If you work in the corporate world, then the chances are you have a lot of internal meetings in your calendar, and the majority of them are not useful at all, or at least not as important as stated. Sometimes it even seems that all you do during the week is “attending meetings”, doesn’t it?

Last week a good friend of mine who is an executive in a large organization, said to me, “This week was full of various internal meetings, so when have I had time to work? I need to stop it somehow.” In the corporate world many people perceive internal meetings as time-wasters. I often experience it myself, as I  work with clients and business partners. I could not agree with my friend more. In spite of that, people still have all these meetings booked in their calendars and it seems that the “curse” will never stop. The bigger the organization, the bigger the challenge.

 Why do meetings waste time? 

The most common reasons I’ve observed:

  1. meetings are scheduled chaotically and based on other people’s priorities
  2. there is no clear agenda, and no clear desired outcome
  3. people come to the meetings unprepared
  4. there are too many people at the meeting

Rule of thumb

Changing your own approach to meetings will help to significantly reduce the number of unimportant and unnecessary ones, and you will have MORE TIME during the day / week for whatever IS important and meaningful, be it meetings or other things. Isn’t that a beautiful thought that is worth pursuing?

Rule of thumb: if the activity or meeting will not get us closer to the important goals, ignore them or use alternative communication methods.

We need to constantly evaluate our calendars to see if most of our activities and meetings are getting us closer to the goals, i.e., they are meaningful and important? If not, apply the rule of thumb.

Do we need to meet? 

This depends on your goals, reasons for meeting and on the people you’re working with. My personal opinion is that meetings can be important in building relationships, and sometimes they help move things forward much faster than would happen without the meeting. But a meeting is not always the only way to do those things. Personal meetings are more of an expectation in certain cultures – those which are more relationship-oriented.

However, here are some good questions to ask yourself before you schedule or agree to a meeting:

  1. Do I really need to MEET? Can I move the issue/project forward by other communication means (call, email, etc)?
  2. How will the meeting help to stimulate progress on the issue/project? What is the desired outcome I want to achieve as the result of the meeting?
  3. Can I delegate the meeting to someone else?

Think creatively about these ideas and answer these questions honestly, keeping as your primary goal – to use your time effectively and achieve results. And as a bonus – you will not have to work extra hours! It will involve saying “No” to some things you used to say “Yes” to, with no loss in results, and with a gain in productivity.

Don’t forget to keep indirect results in mind when you are considering whether or not to meet, i.e. building relationships, credibility, solving a problem, resolving conflict, etc. These are always important to discuss in person, if at all possible.

Don’t commit right away

When you are approached with a request  or notified of a meeting – don’t commit right away. Just because someone has sent you the request or scheduled the meeting, does not mean it is important for you or that you need to engage. Take time to evaluate how it fits into your calendar and responsibilities, and then reply. Otherwise you will constantly face the fact that others are planning your weeks, reducing your productivity to enhance theirs.

If you are initiating the meeting:

  1. Take control of your schedule
  2. Communicate the desired outcome and expectations beforehand
  3. Invite only those who can impact the results
  4. Prepare for the meeting
  5. Limit the meeting to no more than 30 minutes
  6. Leave the meeting with a clear plan for the next steps

If you are invited to the meeting:

  1. Take control of your weekly schedule
  2. Clarify expectations and the desired outcome beforehand
  3. Go to the meeting only if you can impact the results
  4. Prepare for the meeting
  5. Leave the meeting after 30 minutes
  6. Have a clear plan for the next steps after the meeting

I would love to hear your feedback after you try these tips in your work place. What has worked for you?


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