Tips on How to Escape Unproductive Meetings

BY Kathy Crosett
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If one of your 2018 resolutions is to work more efficiently, you need to get a handle on the amount of time you spend in meetings. For some managers, work life equals meetings, which means you're not really getting anything done. You can put a stop to this time sink by implementing some of the suggestions Dorie Clark made in a recent post on Harvard Business Review.

Clark points out that you need to distinguish between meetings you can escape and those you should attend. As a manager, your attendance will be mandatory at meetings dedicated to making key decisions. If your team is in the process of deciding between two important vendors who are vying to carry out a project for your company, you need to be present. Is the CEO leading a kickoff meeting for next year’s big project? Make time for the event.

Similarly, the content of some meetings isn’t as important as the presenters. If an important client has asked you to attend an event about upcoming changes at their company, be there. When you’re trying to build relationships with managers in other departments at your company, nothing says you care more than showing up and indicating your support of their projects.

After you decide which meetings are "must attends," work on becoming an escape artist. When unexpected meetings pop up on your calendar, don’t automatically accept the invitation. Connect with the scheduler and get some details. Meetings that are simply progress updates don’t require your physical presence. Ask the scheduler to send along a concise email update after the meeting. If you run into hesitation, try to put off the meeting. In some cases, schedulers will end up having the meeting without you.

If you want to offer a conflict as an excuse for not attending a meeting, think about restricting who has access to your calendar. Or, block off large chunks of your calendar time with a general-​purpose note like ‘busy.’ This strategy may cause schedulers to hesitate before freely booking your time.

A more long-​term tactic is to influence the behavior of meeting addicts. Politely ask why your presence is necessary at a specific meeting which you suspect is a time-​waster. Ask your meeting-​happy colleagues, especially if they are your bosses, with help on prioritizing your workload. Would they prefer that you complete a task that is directly connected to generating revenue, or do they believe that your attendance at their meeting is more important.?

It may take a while, but if you focus on cutting back on your meeting time, you may set a trend at your company and increase productivity for everyone.