Congratulations! You've been deigned worthy enough to be invited to a meeting! What a privilege — or so you think. As much as being included in meetings shows your input is valued, more often than not, these staples of corporate America are a major time suck. How many times have you checked in with a coworker, only to hear, "So sorry, I was stuck in meetings all day"? It's not just you. Americans meet a lot. According to data compiled by Attentiv, a team-collaboration platform, most meetings last anywhere between 31 to 60 minutes and 63% are conducted without a pre-planned agenda. The data also found that meetings are considered largely unproductive 33.4% of the time. There are definitely better ways to spend your day.
Unfortunately, meetings are sometimes unavoidable, especially if top-level execs aren't actively implementing policies to cut down on mandated gatherings. "There are certainly a couple of tricks," says Jon Jackson, global creative director at digital agency Huge, on how to work around the problem of too many meetings. "Literally do not sit down — have the meeting standing up. Try meeting in smaller groups. Especially in advertising, people get paired up, like designers and UX people, and working in twos is great because you don't get the dissension you would get with three or more." Some companies have gone so far as to create "no-meeting" days, where employees are required to avoid meetings on a particular day of the week — unless absolutely necessary. "Makers (i.e. employees who produce things, like programmers and writers) suffer greatly from interruptions in their flow time," Asana cofounder Dustin Moskovitz said in a post on Quora. So if an art director is spending all her time in meetings, she won't have time to create.
At the end of the day, these get-togethers are supposed to be productive. Dana Rousmaniere at Harvard Business Review suggests that meetings should only be held for three reasons: to inform people or update them, to seek input, or to get approval. Then, have a focused agenda, a goal of defining the next steps, and whittled-down the list of attendees to only those who are truly essential to the cause. The folks at LinkedIn decided to get rid of the presentation portion of meetings altogether. Instead of spending 15 minutes going through a slideshow, employees send out a deck 24 hours before a meeting and allow attendees to review before diving into discussion. "With the presentation eliminated, the meeting can now be exclusively focused on generating a valuable discourse: Providing shared context, diving deeper on particularly cogent data and insights, and perhaps most importantly, having a meaningful debate," CEO Jeff Weiner wrote.
Yes, meetings do serve a function. And yes, discussing something larger will often need an in-person discussion — but only if the people in there arrive prepared to tackle a set agenda. Then, it might be good to get out from behind the computer, turn off the phone, and talk IRL — while keeping an eye on the timer and agenda. "I think companies should set those expectations, have people at every level be allowed to say, 'We're not doing anything, let's break up and go,'" Jackson adds. "It will only increase work time. And allow anyone to walk out at any moment and go work. If you're not getting any value out of the meeting, just get up and walk out. We're all adults."