Go to your calendar and delete every meeting you have. Wait for a week. What happened?
I don’t know what will happen to you. To me, nothing happened.
Okay, something happened. But it was nothing bad… Or nothing serious…
What happened was that I no longer had meetings on my calendar. Easy. It’s not rocket science, right?
And what was the result of not having meetings?
Well, simple math:
1 Event = 1T
10 Events = 10T
If 1T equals a certain period of time, 10T are many periods of time.
Let’s imagine that 1T is equivalent to 1 hour. Using simple math (and with the help of a calculator): 10T are 10 weekly hours. 10 hours a week means spending 25% of your weekly hours in meetings.
How many weekly meetings do you have? Yes, the average is 12.
Hint: How Much Time Do We Spend in Meetings?
As I like to say, it is scientifically proven (by whom, no one knows) that if you’re a middle manager, the answer is likely to be about 35% of your time, and if you’re in upper management, it can be a whopping 50%.
Time is a matter of importance. However, it this is not even the scariest thing. What’s worse is how unproductive these meetings usually are.
You know that colleague of yours who is at a meeting with you, answering e-mails and working on his laptop at the same time? That’s the one. If he’s doing that, cancel the meeting – or kick him out! He’s not doing anything there. And are you doing anything there?
What’s causing unproductive meetings
In regards to multitasking in meetings, 92% of people think about other things that have nothing to do with that meeting, 65% check their emails on smartphones or somewhere else, 49% are actually doing other things for other projects or topics.
2. Remote participants aren’t engaged
80% of the messages we receive come from body language. It’s difficult for people who are not truly participating in a meeting to follow and engage in it.
I’m sure this has happened to you before:
Me: Afonso, are you there? Are you following? What do you have to say about this?
Afonso: Sorry, can you say that again?
3. Lack of planning and structure
It’s not always possible, but with time I’ve been able to implement some good practices, which I try to enforce in the meetings I participate in:
- I don’t turn up at meetings without an agenda;
- I try to be the owner of the meeting if I realize that the other person is not capable of doing so;
- I have a time to start and a time to finish;
- Meetings last no longer than 30 minutes;
- If the meeting has been going on for 4 minutes and the agenda has been concluded, the meeting is over. That is, the meeting only lasts as long as it needs to.
- I try to only have meetings in the afternoon. That’s because I’m less productive than in the morning, to do things that really need to be done;
- Capture key points and action items (distribute after meeting);
By the way, Ken Norton has a great article on this subject, where he proposes some good practices:
I worked with one startup that decided to do just that. On January 1, they deleted every scheduled meeting at the company. Meetings were only added back if they were essential and had an owner and the right attendees.
Finally, before any meeting, the answer to these questions need to be clear:
1 – Is meeting truly necessary?
2 – Who is genuinely important in this meeting?
3 – What can I do to make this meeting as productive as it can be? (Agenda, context sent beforehand, etc.)
Over $37 million are spent yearly on unproductive meetings. There are over 25 million meetings a day in the US.
This is the final general calendar of events that I regularly have and that are genuinely important to me. We use Agile as a work method among the many internal areas we have.
In practice, I ended up with 2 hours and 15 minutes between daily meetings and 2 planning meetings. Of course, I have other meetings, but as a good practice, I try not to have over 5 meetings per week with clients.
Therefore, I’ll have 5 hours of meetings per week, at most. That’s the hard thing about meetings. The best thing to do, sometimes, is: Meeting? No, thanks.
Challenge: What if you could do that with Facebook? Or Instagram? Result: You would gain years of life.