You’ve got your list of things you want to accomplish for today, and yet, after a series of meetings that you had to go to throughout the day, none of the things on your list got done.
That’s because meetings are almost always a huge drain on your time, and should be killed on sight.
Think about the last few meetings you attended — did you sit through them wishing you were somewhere else, or finish the meeting wondering what the point of the meeting was, or worse yet, feel that the same thing could have been accomplished through a simple email? Meetings are time hogs, and often leave you wishing you could get that time back.
Is it possible to have a productive meeting? Sure, but it’s rare. A productive meeting would be if ideas could be communicated and agreed upon faster than through phones or email, not longer. A productive meeting would have a clearly stated purpose, be as short as possible, and have an outcome with assigned tasks to be completed after the meeting. In all the organizations I’ve worked for or been involved with, those meetings are truly rare — if they even exist.
Instead, kill the meetings in your life, and get tons more done. Here’s how:
- Don’t hold meetings. If you’re the boss, or you’re in charge of scheduling meetings, you have the authority to cancel them. Try going one day without them. Instead, have the same purposes be accomplished through email. Do you have a meeting where people give you progress reports? Have them email you a progress report daily, at a specified time each day, and have your assistant collect them compile an overall daily report for you. A meeting at a glance.
- Communicate through email, phone, then person-to-person. Make email your default communication mode. If someone wants to set up a meeting, ask them to email you with their questions instead. If that’s not good enough, agree to talk on the phone about it. As a last resort, agree to a 5-minute face-to-face, standing up. Don’t agree to coffee or lunch — most of the time, you’re just chit chatting. And when you do talk on the phone or in person, get to the point quickly — eliminate the preliminary friendly chatting. Just dive right in: OK, what needs to be done here? What are we trying to accomplish? What tasks will be done by whom? And then you’re done.
- Beg off. If you’re not the boss, you might not control whether meetings are held or not. In that case, ask to skip it. Say that you’ve got an urgent project on deadline, and you won’t be able to make the meeting. If your boss tries to insist that you make it, ask if he or she would like to grant you an extension on your project.
- Accomplish the agenda. Before the meeting, ask for a copy of the agenda. Then accomplish whatever’s on the agenda before the meeting even takes place. For example, if the meeting is to discuss a report, annotate the report thoroughly with your comments, and put your recommended actions at the bottom. Email that to your boss, and say that you’ve already done what’s required, so you can work on another project instead. Eliminate the need for you to be at the meeting.
- The Puppydog Technique. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour Workweek, suggests that you use the Puppydog sales technique to get out of meetings. Basically, this technique was originally used by pet shops to make a sale — if the customer is wavering, tell them to just take home the puppy and give it a try, and if it doesn’t work out, they can bring the puppy back. Many people will agree to this little trial — and they rarely bring the puppy back. Ask your boss if you can skip the meeting, just for today, as you need to finish something urgent. Just this once is hard to turn down. Eventually, your boss will realize that you don’t need to go to the meeting and that you’re more productive if you don’t.
- Work from home. Convince your boss to let you work from home, and you can skip all meetings. This, of course, is ideal. Just make sure you’re more productive at home than at the office.
- Get stuff done. If you are able to skip a meeting, actually get stuff done — important stuff. Be 10 times as productive as the people who went to the meeting.
- Show proof. When the boss comes out of the meeting you skipped, turn in that big report or project. Show that you were super productive without the meeting — with cold, hard proof. Do this enough times, and you will impress your boss and the unproductive meeting will be a distant memory.