Cut Down On Meetings to Increase Your Productivity

By Chelsea Babin

Everyone who’s spent more than a few months in a professional workplace will understand that meetings can sometimes be unnecessary time-sucks that get in the way of your productivity. While beneficial during some collaborative projects, meetings have taken over a lot of IT professionals’ work days and they don’t need to! But how can you convince your team, your boss, or even yourself that a scheduled meeting isn’t worth it? Here are a few strategies for avoiding unnecessary meetings and increasing your productivity:

1. Four Question Test: In general, the necessity of a meeting can be determined before you ever have it. The Harvard Business Review came up with a few questions to help you decide if your meetings are worth it or not. Try asking yourself and your coworkers these four questions to evaluate whether or not a meeting can be replaced by emails or a few instant messages.

  1. Have I thought through this situation?
  2. Do I need outside input to make progress?
  3. Does moving forward require a real-time conversation?
  4. Does this necessitate a face-to-face meeting?

Unless you say “yes” to all four questions, you may not need to have a meeting in order to continue being productive.

2. Ask for an Alternative: If your boss is a fan of scheduling meetings frequently, there may not be anything you can do to avoid them. However, having a frank conversation with your boss about how these meetings affect your productivity and asking if there is an alternative way for you to get the information you need or have the discussion you need to have without spending an hour in a meeting could be useful. As long as you express your concerns in a respectful manner, asking for an alternative to meetings could set you free from one or more meetings where you aren’t really needed and let you get back to your work.

3. Accountability Via Paperclips: A visual reminder of how many hours a week you and your coworkers spend in meetings could help reduce the amount of obligatory meetings in your workplace. One way to do this is by getting two jars and a lot of paperclips. Place all of the paperclips into one jar and transfer them over after every hour or 30-minute increment you spend in a meeting. Let your collaborators know what you’re doing and, at the end of the week, you can all marvel at how many or how few paperclips have been transferred over. Sometimes all it takes is a visual representation to make you realize you aren’t spending overwhelming amounts of time in meetings or to make your coworkers realize that the amount of meetings needs to be cut down.

4. Walk it Out: The numerous benefits of walking meetings were touted by Steve Jobs, so you know there must be something beneficial there. Walking meetings are a great way to keep the ideas flowing while adding a little activity into your day to break up long periods of sitting, which may be detrimental to your productivity. Additionally, walking meetings are great for keeping everyone in the meeting more alert and attentive. After all, you can’t fall asleep in a walking meeting as easily as you can in a regular meeting! The increased attention will help meetings move faster so that you can get back to your other tasks.

5. Say No When it’s Not a Priority: If you’re backed up on a project or staring down an impending deadline, try to say no to as many meetings as possible. Kindly explain to your boss or coworkers that you need as much time as you can get to finish up your current project and, most likely, they will understand. Prioritize your meetings by categorizing them as essential, beneficial, mandatory, and extra. All meetings in the extra category can and should be canceled when you feel your productivity is suffering. There’s nothing you can do about mandatory meetings but beneficial meetings can be occasionally scrapped. Essential meetings are, as their title would suggest, non-negotiable. This form of prioritization will cut down on meetings and increase your productivity in no time!

Some meetings are incredibly helpful, others are incredibly wasteful, and most meetings fall somewhere in between. If you want to increase your productivity but you feel frivolous meetings are standing in the way, you now have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you avoid those meetings and get back to the work you need to be doing.