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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

More Meetings, Less Productivity

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

Welcome to another workweek!

To kick off this Monday’s blog, we have a challenge for you:

First, open up your work calendar.

Now, take note of a few things:

  • How much free time do you have? (Actual time devoted to reflection, critical thinking, and quiet)?

  • Now, out of the meetings and obligations detracting from your free time, how many are absolutely necessary?

  • Then, out of the meetings and obligations detracting from your free time that aren’t absolutely necessary, how many can you – in one click or scratch-through – scrap from your calendar now and forever?

If you’re like the majority of the American workforce, your days are inundated by too many meetings – with an ever-increasing frequency. Harvard Business Review reports that “meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.” (And these are just formal meetings, not to mention the myriad of impromptu gatherings and extemporized chats that take up space in the mind but not on the schedule.)

And, if you think the work-from-home revolution helped ease the occurrence of meetings, the opposite has proven to be true: 70% of workers experienced a 70% increase in meetings after work-from-home was initiated.

While meetings have been seen as a “necessary evil” in corporations for decades, employees beg to differ. In fact, in one survey of senior managers, more than 2/3 claimed that meetings kept them from being productive and completing their tasks, did nothing to bring teammates closer together, and came at the expense of critical deep-thinking time.

So, back to our original challenge… Which meetings are absolutely necessary? And which can free up time for you to be more productive, more collaborative, and more reflective? Or, as is often said, “Which meetings could just as simply be emails?”

However, since we also know that not all meetings can be scrapped from the calendar entirely, here are our tried-and-true tips to make the most of your meetings and ensure they’re adding to – not detracting from! – your team’s productivity!:

  • Plan your meetings: 64% of employees are more excited about meetings when they are well-planned. So, get started on making sure your employees know who’s doing what in every meeting you have. Schedule time for fun, and ensure you stay on schedule. Speaking of…

  • Assign an agenda monitor: What good is a plan if you don’t stick to it? HBR also mentions that dysfunctional meeting behaviors (including wandering off topic, complaining, and criticizing, to name a few) were associated with lower levels of market share, innovation, employment stability, and overall engagement and happiness within a corporation. Ensure you have someone keeping time, keeping others on topic, and keeping notes to make sure your meetings end with a tactical list of to-do’s.

  • Perform a monthly audit: Refer to the challenge we mentioned at the start of this blog. Incorporate this practice once a month and watch your calendar become consumed with only the meetings that are critically important!

  • Be exclusive with invites: Not every team member needs to attend every meeting. More than ¾ of employees claim their meeting schedules are “chaotic,” with 38% blaming upper management and 16% blaming their direct managers. So, next time you send out an email invite, question who will bring the most value to the meeting – and who can suffice with a memo.

If you need help cleaning up your calendar or prioritizing your meetings, feel free to drop us a line at!

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