7 Reasons Why Your Meetings Are A Waste Of Time

4 min read · 6 years ago


An executive we coach asked me if I did training sessions on how to conduct productive meetings. When I asked why he was interested, he told me, “I’ve spent 12 hours this week in meetings that were a total waste of my time.” To make this fact even more depressing, it turned out that 4 of those hours were wasted in meetings he was leading.

Over 25 million meetings are held each day in the United States, and approximately $37 billion is wasted each year on unproductive meetings. Industry Week, in a study of over 2000 managers, reported that at least 30 percent of the manager’s time spent in meetings was unproductive. 3M conducted a similar survey with executives and found that 25-50 percent of people’s time spent in meetings was wasted.

Meetings are supposed to improve productivity, efficiency, teamwork, communication and collaboration. And, it seems like the amount of time leaders spend in meetings increases every year. In my experience, I’ve found that managers and executives easily spend anywhere from 35 to 55 percent of their time in meetings. And, before they actually get to the meeting, the average leader spends an additional 4 hours a week preparing status updates for the meetings. That doesn’t leave much time for actually getting work done.

Why are so many meetings so unproductive?

No value delivered: People come to the meeting prepared to listen, provide status updates and be available to answer questions. They are not, however, prepared to add value.

Lack of engagement: Team members come to meetings, but use the time to respond to emails or do other work unrelated to the meeting at hand.

Parkinson’s Law: Team members take as long to conduct the meeting as was posted on the agenda, whether or not that much time was actually needed. Parkinson ’s Law is the idea that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, and the concept is absolutely applicable to meetings.

Status Updates: The Clarizen/Harris Interactive Survey states that 40 percent of employees think that status updates waste valuable time and 70 percent say these meetings are not helpful in getting their work done.

Lack of clear goals: When meetings lack clear goals, whatever gets accomplished, if anything, is considered a win.

Start late and run overtime: When meetings run overtime, it not only wastes people’s time in the meeting, but it also negatively impacts other projects that need to be accomplished.

Wrong people in attendance: This one works both ways. Sometimes we don’t have the people we need in the meeting to advance our projects, and other times we have people attending who basically act like court reporters.

John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” As much as we like to joke about how much of a waste meetings are, they do, in fact, serve a purpose. When they are properly conducted, meetings promote teamwork, communication, collaboration, and efficiency. The following tips will help you lead meetings that are both efficient and effective.

Do not conduct informational or status update meetings: If the only goal of the meeting is to provide status updates, that is better provided via email updates. If it is important for all the updates be combined in one report, assign one person the responsibility of collecting the information and accomplishing the task.

Provide an agenda, purpose and goals for the meeting: Every meeting needs to have an agenda with a clear purpose and goals. Without an agenda, there’s not much preventing the meeting from turning into a great social gathering.

Schedule shorter meetings: a 30-minute meeting is often equally, or more, productive than an hour-long meeting if it is planned well. Better yet, get weird. Plan a 37 minute meeting. People may come just to see what can be accomplished in that oddly-specific length of time.

Invite the right people: Research shows that the more people you invite, the more productivity declines. Invite less people, and invite the right people.

Start on time: Start on time, regardless of who is late. Let’s say you have 10 executives in a meeting who each earn approximately $150,000 a year. Each meeting is delayed 15 minutes by the late arrival of one person. If your team meets 52 times a year, this 15-minute delay is costing your organization approximately $8,500 a year in lost productivity. If the overall meetings themselves are a waste of time, that productivity loss jumps up to approximately $37,000.

Encourage people to stay focused: You will accomplish more, and finish the meeting much faster, if you ask people to put away their electronic devices and remain fully engaged during the meeting.

Shoot hijackers: Don’t allow people to monopolize meetings or redirect the meeting from the stated purpose or goals.

Consistently end early: End the meeting on time, even if you’re not done. Better yet, end the meeting early, and people will feel more positive about coming back to your next meeting.

Document actions: Every meeting should have the planned actions published to clearly outline what will be accomplished, and who is responsible for making the action a reality.

Follow up: Great leaders do not assume that since they held a meeting, the work will get done. Following up before to the next meeting sends a clear message that results are expected prior to the next meeting.

No one likes meetings, but they are a reality of organizational life. Meetings don’t have to be frustrating and unproductive, however. As a leader, you have the ability to lead efficient and productive meetings that your team members won’t dread and despise in equal measure. Do you have any meeting pet peeves, or tips for increasing meeting effectiveness? Share them in the comments below!

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: 7 Reasons Why Your Meetings Are A Waste Of Time

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