‘My inbox is exploding’ and ‘I am always in meetings’. These are two leading pain-point responses we hear from clients. A distant third involves a colleague with poor Zoom etiquette always wearing that ridiculous jumper but that’s not our thing. According to LucidMeetings, the average number of meetings people attend in 20 days is 75+ for executives and 55+ for managers. At one hour each that’s up to 50% of the day, which is awesome if your title is “Executive Director of Sitting in Back-to-Back Meetings.”
Here’s our top 6 approaches to avoid the meeting onslaught.
1. Don’t attend – If you shouldn’t be there, then don’t go. Find a way to say no. Simple. If you want a list of excuses call us, but really…? Get creative.
…or failing that…
2. Challenge it – Ask the organiser for the purpose and then suggest the issue be addressed other than via a meeting – legal advice is often not needed or it’s a single question you can cover in 60 seconds. You’ve got your hour back.
3. Be on call – Obstetricians don’t sit by the bed waiting for something to happen. Keep working outside of the meeting but tell them you will prioritise their call and join if needed. Then when you do, own it like no tomorrow.
4. Keep Working – If the agenda is unclear and you’re not sure what will be raised, seek permission to stay on the call (or be in the room) and monitor the meeting while you keep working. Rather than doing it secretly (we’ve all seen it), be open about it – if you’re not actively engaged then keep working. We’re big on being present but being ‘permissively non-present’ is a useful skill.
5. Attend for 5 mins – If you really should be there for part of it, only attend for that part by asking the organiser to focus on the legally relevant aspect first (or early on) and then seek consensus from the group that you probably aren’t needed anymore (don’t just leave, make it their idea).
6. Cut it in half – If saying no is a massive career killer, then suggest the meeting be done in half the time. To quote myself, ‘something always takes as a long as you give it.’ Think about mediations and negotiations; the allotted time is always used (no more, no less) because it’s human nature to work to a deadline – bring the deadline forward by cutting the meeting time.
There is a plethora of articles about how to change workplace culture around meetings but that’s a slower burn – these things are under your control right now. Get out of meetings and nail the game-changing tasks that need your brains.