June 15

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Why not every meeting is necessary

By Ralph Varcoe

June 15, 2020

productivity hacks

2.1   Avoid Unnecessary Meetings

Productivity hack no.17 from '60 Ways to Hurray! by Ralph Varcoe.


I came up with a new verb last week. It’ll put you off your lunch.

It’s about those regular meetings other people set up and invite you to. The project manager, on whatever the latest must do corporate topic is, sends out a series of ‘check-ins’ for you to attend at 5pm every day for 30 minutes. The boss diarises the weekly call with everyone on the team, plus the extended team members who support his team.

Jeez! Now you get invited to another team’s weekly meetings so that you can spend an hour listening to what everyone else is doing while trying to complete your own tasks without being noticed at the back of the room (hello multi-tasking! Remember to bin the Swiss Army Knife). You speak for maybe 3 minutes of the hour, and only after you hear your name and realise you haven’t a clue what the question was. Your 3 minutes of fame made no sense to anyone else either.

Your calendar is now full of regular meetings and calls that you want to get rid of as soon as possible. They leave you feeling in need of a dash to the toilet to purge yourself.

The new verb is ‘To Diarrhoearise’ meetings (as opposed to diarise them). A regular and never-ending stream of meetings and calls you could really do without. They are unwanted, leave you feeling washed out, are a pain in the backside, leave you sweating, and are a massive time-waster.

Meetings are, along with social media, the biggest time-wasters on the planet. You know that old slogan/joke that goes something like “If you’re feeling bored or lonely at work just set up a meeting”.

Work time is not social time. It may be that you can be social with work colleagues but during working hours we should all be working, and a meeting should be a work related activity that has a purpose and clear objectives with active participants.

Unless a meeting has a clear agenda, actually needs you there as an active participant, is relatively short, and has only a small number of people in it then decline the invitation.

There’s a study that shows the larger a group of people the more complex and poor decisions are. And, the more collective time is wasted. Parkinson’s Law (see section 5.2 for more on this) states that work expands to fill the time available, therefore if a meeting is scheduled for a long time, guess what? It’ll take that length of time.

Only hold short, maximum 30 minute meetings and only with a maximum of 5-6 other people at a time.

Take the Imodium of the working world and decline meetings that aren’t necessary, properly set up, or too long/big. You’ll save yourself so much time.

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Ralph Varcoe

About the author

For over 20 years, Ralph has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others. He brings a wealth of experience in personal and professional development with a laser focus on enabling people to achieve more than they thought possible. He's a published author and musician with a passion for creating - be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

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