3 Reasons to Avoid Meetings
October 3, 2019
How many meetings do you attend in a given week? You might be surprised, or not, to learn the average person spends five hours and three minutes per week in meetings and another four hours and 15 minutes preparing for those meetings. This translates to 11 million meetings every day in the United States. Now, some of these meetings are likely useful and productive, but not all of them. In fact, $37 billion is wasted on unnecessary meetings every year. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX said, "Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time."
We have all attended energizing, insightful, and productive meetings where ideas are born, collaboration thrives, and progress is made, but far more of them, for lack of a better phrase, are nothing but a huge time suck. Again, there are benefits, and some of those benefits have little to do with productivity or creativity, instead they have to do with having a seat at the table (a highly valuable outcome). However, while there is value in meetings, one must weigh the pros and cons. Here are three reasons why you should avoid meetings.
Brainstorming sessions are one thing, but meetings, especially large ones, can stifle creativity. New perspectives are crucial to creativity, but intimidation and fear of speaking up can stifle those perspectives. And the larger the group, the more likely groupthink will prevail leaving little room for fresh ideas.
Waste of Time
37% of all meetings are viewed as unproductive. Since we determined that roughly nine hours a week are spent in meetings or preparing for them, then roughly three to four hours every week are unproductive or a waste of your time because they are not relevant to you, lack structure or focus, too much time is spent chatting, or nothing gets accomplished. Those three to four hours could have been spent finishing a report, earning the trust of a new client, mentoring a new employee, and the list goes on and on.
Committee meetings are intended to move a project or goal forward, but meetings can have the exact opposite outcome. Some meetings end with little to no forward momentum which can be the result of the wrong people at the table, too many people at the table, or competing interests at the table.
You can’t avoid all meetings, nor should you, but you can say no to some meetings. Be judicious in your choices by considering which meetings are necessary. Only you and your team can determine which meetings are relevant, necessary, or prudent.
For those meeting where you feel it is important to attend, but it may not be as relevant, opt (if possible) to attend the meeting virtually. At a minimum you save travel to and from the meeting. You may also be able to multi-task while in the virtual meeting. Just don't be rude.
Finally, if you are the one scheduling the meeting, think carefully about who needs to be at the meeting and avoid inviting those who do not. Be clear and focused when choosing meeting participants thinking about the overarching goal, and what each participant brings to the table. Do ensure you include a diverse set of perspectives, just don't let the number of participant get unwieldy. It might be better to break up the focus of the meeting into smaller more manageable chucks with fewer people versus one large meeting. Keep in mind, larger meetings should be used for information dissemination. Keep you meetings as small as possible to be the most collaborative, productive, and creative.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies
Photo used with permission by SPS International