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Kill Meetings to Get More Done

Kill Meetings to Get More Done
class="bigphoto">Meeting

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.

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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.

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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.

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Instead, kill the meetings in your life, and get tons more done. Here’s how:

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  • 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.

More by this author

Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time The Gentle Art of Saying No Simple Productivity: 10 Ways to Do More by Focusing on the Essentials How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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