Stop Letting Meetings Waste People’s Time

Stop Letting Meetings Waste People's Time

Since the pandemic upended traditional office culture, new ways of doing things have allowed inefficiencies to creep in – inefficiencies that include meetings scheduled for the sake of unstructured discussion or even basic human interaction rather than for productivity. When meetings aren’t run well – or when there are too many of them – decision making gets slower and the quality of decisions suffers, according to research from McKinsey. Conversely, when meetings are run well, they not only foster better decisions but also leave attendees feeling energized and motivated to carry the momentum forward independently. 

Endless, diffuse meetings, according to business guru and author Tom Peters, take up far too much of executives’ precious working time. Effective meetings and good time management go hand-in-hand, he maintains. Good time management means you feel empowered to turn down unnecessary meetings – and better meetings mean you spend the rest of your time feeling more purposeful in carrying out your work.

Here are some ways to achieve balance in allocating your time:

Have a time leadership budget – and a process for allocating it. When adding a project or initiative, analyze how much leadership attention, guidance and intervention each will need. This is the best way to move toward the goal of treating leaders’ time as a finite resource – one that is as precious as a company’s financial capital.

Consider time when you introduce organizational change. Understanding the time required to achieve goals is critical to the long-term success of any organizational change. The hours needed to manage, lead or supervise an employee can leave managers with little time left over. Getting this balance right can be tough – having too few managers could lead them to feel overwhelmed, with more direct reports than they can manage. But having too many managers can cause redundancies and unnecessary complexity.

Ensure that individuals routinely measure and manage their time. Time analysis exercises can yield surprising results – and can encourage time management that more closely aligns with organizational priorities. Including time-related metrics in performance reviews is another driver of behavioral change.

Refine the principal calendar. Revisit all standing meetings and make an honest assessment of which ones are being held out of habit and which ones are genuinely useful.

Here are three questions you should ask when scheduling a meeting that can help create the clarity needed for efficient decision making:

  • Should this even be a meeting at all?
  • What is this meeting for?
  • What is everyone’s role? 

Good meetings nurture better decision making. On the flip side, inefficient meetings not only waste time but also create distraction and confusion. These are good reasons to rethink your meeting strategy.