Stop the Meeting Overload

Remember those heavenly hot days you spent sipping cocktails at the poolside? The feeling of SPF50 and summer sun on your skin?

Well, your mini-break in Marbella may have been out of this world, but it was also shorter than the time you’ve spent in meetings this year. Don’t believe us? A recent study found that on average, we spend up to 26 days (most people only get 20-25 days of holiday per year!) in meetings.

That’s more time watching paint dry than it is the average leave of workers in the UK! We’re confident you could have skipped more than half those meetings – and spent that time actually getting work done. We’re major productivity sleuths here at SEVEN. We like innovation. If something can be resolved in a quick phone call or email, we won’t have a meeting. Here’s why we prefer meaningful engagement over time-wasting, and how you can cut down on meetings to work smarter, not later, and ultimately, be happier at work.

Not Worth their Wait

Most meetings should not be longer than 30 minutes. That’s according to a recent study, which weighs up the cost to your company with the time wasted. If meetings take up more time than your year-end functions, it’s a good idea to cut them in half. That time could be spent on reaching deadlines, turning in projects, following up on important deals or signing new clients! Schedule half-hour meetings when absolutely necessary, and stick to this allotted time. You’ll be amazed at how you can cut the fat when you’re on the clock!

Know your ‘Why’

Why are you there, that is. This is your time as well as your company’s so focus on the goals of the meeting. Set an agenda that clearly outlines the objectives and work through it methodically. Note additional points that arise and table them for an email or a follow-up call, and only involve those who need to be there. Your colleagues will note your professionalism and appreciate that you respect their time.

Decide when to Contribute + When to LISTEN

When was the last time you sat in the boardroom and didn’t check your phone at least once? If you’re more focussed on getting shut-eye (or eyeing your fit co-worker) than actively listening to your colleague, you’re wasting your time. The reverse applies. Ask yourself: how important are my ideas? Am I expressing a vague opinion or is this a helpful insight that contributes to the conversation. Ensure those attending stay on-course and discourage those colleagues who tend to go off on a tangent about everything and everyone (and their aunty).

Be Ruthless

Several companies are opting for a No-Meeting-Wednesday – and we love it! Setting a specific day aside might not be feasible in a less flexible company, but blocking out interruption-free time and insisting it’s non-negotiable contributes to an institutional culture of meaningful interaction. In fact, repeatedly blocking this time can help your working rhythm, align more closely with your goals and help you manage your time and attention better. Hello great workflow!

67% of Meetings are Pointless

See the above! It may feel like a cardinal sin, but skipping meetings is sometimes more beneficial than attending them. Current data has it that 67% of meetings are absolutely pointless for the majority of people there, so you should only be attending meetings that are a priority.

Cut, Cut + Cut

Yes, you! If you call a meeting, only invite key players. Structure shorter meetings to target specific concerns and only invite the relevant department members to attend. Carefully select the meetings you go to and minimise meetings that aren’t in line with your own (and your senior’s) work objectives.

Red, Orange, Green: GO!

Use traffic light colours to categorise and prioritise meetings. Consider rating on metrics such as the value to your personal branding and visibility in a company; what it does for your knowledge base and if it exposes you to seniors in your company. Red: don’t go. Orange = weigh this one up, depending on your workload. Send a recorder with someone who’s attending (and ask for the minutes). Green indicates that it’s mandatory, so don’t miss these. A green meeting is one that is urgent, relevant to your position and career advancement, and may offer potential growth opportunities. If you and your colleagues share a work calendar, block off time so that your colleagues understand you’re strictly unavailable then.

Drop Bad Devices

And opt for apps and algorithms that actually work. We’ve all sat (or slept) through a meeting where a projector was faulty, the WiFi choked or a presentation didn’t quite cut it. Sometimes, it seems like technology has given time-wasters more opportunity to be less productive, rather than facilitating a refined use of financial, interpersonal and mental resources. Technology should work for you. If it is distracting, it is detracting from the meeting.

Our Line in the Sand

When you take ownership of your time and schedule, you also begin to own the quality of your work life. Every successful person knows that being busy isn’t the same thing as being productive. In fact, success isn’t measured by how hard you’re working or how much time you spend in the office. It’s measured by results. At SEVEN, we know that understanding your self-worth and the importance of your contribution to the company is an integral aspect of being able to draw clearly defined boundaries in a professional setting. In actively applying these strategies to your working day, you’ll be taking a more thoughtful approach to how you spend your time and energy. Why not try this out and analyse how this shifts the way you work from being a series of daily habits to being intentional. Over time you’ll notice the massive impact this has on your wellbeing, time management and results, and so will your boss!  

This blog is part of our SEVEN Work Smarter Series.