The Key to Productive Meetings? Cancel Them! 7 Meetings to Scrap

productive meetings

Dave Nevogt is the CEO and co-founder of Hubstaff Have you ever been enjoying a productive streak when — out of nowhere — a meeting invite interrupts your day? He leads a 100% remote team that builds time tracking and productivity tools, including the Agile project management software, Hubstaff Tasks.

Have you ever been enjoying a productive streak when — out of nowhere — a meeting invite interrupts your day?

Or, has someone ever requested a meeting with you, and after some investigation, you realize that this could have been answered in an email?

Let’s face it, meetings are often met with disdain, and for good reason: many are unnecessary.

You can tell by how often meetings are studied, and how much time goes into rethinking them. It turns out that:

  • 73% of people multitask while in meetings. Clearly, most meetings are not worth our full attention.
  • Detailed agendas can decrease the amount of meeting time up to 80%. Yet only 37% percent of companies use them.

It’s time to make a change. And that change is to clear your schedule as much as possible. Fortunately, this Process Street blog post is here to guide you in making these changes.

Let’s dive in! 🚀

The benefits of holding productive meetings

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As I previously mentioned, meetings are often wasteful or poorly planned. This is why reducing meetings can help with your personal organization and overall workflow.

Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of cutting back on your meetings:

1. Increased productivity

Meetings take time out of the day, especially those that are planned unexpectedly.

When your team is focused or working toward a deadline, calling a meeting can pull people out of flow state. As a project manager or team lead, this is the opposite of what you want.

Plus, if you’re inviting freelancers who bill by the hour, this is one less hour they can actually get work done.

Pro tip: Thinking of meetings in terms of everyone’s hourly bill rates can help you decide who absolutely needs to be there and who can skip the meeting.

By avoiding unnecessary meetings or moving meetings to bi-weekly or monthly, you increase the overall productivity of your team. All the while, giving them more precious work time to focus on their priorities.

2. Free-flowing communication

Gone are the days where you need an in-person meeting just to share a status update. We don’t need everyone to spend 30 minutes together just to give a 2-minute update.

When you have daily status meetings, many people hold onto their updates until that meeting. Even if they finish the project the day before, the meeting becomes the deadline. As you can imagine, this is not ideal.

Instead, use technology to keep teams updated throughout the day. Messaging apps, project management tools, and shared documents allow people to share their progress as they go. Everyone stays in the loop without having to huddle up every morning.

3. Higher expectations

Many times, meetings are called without fully thinking through if they are warranted.

There are no clear objectives and the participants don’t understand why you called it in the first place. Instead, encourage everyone to think twice before hitting “send invite”.

As an organization, determine when a meeting is needed and what steps to take in order to book time. Requiring agendas is a good first step.

This will make you better prepared if you truly need a meeting, and make sure you get the answers you need from holding one.

Plus, it will help your team know what they need to contribute before jumping on a call.

4. Lock down answers sooner

One of the most common types of meetings, the project kickoff, requires the PM or project lead to gather a wealth of information before gathering the group.

The temptation is to schedule a meeting as soon as possible, often before all the questions have been answered.

What’s the budget? Timeline? Scope? Who’s working on what?

There’s no doubt that these questions (and more) will come up in a project kickoff meeting.

Until you have all the pieces in place — or at least the pieces that the team will need to get started — it’s best to hold off on that meeting. This might inspire teams to get the information together sooner so that the meeting can get booked.

5. Meetings become valuable

A lot of people complain about a full day of meetings. On the other hand, you rarely hear someone bothered by the rare meeting they have coming up this week.

When you make an effort to reduce meetings and set clear expectations about when to schedule them, every gathering becomes more important.

You’ll get more attention and focus in your meetings if your team isn’t spending all day, every day in them.

This is crucial when you have important events to schedule, such as company-wide updates to give or all-hands meetings. Plus, with schedules more open, finding a time for a large group meeting is much easier.

The 7 secrets to productive meetings: Which meetings should you cancel?

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Now you know why you should cut back on meetings.

The question now is: Where to start?

It’s not easy to make meeting changes, especially because everyone has different requirements. Creative teams might love the move to fewer meetings while planning teams might dread it.

That said, we think there are seven meetings you can avoid altogether. By improving the situation around each one, you can encourage all of your team members to embrace the change.

1. Meetings without an agenda or end time

If your organization often calls meetings that are disorganized, these are the first ones to go.

When there is no set agenda, meetings often run over and nothing gets accomplished.

The same is true if a meeting is called last minute and there is no end time set. In this case, participants have no idea how long the meeting will take.

How to improve this situation:
A better approach to meetings is to create an agenda. Include the main points you will cover and who is presenting on each one, and break down time allotments.

Link to the agenda in the meeting request when you first send it. Make sure to dedicate time to each part of the meeting and be strict about not going over.

Going over on time doesn’t just prolong meetings; it’s disrespectful to others whose time gets cut short.

The Process Street checklist (which is free btw) below helps you to bring some structure to your meetings. This particular checklist was designed for stand-up meetings, however, you can edit it to meet your personal requirements. To learn more about editing checklists check out our help page.

Click here to get the Stand-up Meeting Checklist!

2. Surprise meetings

When someone decides at the last minute to call a meeting, it’s fair to wonder if the meeting needs to happen at all. Especially if the meeting is with four or more people.

Often, these meetings originate from a conversation that’s escalating between two people. These individuals decide to call a larger meeting to get more input or to try and reach a consensus.

The issue is the other participants often don’t understand what the meeting is about, nor how to prepare. This leads to a disorganized call where nothing gets resolved.

How to improve this situation:
If, for example, a question or solution can’t be reached over email or through a side conversation between a couple of team members, plan a meeting.

Explain in the meeting request why you are calling this meeting, what will be discussed, and resolutions you hope to reach. Link to relevant documents and provide a clear background on the issue.

That way, everyone feels the meeting is justified, there is no communication breakdown, and no one enters a surprise meeting with their guard up.

3. Regular, frequent status meetings

Everyone has a to-do list and tasks they are responsible for as part of a team.

While it’s necessary to communicate with one another, it’s not always necessary to hold a regular status meeting.

When scheduled too frequently, status meetings can disrupt workflows and actually stall tasks needing attention. Worse, one team member can monopolize the entire conversation, leading to other team members simply multitasking while on the call.

How to improve this situation:
Replace your status meeting with powerful project management software. Add tasks, assign them to team members, and comment within the project so everyone can stay informed. Take your efficiency and communication efforts one step further and embrace agile project management.

This keeps teams moving forward and doesn’t push deadlines back. Plus, if a team member has a question, they don’t need to wait for a meeting to get their answer.

4. Meetings with too many speakers

There are several reasons to hold large meetings, like a quarterly finance call or a kickoff meeting for a new fiscal year.

However, inviting too many people to speak at these meetings becomes problematic. The meeting can run long, or you could lose your audience’s attention by switching topics.

How to improve this situation:
Limit the number of people you invite to a call. For example, if you are holding a meeting across three departments, ask one representative from each department to attend.

Then, those people can go back to their team and communicate what happened. And if you can’t pare down the number of individuals on a call, appoint one person to moderate the meeting. This person can call on select people for information. This keeps the meeting moving along.

5. Incomplete meetings

For whatever reason, people are not always in the office at the same time.

Maybe people are out on vacation, sick for the day, or have a fire drill that takes the place of the meeting you planned.

Holding these meetings when a crucial participant can’t attend leads to half decisions and a wasted block of time.

How to improve this situation:
If your meeting participants say they can’t attend a scheduled meeting or decline an online meeting when they have previously said yes, it’s best to cancel your meeting.

Then ask people when they are available to reschedule the meeting.

Likewise, if you are holding a meeting online through a system like Microsoft Teams, mark these team members as optional. Then you’ll know if anyone who must be present declines the meeting, and that you need to reschedule it.

6. Back-to-back meetings

It’s hard for anyone to pivot directions quickly or pick up a new train of thought in a few seconds.

So scheduling back-to-back meetings is never a good idea.

This leaves no time to prepare for the next meeting or look over notes as to what should be discussed.

What if the first meeting runs long and you have to jump off a call or move conference rooms to quickly get to the next meeting?

How to improve this situation:
Rely on your calendar system. Check each participants’ calendars and see what meetings are taking place that day. Then, look for space in their schedules where they have a little room on either side of the meeting.

That way there is time to have a focused discussion where no one feels rushed to jump to the next meeting.

7. Open-ended meetings

How you run your meeting is just as important as how you end it.

If you hold a meeting and run through the agenda without clarifying the next steps, you’re missing half of the meeting. Participants will leave feeling frustrated that they just wasted time, and unsure about what is being asked of them.

How to improve this situation:
Instead of an open-ended meeting, you need to add some closure.

Save a few minutes for the end of the meeting to recap what was discussed, the next steps, and who is responsible for which new tasks.

Assign out every step so that it’s 100% clear to your team. Don’t wait for questions at the end. Take charge and say, for example: “To recap, Sara, is building the customer survey and Marcus will analyze the feedback and share findings with the team”.

Then discuss a method to ensure that everyone is handling what was decided to take place.

Avoid overload and focus solely on productive meetings

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Meetings are necessary, but many are either poorly planned or not needed in the first place.

Next time you call a meeting or sift through openings in company calendars, think before you act. Ask yourselves if a meeting is really necessary, if it meets your organization’s requirements, and if it is planned properly so that everyone attending sees its value.

By doing this, you’ll improve overall company communication and only hold meetings when they will help productivity.

Further, team members will be more present and more willing to attend when they see the value in it for themselves.

How can Process Street help you run productive meetings?

Process Street helps you run more efficient meetings by setting out all of the key action items in a simple, intuitive checklist. For example, check out this virtual meeting checklist that covers everything from setting up, inviting, recording notes, key discussion items, and even post-meeting tasks. Stop wasting time in meetings that lack structure and use Process Street to optimize all of your recurring meetings. It’s completely free to sign up and takes about 2 minutes.

You can use Process Street to document all of your business processes, procedures, and workflows. To learn more check out the YouTube video below:

We also have heaps of pre-made templates that you can dive in and start using, simply sign-up to gain access. Here are some templates relating specifically to productive meetings:

The writers here at Process Street have also published heaps of valuable content concerning productivity and increased organization.

And that’s your lot! ⭐️

We’d love to hear about the different techniques you use to ensure your meetings are productive in the comments. Who knows? You may even get featured in an upcoming article!

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Molly Stovold

Hey, I'm Molly, Junior Content Writer at Process Street with a First-Class Honors Degree in Development Studies & Spanish. I love writing so much that I also have my own blog where I write about everything that interests me; from traveling solo to mindful living. Check it out at mollystovold.com.


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