Avoiding Meetings Burnout

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It’s estimated that over 25 million meetings are held each day in the United States, and approximately $37 billion is wasted each year on unproductive meetings.[1] Industry Week, did a study of over 2000 managers, and found that at least 30 percent of the manager’s time spent in meetings was considered unproductive by attendees. 3M conducted a similar survey with executives and found that 25-50 percent of time spent in meetings was considered as “wasted.” Added to all that, consider all the time we spend answering emails, tweets and messages. No wonder the stress levels for decision makers is so intense. Big data, Internet of things and global communication time zone effects may become more of a curse than a blessing if not channeled and directed properly.

Avoiding Meetings Burnout

The following are some common suggestions on how to make meetings more productive and waste less of your time. Unfortunately, we need to be reminded from time to time.

  1. Make sure the right people are at the meeting. Too many of us have a tendency to gather the usual cast of characters, usually due to their positions in the information flow. Often it can be much more productive to clearly identify who would be the best person to answer the questions that will be part of the agenda. Often times, this can be line personnel who are the actual users.
  2. Always have an agenda and goals for the meeting. Keep on subject and in alignment with the goals.
  3. Do not waste time with updates. Send those via email.
  4. Make sure participants are prepared for the meeting. If there is no solid engagement, its best to cancel the meeting and set it up once participants are prepared.
  5. Establish short time spans for meetings. There is always the tendency to stick with the time allotment. If the meeting completes its goals, cut it short. On certain repetitive meetings, you train your participants to come prepared and ready to make their contribution within certain time limits. For example, daily or weekly performance meeting should be specific and power point slides or other visual aids prepared to help graphically explain required information. I have seen companies with 16 departments do their review meetings in less than 30 minutes. Questions are held for discussion after the meetings between individuals who may have questions. Whoever is in charge of regular meetings needs to create a sense of urgency and keep the information moving around the table.
  6. Schedule email updates prior to meetings to prepare participants to come prepared and aware of the time constraints.
  7. Appoint someone to take notes or record the session and follow the meeting with a synopsis of the findings and any unanswered questions that need to be resolved in future meetings on the subject.
  8. At the end of each meeting, have the participants rate the effectiveness of the meeting and if there are any suggestions on how to make meetings more productive.

Communication is key and information is the life blood of all organizations. A good way to categorize meetings is to either be informational and quick or problem solving and brainstorming, which can be open-ended. Both are different in that brainstorming requires following a conversation and sharing of ideas to where it leads. Informational meeting should be held only if email or memo won’t suffice.

Team building is important and meetings do help promote that; however, team building activities are designed to focus on those activities that can focus specifically on team building.

If you feel you are spending too much time attending unproductive meetings, why not convene a meeting to discuss and resolve meetings burnout?

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-reasons-why-your-meetings-waste-time-peter-stark-csp


Additional Reading

Top Facilitator Tips: Telephone or Web Meetings

Keep Your Eye on the Goals of the Meeting and be Patient with the “Wierdos.”


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