How Many Meetings a Day Is Too Many?
I once watched someone fall asleep in a meeting. It was early in my career and I was sitting in a quarterly business review. The organizer had scheduled one hour — but the meeting time bloated to more than three hours. Worse, it was after lunch. As the afternoon stretched on, I could hardly blame the sales colleague sitting next to me for briefly nodding off.
The scene is still playing out today, even more so. Because we are spending too much time in meetings.
In fact, researchers found that meetings in the workplace are now longer and more frequent than ever before. The average executive spends nearly 23 hours a week in scheduled meetings. Note that this study referenced “scheduled” meetings — we can probably tack on another 10 for impromptu calls.
I recently brought this up on LinkedIn by posing the question, “How many meetings a day is too many?” It must have hit a nerve because I was flooded with comments. Some folks answered my question with fixed numbers (ranging from two to seven hours) while others simply vented about how their workday was bloated with recurring meetings. Yet most everyone agreed on one thing.
When it comes to meetings, like most things, it is not the quantity that matters. It is the quality.
We spend as little time in meetings as possible at Aha! Yet I still find my schedule filling up fast. I expect this because of my role, but I do my best to align the meetings I attend with where I can add the most value. The key is knowing where the business most needs my attention and where I can best help the team. And I am comfortable gently saying no to almost everything else.
I realize that not everyone has this luxury. You might be thinking, “It would be great to decline every nonsense meeting invite that comes my way.” But you do not always have this control. Well, you do have some control. You can help improve the meetings you lead and regularly go to. At the most basic level, you should not have a meeting without an agenda.
Our team at Aha! recently rolled out a meeting agenda template internally to streamline the meetings that we do have. Our goal is to make sure the time we spend together is productive and results-oriented. We create a new agenda for each meeting and make it available to all participants in a shared note. This gives everyone the chance to see what is planned ahead of time and add any of their own content.
Below is an example of a meeting agenda template that you can copy and use with your own team. We suggest that you send it out at least four hours before your meeting begins:
Meeting title: _________________________
Meeting date: ________________________
Action items from last week
Updates on work in progress
New action items to review at next week’s meeting
You should also send out the notes and follow-up action items from the meeting within four hours of the meeting ending.
A clear agenda gives your meetings purpose — templates make it possible to operationalize for success.
Meetings should not be an annoying time-suck or the reason you cannot get your work done each day. They should be a time for teamwork and making progress. You can help make this happen by suggesting that each meeting starts with an agenda and ends with action items for moving forward.
If you do, you might find that you become less focused on your packed schedule and more focused on getting meaningful work done. And who knows, you might even have time for a lunch break.
How many meetings do you have every day — and how are you making them more productive?
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