Meetings can be a major productivity block. A Microsoft Office survey revealed that 70% of those surveyed thought their meetings were unproductive, and no less than 92% said they spent their time doing other things while in meetings.
According to research published in MIT’s Sloan Management Review, executives in the noughties spent an average of 23 hours per week in meetings. Fast forward to the post-Covid era and the situation has not improved.
In fact, those working remotely are spending more time in meetings than they were pre-pandemic—given what we know from Microsoft’s research, it all adds up to a lot of time where other things - productive things - could be done! Figures like these are untenable, and they affect team members across the board who get caught up in a cycle of low-value meetings, leaving little capacity for important work.
Because the fiscal knock-on effects cannot be overstated, we decided to call a meeting about all these meetings.
Your step-by-step guide to reducing meetings by 20%
Give us 15 minutes of your time and we’ll give you even more back. Here’s how:
Step 0: Create a free Beamible account
Of course, you can follow the steps below without Beamible, but creating an account is free and will make this process a whole lot faster and easier.
Beamible was designed to make work better for everyone, and you can use our platform for a number of things, including efficiently reducing time spent in meetings.
Step 1: Create awareness of the time you dedicate to meetings
- Map out a typical week with the top 8-12 ‘activities’ or bundles of work you do.
- Record the amount of time you typically spend on each activity per week.
- Categorise meetings into one-on-ones, team meetings, ad-hoc, and so on.
- TIP: Use the handy tagging system if you’re a Beamible user.
- Categorise the nature of the meetings, noting if they’re high-importance, low-importance, internal, external, energising, de-energising, and so on.
- TIP: Use Beamible’s tagging system to categorise items if you’re a Beamible user.
Step 2: Analyse your workweek
- How much time do you spend in internal meetings, and what percentage of your overall workweek do these take up?
- How much of your meeting time do you find energising (e.g. gets you excited, motivates you, helps drive your work forward, etc.)?
- What tags (or categories) have you assigned to the meetings you value?
Step 3: Set a goal for change
- For example, let’s reduce meetings by 20%. If you’re currently in 10 hours of meetings per week, your goal is to reduce meetings to 8 hours.
Step 4: Ruthlessly prioritise as a team
- Get your team together to look at your collective internal meeting time (they’ll need to do steps 0 to 3 as well).
- Discuss what you see — is it surprising? How much time are you all spending in meetings as a whole?
- If you’re using Beamible, how much of your annual budget is being spent in meetings?
Tip: Try to set a reduction goal for your team as well.
Step 5: Reduce meeting time
- Where you might be able to stop, pause, combine or reduce meetings?
- What meetings can you remove altogether?
- What meetings can you pause, reduce the frequency or reduce the length?
- What meetings can be delegated? (The number of participants is reduced to only those directly required for meeting outcomes).
There you have it! Using the intentional process above and repeating it on a monthly or quarterly basis (depending on how hectic your schedule becomes), you should be able to keep time spent in meetings at a reasonable level.
In addition to simply reducing meetings, there are things you can do to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Over time, working on these aspects can reduce the time it takes to tick times off each meeting’s agenda, and reduce the cost associated with low-value work. It’s a win-win.
Let’s take a look at those now.
A few simple ways to improve meetings
Make meetings energising for leaders and participants by examining these factors:
- Is an agenda going out to help keep the meeting on track?
- Is the meeting efficient or is there significant wasted time or downtime?
- Is there a clear owner to take the lead?
- Is the lead upbeat and interested in what’s being discussed?
- Are all members actively involved and participating? If not, consider whether they need to be in the next, similar meeting or if their time is better spent on other work.
As Elon Musk rather abruptly puts it: “If you are not adding value to a meeting, walk out or drop off the call.”
- Does everyone get a chance to have their say?
- Do meetings work for people in the office and those working remotely?
- Are meetings scheduled at a time that is convenient for all participants, do they get a chance to agree to times?
- Has a purpose been declared?
- Are the objectives clear?
- Are the next steps clearly recorded and distributed?
Make sure a meeting is the appropriate choice
Another quick way to knock excessive meetings on the head is to ask whether a meeting is the appropriate communication choice.
Meetings are moments for collaboration, so if what you have to say is a one-way message, an email, video recording, instant message, or even a quick phone call are probably better communication channels.
One way to help establish communication best practices, and provide guidance on which channels to use in different scenarios is to create a Team Charter. Another upshot is that everyone’s preferences are accounted for, meaning people can work in the way that best helps them to succeed.
Your team charter might include:
- What people say and do (language and behaviour)
- How teams communicate and use technology (the right channels for various situations)
- How teams work together (core hours, collaboration times, focus times, and so on)
Regain control with Beamible
Low-value meetings and excessive meetings can be an expensive time-sink. Do you know how much they’re costing your company? If not, it might be time to regain control and gain some valuable insights in the process.
Beamible helps you ascribe a cost to time spent (or indeed wasted) in meetings. Equipped with this knowledge, you can then make conscious changes to ensure meetings are both productive and effective.
Ready to Beamible your way to better work? Get in touch with us today.