wasted time

Have you ever wondered ‘what did I really accomplish’ at the end of your workday?

Most of my clients complain about their lack of control over their workday, their calendar, and their schedule. Yet when I ask what boundaries they’ve put in place to protect their valuable time, they typically come up empty. The problem in most cases is that people have just accepted the way things are, even if they think they are not effective, efficient, or necessary. What would happen if we changed that?


The most common complaint about people’s calendars is the number of meetings. Obviously, the question would then be, “how do we eliminate meetings?” To eliminate meetings, one would think that decisions would be made in a vacuum, communication and input would be absent, and interpersonal relationships might suffer. I think we can all agree that face-to-face interactions are always better than virtual interactions or e-mails.  No one has been able to find a way to replace that in a more meaningful way. So what can be done to ensure that timely decisions are made, effective communication and input are received and interpersonal relationships continue to evolve?

Here is one idea:  Remove yourself from meetings that don’t require your presence.

Meetings. We take for granted that the meeting requestor has a meaningful agenda and purpose for the meeting and that we would add substantive value to the desired outcome. But is that true? How many of your meetings have come with a well-crafted agenda and desired outcome statement? Moreover, how many meetings have you attended where you clearly knew how you were adding value?

Instead, set your own boundaries on how and when you will accept meeting notices. You get to decide what criteria to use. Of course, you would rarely decline a meeting from your boss, or anyone in higher management. That’s fairly understood. Nonetheless, it would still be beneficial to understand the agenda and purpose of that meeting.

Second idea: The other random meetings that come your way should be heavily scrutinized. Here are some criteria to consider:

  1. Is the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting clear? If not, ask the organizer to provide more information.
  2. Consider what value you will bring to the discussion, is it clear? When it’s not clear, ask the organizer what the expectation is and why you’ve been included.
  3. Is there a clear agenda so that you know the topics to be covered? If not, again ask the organizer to provide one.
  4. Will anyone be documenting the outcome of the meeting and providing meeting minutes, especially for those that cannot attend? It’s worth asking the organizer so this is considered before the meeting initiation.
  5. You can decide from the answers you receive from the organizer whether the particular meeting is the best use of your time.

You may be asking: “But what will happen if I reject a meeting?”

You may look at the above criteria and wonder:

  • Will the organizer be offended?
  • What will people think?
  • Will they think I’m arrogant?
  • I don’t want to rock the boat.

Here’s the reality. If you truly are overloaded with meetings and have trouble getting your actual work done, then something has to change. Unfortunately, you are the only one that really has control over what you decide to do. If you teach people how you prefer to operate, they typically will adapt and learn from you. Therefore, if you routinely ask for purpose, agenda, value add, and communication follow-up for each meeting, you just might be teaching organizers on how to have highly effective meetings! Who doesn’t want that?

The truth is, if you don’t scrutinize those meetings and find yourself wasting a lot of time in meetings that don’t need you or don’t matter, you are doing a disservice to your organization and your co-workers. Being as effective and efficient with your time for the purpose of business success should be your top priority.

If YOU want to initiate a meeting, here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Always make the purpose of the meeting very clear, provide a thorough agenda, and let others know your expectations of them for the meeting.
  2. Think long and hard about the people you are including. You are asking them for their valuable time, AND you don’t want to be exclusionary. It’s a tight walk, but perhaps for those that are on the bubble as to whether they add value or are there just for communication’s sake, they could be included as optional and you could make that clear to them so that it is their choice.
  3. Consider how you are going to communicate any outcomes from the meeting. Will there be meeting notes, who should be updated, etc. Ensure you have someone within the attendees who is designated just for this task.
  4. When tasks arise and assignments occur, ensure those are documented as well and instill a system for follow up. Too many times a decision is made, all agree it needs to be done, yet the who, what, where, when, and how is left up in the air, and then all are amazed when none of the desired outcomes are achieved.

So instead of wishing for fewer meetings, be more intentional about eliminating inefficient meetings and be known for hosting the most efficient and effective meetings in your organization.

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