In my previous company, the number of meetings I and many colleagues attended grew and grew over time. I had a lot of back-to-back meetings, and felt like I was rushing from one meeting to the next. To fulfill the commitments made in meetings, I would work in the morning or steal time from the evening or weekend.
Together with my colleagues, we looked for a solution to the problem and found some ways to address the situation.
Having changed jobs a year ago, I no longer have the problem of too many meetings. The difference is drastic. This made me think even more about what may have been the root causes of having too many meetings in my former employer’s culture (in which I played an important role in shaping).
Despite the many aspects we implemented, there were still way more meetings at my previous employer than at my current job.
🤔 Having too many meetings is a common and increasing problem for companies. According to Zippia research:
In this article, I share my own and my colleagues’ experiences and best practices on what to do when the number of meetings has grown too large.
“Back-to-back meetings” refers to a sequence of meetings scheduled consecutively without any gaps in between.
The main issues related to having back-to-back meetings include the following:
💡 Too many meetings diminish team effectiveness, productivity and also lead to demotivation. Consequently, they can have an adverse effect on work quality, as well as lead to job dissatisfaction and even burnout.
Before I go into practical recommendations and tips on what to do, I would like to analyze the root causes. Why do such situations arise when the day is full of meetings?
Let us explore some reasons why you may end up with too many meetings.
Organizations often use meetings as a primary means of communication. When there is an excessive need to share information or discuss updates, it can lead to an abundance of meetings.
One problem with too many meetings may be that the manager wants to be informed about the details and has chosen meetings to stay updated. The worse situation is when these meetings are essentially reporting meetings.
The organization’s structure is not optimized enough for smaller teams and individuals to make decisions independently, and it is constantly necessary to involve other departments to move forward with topics.
Large organizations or those with complex hierarchies may have more meetings to ensure coordination and collaboration among different teams, departments, or stakeholders. This leads to a situation where the company’s growth rate and velocity suffer significantly.
Lack of clarity regarding goals, roles, or responsibilities may result in the need for frequent meetings to address these issues and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It is not precisely known who is responsible for what area; therefore, more discussions are organized with more people to be safe.
One root cause of too many meetings may be that the organization has too many parallel topics or projects running, and employees are involved in numerous projects.
This can lead to situations where the time spent attending meetings and reporting leaves little room to progress on a specific topic due to being occupied with another project or participating in… yet another meeting.
One of the reasons for too many meetings may be that they are not well-prepared and thus ineffective, leading to the necessity to call another meeting. A separate chapter discusses how to make meetings more effective.
In some organizations, there may be a perception that attending meetings is a sign of productivity or engagement. This can create a culture in which scheduling meetings becomes the default approach, leading to an excess of unnecessary or redundant meetings.
💡 According to a Harvard Business Review article, one of the most common reasons that we end up attending too many meetings is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). As meeting participants, we worry that our colleagues will judge us—or worse yet, forget about us—if we don’t accept every invitation.
For some of the listed items, one can easily make changes. Not for all though. My recommendation is first to take the time to analyze these reasons. It is impossible to solve a problem whose root cause is unknown. Often, it may turn out that the cause is a combination of several of the above-mentioned aspects.
Presumably, the previous points have already given some ideas on what to do to reduce meetings. Many of the issues outlined are not quick and easy to resolve, including the number of meetings, overall commitment, and progress toward company goals.
However, there are also smaller and not-so-fundamental actions that you can take to reduce the number of meetings.
Before calling a meeting, consider if a meeting is the most effective way to address the topic. Ask yourself: Could I achieve the same goal through another less time-consuming means, such as sharing information via a Slack channel?
If organizations lack effective communication channels, meetings may become the default option. Employees may rely heavily on meetings without alternative collaboration means to exchange information and make decisions.
It is always worth considering whether it makes more sense to share information asynchronously or synchronously.
Synchronous communication involves real-time interactions that are planned and scheduled, such as phone calls, video chats, or in-person meetings. On the other hand, asynchronous communication allows for flexibility and can be done at a convenient time for each individual.
The possibility of collaboration within the tool is very important in developing Touchpoint. The goal is that customer service and other team members can exchange information quickly and efficiently. This includes leaving internal notes when handing over customer inquiries, sending notifications, and setting personal and team targets.
To make collaboration through Touchpoint easy for everyone, we’ve put a lot of effort into a user-friendly interface and a good user experience.
Another way to reduce the number of meetings is to push it back later. This allows for better scheduling and ensures that meetings are only held when they are truly needed and when everyone can actively participate.
By evaluating the urgency and importance of each meeting, people can suggest alternatives like rescheduling or finding different ways to address the agenda. When it comes to attending meetings, it is essential to ask yourself a few questions:
When attending the meeting, you should understand why you have been invited to the meeting. If you do not have this understanding, ask the meeting organizer about your involvement.
If your participation in this meeting is not necessary, then:
One technique that many time management meetings recommend is to block off focused time in your calendar for important topics.
⏰ This technique, known as “focus time,” involves reserving specific periods in your calendar solely dedicated to addressing critical tasks or subjects. Using this approach, you can create a dedicated and uninterrupted space for deep work, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.
I’ve seen it work for several people, helping them to gain a better work-life balance and time to complete their “own” tasks. I see that this approach also has some disadvantages.
🗓️ Use Google Calendar to schedule dedicated focus time to enhance your productivity.
Implementing this point alone, in my opinion, does not actually solve the root causes of having too many meetings, but it will help to stay more focused. In addition to implementing the focus period, other issues identified here should be addressed in parallel.
We introduced the concept of a no-meeting day. Fridays were meeting-free days. In my view, such an agreement worked very well. Limiting the time for meetings, forced more thought into whether a meeting was really necessary or if the issue could be resolved in some other way.
Such time constraints also provided the necessary boundaries within which staff could preferentially schedule their own focus times. Read more on how to introduce no meetings days in your organization.
I also have experience with an agreement that meetings can only be scheduled between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. This approach ensures that meetings are not too early for some people who prefer to start work a little later or tackle the important issues first thing in the morning. Also, the end of the day is usually no longer the most productive meeting time.
If you don’t have a clear understanding of the purpose of the meeting, don’t hold it.Some types of meetings and their purposes:
These are just some examples of possible meeting goals, and the specific goals depend upon the nature of the meeting, the organization, and the desired outcomes for the participants.
Develop a detailed agenda and share it with participants in advance. The agenda should outline the topics to be discussed, time allocations for each item, and any pre-meeting preparation required. My recommendation is to put the most important topics first so as not to rush the discussion.
If you are expecting someone else to prepare, discuss the content with them before the meeting and make sure that they can prepare in time.
The inefficiency of meetings increases when people are late. Set up any necessary technology before the meeting starts, and don’t waste everyone’s time.
My recommendation is to agree that the meeting doesn’t end in an hour or half-hour, but rather 5 minutes earlier. This allows the next person coming to the same room to prepare in advance, and it also gives those attending the meeting a short break before the next meeting.
Even if someone is late for the meeting, start the meeting on time. This makes the latecomer uncomfortable and increases the likelihood that they will arrive on time for the next meeting.
Stick to the allocated time for each agenda item and enforce time management. Consider using timers or timekeeping tools to maintain the meeting’s pace and avoid unnecessary delays.
It is just as important to start a meeting on time as it is to end it on time. Respect the time of the people you have invited, and do not let the meeting run over.
Foster a culture of active engagement by encouraging participants to contribute, ask questions, and share their perspectives. Create a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up.
Establish guidelines to minimize distractions during the meeting, such as discouraging the use of mobile devices or implementing a “no multitasking” policy. This helps maintain focus and attentiveness.
Document action items, decisions, and next steps during the meeting.
A good tip is to let someone else on the team take notes. This allows you to focus on running the meeting. I have also used the practice of rotating the note-taker for regular meetings. Some team members may initially feel uncomfortable taking on this responsibility, so you should explain why rotating notetaking is a good idea.
Circulate the meeting minutes or a summary afterward. This promotes accountability and ensures that the team will act upon the outcomes.
This also clarifies that information about the summaries has been shared unambiguously with everyone at the meeting. There will be no unnecessary discussion at the next meeting because no one remembers what was decided the last time.
Continuously assess meeting effectiveness and solicit feedback from participants.
A simple way is to ask for quick feedback from participants at the end of the meeting. A more systematic way is to occasionally send a feedback request on the different parts of the meeting.
Use this feedback to refine meeting processes, adjust agendas, and implement improvements.
No. Definitely not! Rather, the question is when to use meetings and when not to.No meetings will create a sense of isolation among employees, and it’s not good for building a cohesive team.Here are some examples where, in my opinion, meetings are a good approach:
It’s important to recognize that meetings can be valuable and effective in certain situations. The key is to be mindful of when to utilize them and when alternative methods may be more appropriate.
In conclusion: Have fewer but more qualitative meetings. 🙂
Urmo is a results-driven product leader passionate about product-led growth. With a strong focus on building an exceptional customer service platform, he empowers companies to grow and deliver outstanding support across all channels, through practical implementations of AI, data-driven insights and a customer-centric approach.
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