Executive Coaching Articles

Just Say No… to Meetings

A client told me how frustrating it is to attend meetings all day. He can’t get any of his work done and it’s basically impossible to have any semblance of a healthy work-life balance. Unfortunately, the amount of time you spend in meetings increases as you advance within the organization. Anyone at the director level knows that they are gone often from 9 to 5 just attending meetings. They barely have time to check email or voice mail. Attending to their important projects becomes almost impossible unless they work longer and later hours.

Many companies have a meeting-driven culture. It’s an opportunity to connect, chat or just catch-up. Often times, the meeting wasn’t actually needed at all or you just don’t need to attend.

You can’t change the culture. The meetings will always be there, but your time will not. So how to we deal with a meeting-dominated work environment? Here are some tips.

  1. Leave meetings early. If you don’t need to be at the meeting the entire time, leave early so you can get other work done. This might feel impossible to do because it might appear like you don’t care. However, informing the meeting organizer that you have something important that needs to get done is a great excuse free up time to higher priority work.
  2. Delegate the meetings to someone else. You can delegate and empower someone else to attend the meeting in your place. Afterwards, ask him or her to “download” the important points so you are still informed.
  3. Suggest alternatives to meetings. Oftentimes, a memo, quick conference call or one-on-one discussion can take the place of a formal meeting. If you sense an opportunity to stamp out an unnecessary meeting, take the initiative. You’ll not only free up time for yourself, you’ll win the undying admiration of your coworkers.
  4. For each meeting, decide how important it is for you to attend. Compare your most urgent, important projects to each meeting you need to attend. Decide which is more worthy of your time. Most of the time you will choose the important work and decide the meeting is less important. This will help you learn how to say no to meetings.
  5. Make sure meetings are prepared, have a clear agenda and a limited time frame. You can influence the people who are preparing the meeting to be prepared and have a clear and defined agenda. Suggest a time limit on each discussion item and the meeting itself so it can run smoothly and efficiently.
  6. Go to 50% of the meetings you are currently attending. If you compare which is more important – attending meetings or getting your more important projects done — you will realize that you can eliminate at least 50% of the meetings you attend. By making this choice you will be focused on what is most important and becoming more productive.
  7. Block out time in your calendar to do the work that is being pushed aside by meetings. You have emails, things on your to-do list, projects and tasks that need to get done daily. Block out time during your day to catch up and get the work done. You will send a message to yourself and others that getting your work done is a priority.