The Tyranny of Meetings

Executive Boardroom

My reading schedule has suffered this week (already) because it’s the first week of school. If you are a professor–or a human being with a job–you probably get invited to a lot of meetings. A lot of soul-sucking meetings.

For that reason, I decided to return to my regular and impassioned rant against meetings. A well-run meeting with a clear agenda and defined outcomes can be useful. But many (most?) meetings are not just a waste of time, they are a waste of money and energy.  Let’s look at three ways meetings may be costing you more than you realized.

  1. If you spend an hour in a useless meeting, you’ve just wasted an hour of energy and time. Was it worth it? Meetings drain time and energy that could be spent in creative work that’s far more valuable than the meeting itself.
  2. Given that half of any workforce is likely introverted, meetings may very well be making half of those in attendance stressed out, more distracted, and less likely to use their non-meeting hours productively. Extroverts like meetings because they need the stimulation. Introverts die a little inside
  3. Meetings beget more meetings. Meetings are a habit, and just like any other habit, the urge to meet may overrule our critical thinking skills. How many meetings are absolutely necessary? How many meetings could be an email or a post on office discussion app, like Slack?

So let’s all try an experiment right now. Go to your calendar and select one meeting this week. Cancel it. Don’t reschedule it. Just cancel it. Ask yourself how much you—or anyone else—will miss if you don’t attend the meeting. 

If the sky doesn’t fall, take your message to the streets. Make meetings a strategic choice, not a habit.

Now let’s go read a book.

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