forward or will you be providing insights that will help them? If the meeting is all about you, then ensure that you’re not just simply looking for validation on a thought or your next steps.

I don’t hate meetings.

I just hate when time is wasted.

Meetings can work but you have to understand the objectives behind them. Don’t rely on others in your company to value your time. You have to value it first. So the next time someone asks you to meet, don’t be afraid to ask for an agenda and a clear objective. Hold them responsible and ensure that you’re reciprocating that respect by practicing what you preach.