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To Have or Not to Have a Meeting

It has been estimated that $37 Billion is wasted every year in in unnecessary meetings, 25 - 50% of each meeting is wasted time and nearly three quarters of all people work on other things during a meeting.

There are people I've worked with who spend over 80% of their time in meetings. These meetings rarely have an agenda, often start late because a previous meeting overruns and there is rarely a structure or purpose. These are what I call "Micro-Meetings", and while they are designed to make you feel busy, they actually stop you from getting any real work done.

The mindset is that if you schedule meetings from 9 to 5 you must be working hard throughout the day. Here lies the misconception, working hard is not the same as getting things done.

That being said, meetings are an essential and effective tool for pushing business forward. So how do you know if you actually need a meeting?

There are two simple questions you need to ask:

1. Do you need to make a decision about something?

2. Does this decision need to be discussed?

I call these the "Meeting Mediator" questions. If you answer yes to both of these questions then a meeting would be a good idea. If not, you can probably make do with a quick phone call or email.

Here's an example of a situation that recently came up:

Three people had to review and approve a document

We were about to schedule a meeting to go through the document, but we stopped and thought about it.

1. Did a decision need to be made? Yes, the document had to be approved

2. Did the decision need to be discussed? Not yet. If everyone approves the document then nothing needs to be discussed and no meeting is needed.

So we decided to all review the document at our leisure and send our approval by email. If one of us did not approve the document or was unsure about something, then there would be a legitimate reason to set a meeting up and discuss it.

There is one other scenario where you may want to consider arranging a meeting, which is when you need to add a personal touch to the situation. Meetings can be a great way to build relationships with people, and if you are trying to get to know someone better, a face-to-face chat can be the best way.

Next time someone suggests a meeting, ask yourself the two "Meeting Mediator" questions. If you can avoid another meeting, you will be doing your bit to save $37 Billion in wasted time.

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