10 Easy Ways to Spot Unnecessary Meetings

As you start your week, you are probably looking at your calendar.

And wow, look at all those meetings.

How much of your time is already spoken for this week?

Better yet, how much of that time is tied up in meetings that you know aren’t necessary?

Is Your Calendar Full of Unnecessary Meetings?

Here is interesting exercise involving your work calendar.

Look at your weekly schedule and ask yourself how much of your time is being scheduled by you versus being scheduled for you by others.

The answer might surprise (and scare) you.

We live in an “Outlook culture” where people schedule time on your calendar, seemingly at will.

Amazingly, at most companies this is accepted behavior.

Yet, it costs companies thousands of dollars in wasted of time and lost productivity.

“Many companies won’t give their employees access to the color printer…

Yet, they give them full access to the company’s calendars and the ability to waste thousands of dollars at a pop.”

I once observed a meeting that was called by a mid-level employee to resolve a process issue. There were a dozen people in the meeting including the divisional VP. After 90 minutes of round-and-round, it was apparent that the entire “issue” was a misunderstanding.

It probably could have been addressed by a 5 minute conversation between two individuals. Yet, no one in the room seemed concerned that they had just spent 90 minutes and thousands of salary dollars to hold a meaningless meeting.

In fact, they were laughing and patting each other on the back as they left the room.

Meeting Spam is Worse Than Email Spam

What is worse than email spam? Meeting spam.

Those meeting requests that you receive seemingly out of thin air that have no true purpose or topic.

At least with email spam you can set up filters. You can simply hit “delete.”

With meeting spam, you have to politely decline. You have to find a reason why you cannot attend.

But, how do you determine which meetings are unnecessary and likely to be a waste of time and resources?

Here are 10 Easy Ways to Spot Unnecessary and Wasteful Meetings:

  1. Too Many People – If you get more than six people together, the ability to hold a conversation goes downhill quickly. When you see  a meeting request with 8-12 people on it, it usually means that the organizer didn’t know who they should be talking to.
  2. No Agenda – Everyone would agree that all meetings should have an agenda, yet almost no meetings actually have one. This is a sure-sign tell that the meeting will be a free-for-all.
  3. No Meeting Place – When you get a meeting request that has no meeting location, it usually is a sign that the organizer hasn’t put much thought in the appointment. Inevitably you will get the last-minute updates with the meeting details.
  4. Scheduled for Too Much Time – Avoid meetings that are scheduled for > 1 hour. Two (or three) hour meetings are too long. These are usually “fishing meetings” where the organizer doesn’t know what they want but is hoping that the attendees can figure out the answer for them.
  5. Vague Topic – If I can’t tell what a meeting is about from the invite, then I usually decline. Just as emails should have a descriptive subject line, so should meeting invites. “Catchup” is not an adequate meeting topic.
  6. Called at the Last Minute – Meetings that are called with little notice, usually aren’t meetings. They are usually knee-jerk responses to a problem. They should probably be a conversation between the involved individuals rather than a meeting. This may seem like a fine distinction, but many managers react to small issues by “gathering the entire team.”
  7. Standing Meetings – Ah, the repeating-into-infinity meeting. It is on your calendar from now until the end of time. Yet, each week, people have to ask what is on the agenda. Delete these standing meetings. Meet when you actually have something to decide.
  8. Lunchtime Meetings – Disorganized people love to call lunchtime meetings. They have little regard for other people’s schedules or lunch activities. They figure they aren’t going to enjoy their lunch, so they might as well bring others with them.
  9. Other People’s Work – Some people call meetings with the sole purpose of getting others to do their work. Combine this with #6 and you have a recipe for a dysfunctional and inefficient workplace.
  10. Simple Announcements – Have you ever been to a meeting that was simply to announce something that was already sent out via email? Or to read a new policy or document? Avoid these “reading” sessions. Unless of course, your employees don’t read their email.

Clear Out Those Unneeded Meetings

Take a hard look at your calendar for this week.

Clear out the unneeded appointments. Get out of the standing meetings. Decline meetings that aren’t necessary.

Rather, spend the time doing your work.

Spend it talking one-on-one with your team.

Or better yet, spend the time actually collaborating with your fellow employees.

Question: How do you avoid unnecessary meetings?

20 thoughts on “10 Easy Ways to Spot Unnecessary Meetings

  1. Meetings are the scourge of productivity. You’ve probably heard of The Modern Meeting Standard championed by Al Pittampalli, but this falls right in step w/ his ideology about meetings largely being broken and a waste of time.

  2. Brilliant, Craig! I really need to share this with my network and clients. The irony is that I just received a client email today for a last-minute meeting to go over some information with their web developer. Of course, this client knows I only check my email once a day and that Mondays I’m off writing for my blog and upcoming SEO book. Hence, a 1pm email for a 3pm meeting today (Monday) made me roll my eyes. Any suggestions on how to get “unnecessary” meeting requests through to my clients without offense?

  3. An agenda is a must with a clearly defined leader of the meeting. THese two things will keep discussions on topic and on time. Delegate actions and set deadlines.

  4. A tip I’ve found helpful is to take the agenda one step further and assign topics and responsibilities to each team member. It’s a great way to get contributions and to weed out those who don’t need to attend.

    Helpful post Craig!

  5. Here’s how I handle standing meetings: First, when a standing meeting format would produce a cadence of accountability, I set the standing meeting schedule and will send cancellation notices 24 hours in advance of any meeting where there are no agenda items. Second, I review standing meetings after 3 months and cut the number of times scheduled to meet by half. If we adjust to the pace with no loss of efficiency, we keep the reduced schedule. Third, when the team agrees what was necessary for a season to be a standing meeting is no longer necessary, it is joyfully cancelled.

  6. I couldn’t agree with the senitment of this article more.

    Meetings can be awesome but unfortunately the way they’re run in 80% of orgs in my experience they’re a complete waste of time and money.

    I’d say most meetings happening out there in corporate land aren’t even needed at all.

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