Have Less Meetings, Get More Done

By Jared Korver, CPA

Here’s a rhetorical question I already know the answer to: Have you ever pulled in to your driveway on a Tuesday evening and thought, “Holy smokes, I got nothing done today. I was at the office for ten hours and I got nothing done.” Of course you have. We all have.

But why do we sometimes spend so much time at the office only to accomplish so little in the way of actual work? Is it Facebook? Twitter? YouTube? Pinterest? ESPN? I’m about to link to a TED talk—are TED talks to blame for this? Am I to blame for this?

I don’t think so. Your phone isn’t the best thing for your productivity, but it’s not responsible for those throwaway days.

As Jason Fried says in this TED talk I promised I’d link to, for many of us, “It’s like the front door of the office is a Cuisinart, and you walk in and your day is shredded to bits.” You’ve got so many meetings and interruptions and more meetings and more interruptions—sometimes it’s a wonder anything gets done.

All of these meetings and interruptions are happening in the name of work, but the issue is they don’t leave big enough chunks of time for us to consider the work problem at hand, to really study it and think deeply through potential solutions and then go about executing on the solution we ultimately arrive at.

So, if you are in the habit of calling a meeting as a primary response to a problem, maybe step back and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” (Probably not.) And if you decide that a meeting is absolutely necessary, consider these tips from Seth Godin:

  1. Understand that all problems are not the same. So why are your meetings? Does every issue deserve an hour? Why is there a default length?
  2. Schedule meetings in increments of five minutes. Require that the meeting organizer have a truly great reason to need more than four increments ofrealtime face time.
  3. Require preparation. Give people things to read or do before the meeting, and if they don’t, kick them out.
  4. Remove all the chairs from the conference room. I’m serious.
  5. If someone is more than two minutes later than the last person to the meeting, they have to pay a fine of $10 to the coffee fund.
  6. Bring an egg timer to the meeting. When it goes off, you’re done. Not your fault, it’s the timer’s.
  7. The organizer of the meeting is required to send a short email summary, with action items, to every attendee within ten minutes of the end of the meeting.
  8. Create a public space (either a big piece of poster board or a simple online page) that allows attendees to rate meetings and their organizers on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of usefulness. Just a simple box where everyone can write a number. Watch what happens.
  9. If you’re not adding value to a meeting, leave. You can always read the summary later.

What about you? Do you have neat solutions for reducing the number of meetings in your office and making the essential ones count?

Jared Korver, CPA, works at Beacon Wealthcare, where he helps CPAs and attorneys spend more time doing the things they care about by providing ongoing advice and insight into their financial decisions. A product of Carthage, North Carolina, Jared and his wife Amy live in Raleigh with their son. Jared holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting from Appalachian State University and NC State University, respectively. He can be reached at jkorver@beaconwc.com.