It occurred to me this week that I have been wasting (at least) 25% of my work time. I was shocked to discover that I’m such an unproductive person, but then I understood that I’m not alone.  After watching a brilliant TED talk (by Jason Fried) it hit me as hard as the sun in the Muhabi desert: it’s all those damn meetings!

So why are meetings the poison of productivity?

Well, I’ll just try to recap what Jason Fried (co-founder of 37Signlas) suggested, along with some other conventional wisdoms (courtesy of Ofer Wald).

First, it seems that 90% of all meetings can be summarized in 10 min. Second, you can easily drift off course in a meeting and find everybody discussing non-relevant subjects for 30 minutes at a time. Finally, meeting only lead to more meetings… it’s a never ending cycle.

I can say, without a doubt, that there is a correlation between the number of meetings an organization has and the lack of productivity that exist within that company. Unfortunately, people (especially in corporations) have the urge to conduct meetings too frequently.  If you want your co-workers companionship, then buy him lunch or chat with him about non-related work things – meetings are not for filling this need.

The conclusion is that meetings (most of the time) are toxic – they are the WORST time waster. If you are a corporate guy and you want to waste time until the clock hits 5 pm then Hooray, meetings are the ideal way. But if you’re on the other side and you want to get something actually done, then you might want to bear this in mind:

  • Meetings are your worst enemy
  • Don’t arrange meeting yourself (don’t initiate them)
  • Avoided meeting at all costs (as long as you can).
  • Meetings tend to perpetuate another one – so don’t hold that meeting in first place.

Practical advice

Meetings are toxic, so if you can – just cancel them. However, if you absolutely cannot cancel one, or it involve certain factors/matter/people and you want to kill it in one sitting, then at least try to follow those rules, it will make the pain much better off and the efficiency increased.

  1. Set a timer. When it rings that means the meeting is OVER.
  2. Fewer people = better productivity. Invite as little attendees as possible, and only the necessary ones.
  3. Always have a clear agenda and have a list of questions you want answered
  4. BEFORE THE MEETING: pass around materials and questions
  5. have better control of the meeting and flow
  6. If this is a meeting with a client/partner/etc always present a closed set of options so the meeting doesn’t drift off subject
  7. Begin with a specific problem
  8. Meet at the site of the problem (i.e developer’’s desk) instead of the conference room
  9. End with action items and make someone responsible for implementing each one. Otherwise it will just be forgotten until the next time the problem pops up