Do We Really Need This Meeting?

The productivity tip we don’t talk enough about.

Kate Kultsevych / Shutterstock
Kate Kultsevych / Shutterstock

We’ve all been there: seeing a meeting mysteriously pop up on our calendar with no explanation, agenda or stated goal. Sitting through a meeting we really don’t need to be a part of. Or reaching the end of a meeting-filled day and realizing we haven’t really accomplished anything. 

It’s especially insidious when so many of us are working from home during the pandemic, struggling with boundaryless “permawork” and spending entire days on Zoom calls. So perhaps suffering from an acute case of too-many-meetings malaise, I took a few minutes at Thrive’s weekly all-hands to share some best practices designed to help us course-correct away from some of our bad habits and create some more productive new ones. The goal? To cancel as many meetings as possible! And to fully empower everyone at Thrive to decline any meeting they deem not worth their time. Here are a few of the tips and questions I shared, so we can be respectful of each other’s time and make the best use of our own: 

  • Every meeting invite must include a clear agenda and desired outcome.
  • If relevant, send a pre-read. Never spend any meeting time with someone walking you through a deck and reading you the contents of each slide. Assume your colleagues can read. 
  • Don’t default to 30-minute meetings. Can a meeting be reduced to 15 minutes?
  • Can you make your meeting a walking meeting? One of my favorite Microsteps is turning at least a couple of my Zoom meetings into phone calls so that I can take them while walking. You can walk in your neighborhood or even walk around your house while speaking on the phone. There is no universal law that every virtual interaction has to be on Zoom, Skype, WebEx, Hangouts or BlueJeans.
  • Create a Google Doc for each meeting so the owner can assign action items to everyone who attends.
  • Block off time on your calendar for deep work. Don’t assume it will just get done when everything else is done. Meetings expand to fill all of the time available on your calendar — it’s the law of meetings.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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