Top Three Time Wasters in Meetings (and How to Get That Time Back)

ActivPanel for the Workplace

Published: June 18th, 2020

By Eric Sykes, Promethean Education Consultant

Every day in America alone there are between 36 and 56 million meetings per day. According to a study by Bain & Company, organizations spend about 15% of their time in meetings. Time is zero-sum. Time spent in a meeting is time not getting other tasks completed. That’s why wasting time in meetings is such a big deal.

So how do you know when a meeting is necessary or not? There are a few factors to consider, but the short answer is, only when it is necessary to accomplish a task. Meetings cost organizations money. To determine how much, divide each employee’s salary by 2,000 (the number of working hours in an average year). Combine each employee’s hourly wage, and multiply the total by the hours spent in the meeting. Based on the average of meeting per day here in America, that’s no small sum. So, if said task does not require input from others face-to-face, in a real-time setting, then you shouldn’t schedule that meeting.

Avoiding the Meeting Pitfalls

But let’s say you weighed your options and a meeting is critical, what are the pitfalls to avoid to ensure that your meeting is productive and you get the most bang for your buck, so to speak? The top three time wasters are starting late, including too many people, and a lack of direction for that meeting. Saving time is something that can easily be done with the new, Promethean interactive display for business, the ActivPanel Titanium Pro!

According to an article published by Bluewater, “around 37% of meetings start late by an average of nearly 15 minutes, causing an overwhelming time suck and loss of productivity”. Some common factors that contribute to said time suck are lack of time management in previous meetings causing them to run long, a lack of punctuality, and technological issues. But all of these are easily remedied by proper preparation and creating a culture that respects each other’s time. If you are a team leader, or even if you aren’t, be the voice of the revolution! Lead by example and test out your presentation in whichever means you will be presenting it, and be vocal about starting and ending on time, every time.

When there are too many people in a meeting it reduces the productivity of the key members that need to be involved, wastes time for coworkers who could simply read the meeting minutes, and increases the overall cost of the meeting.  So who should be invited to your next meeting? Decision-makers should be invited. If you need your supervisor’s approval or input to proceed to the next step to accomplish a task, then they should be there. Your progress is dependent on their contributions, so send that calendar invite.

Similarly, everyone in a meeting should be vital to the progress of the task being attended to in the meeting. If a colleague has nothing to contribute, they should be invited. Steve Jobs put it best by stating, “Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. There’s no such thing as a mercy invitation. Either you’re critical to the meeting or you’re not”.

Ensuring Everyone is There that Needs to Be

Lastly, anyone who would be affected by the decisions being made should be there as well. This one is kind of a no brainer, but worth noting just the same. You never want to step on a colleague’s toes and make decisions that fall under their domain. It might have been better saying, that every one the meeting affects must be there.

The last of these pitfalls is resolved by exercising a bit of common sense and planning. When a meeting is not thought through, that lack of direction leads to lost time, and usually bored employees. Every meeting should have an agenda prepared. Furthermore, that agenda should be shared with those invited so that they can prepare accordingly. By providing attendees proper time to prepare, they know exactly what their role in the conversation is and what they have to contribute.

Meetings are not going away. Whether virtual or in person, they are vital to every industry, but only when planned and executed correctly. So the next time to decide that the only way to accomplish a task is to gather together in the ol’ conference room, please remember: plan ahead, pick the attendees wisely, and be respectful of your colleagues’ time!

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