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A Guide to Minimizing Meetings: 10 Tips

Learn how being a meeting minimizer can save your employees from burnout and provide other benefits!

By Alexandria Hewko  •   August 3, 2023  •   7 min read

Meetings are a fantastic place for teams to collaborate, brainstorm, discuss, and gain alignment, but they can also easily become a place for going off on tangents, talking through unnecessary topics, and avoiding actual work. Remote teams are especially sensitive to spending time in unnecessary meetings as the average time in meetings increased by 25.3% when virtual meetings became more popular. To help get teams back into a productive meeting routine, we’ve outlined 10 of our best tips for minimizing meeting time and making the meetings you do have as impactful as possible! 

Signs that you’re having too many meetings

Meetings go over time 

Teams that are overwhelmed are also usually rushed to cover a lot of topics. As a result, they will notice their meetings frequently go over time. This might also be because teams aren’t setting actual goals for their time together, which runs the risk of having directionless conversations for the duration of the call. 

Meeting attendees are burned out

Burnout is extremely common, having affected at least 70% of employees at some point in their careers. Meeting burnout occurs when employees are attending so many meetings that they are no longer interested in attending calls, they don’t have time to attend to personal needs like eating or going to the washroom, and they are not interested in engaging in the discussion at hand. 

Meetings are unproductive

Meetings become unproductive when employees don’t have the time to prepare ahead of each call. The preparation time is needed to ensure a relevant agenda is built and distributed to all participants, and allows attendees to do any advance research or documentation collection that will be discussed in the meeting.

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Meeting engagement is lost

A great meeting happens when participants are excited to share ideas, feedback, and updates on projects. But when meeting engagement is low, it means that something that no longer motivates your team members to be actively participating is going on. For example, there may be too many meetings happening for employees to have any interest in them anymore.

Team members are avoiding responsibilities

Burned-out employees might seek to avoid their responsibilities—like taking notes, tracking the time, or completing assigned action items—in meetings. They may feel like they’re already done enough of these responsibilities in other meetings that they don’t want to continue with them in additional calls.

10 tips for minimizing meetings

1Review your recurring meetings

The first step to minimizing your meetings is to do a thorough review of the ones that are already expected on your schedule. Recurring meetings like weekly one-on-ones or team check-in calls are helpful to align your team on common goals and progress. However, it might be worth evaluating if your team can operate independently, go with less frequent check-ins, or host meetings asynchronously instead.

2Define a meeting purpose 

The meeting’s purpose is helpful to define why you’d like to gather a group of people. If you’re struggling to define the purpose and goals of the call, the meeting shouldn’t be held at all. The meeting’s purpose statement should also be shared with all of the attendees at least one business day ahead of the call to ensure that you agree that the meeting’s purpose is valuable and worth setting aside time for. 

3Make meetings optional

It sounds like a nice idea to require your full team to be in attendance for each call, especially for team events like brainstorming meetings, weekly progress reports, or post-mortem reflection calls. However, your employees may not be able to make every mandatory meeting if they have additional responsibilities with customers or other internal teams. Making meetings optional grants flexibility for your team members to balance your needs with theirs. To ensure they still receive the information from the meeting, you can record the call, summarize the talking points with an AI meeting notes tool, or share the action items after the call. 

4Ask for meeting feedback

Meeting feedback is important! As a manager, you might think that you already have a solid understanding of how your team perceives and works within meetings, but opening the floor to feedback allows you to get more perspectives that you might not have considered. You’ll gain a more comprehensive understanding of which styles of meetings your team prefers and they can help you identify which calls aren’t productive in their minds. Try integrating meeting feedback collection at the end of each call with a quick survey distribution!

5Only say yes to meetings with an agenda

Just as having a meeting purpose is essential to ensuring your time is spent productively, you should also seek to have a meeting agenda in place for every call that you attend! A meeting agenda should also be built and distributed to attendees at least one business day in advance. Its function is to ensure that all attendees agree on the talking points for the call and provide some time estimates for each point. With an agenda in place, you can also effectively prepare for the conversation ahead of time.

At Fellow, we have a saying “no agenda, no attenda“. If your upcoming meeting agenda has no content waiting to be discussed, there may not be anything to talk about. In those situations, it’s fine to just cancel the meeting.

With Fellow’s Time Saver automation, you can do this automatically. Fellow will identify meetings with no agenda and will either automatically cancel these meetings (freeing up room in your calendar) or give attendees the option to cancel manually.

6Decline pointless meetings

Have you ever found yourself sitting in a meeting wondering why the conversation had to happen in person, or why it even happened at all? If you’ve had this thought before, take action on it! Decline any meeting that doesn’t make sense to you and offer an alternative route for communication. For example, as an alternative to attending a brainstorming meeting for an upcoming event that you’re not working on, offer to send a short list of ideas by email instead. It’s also helpful to tell your colleague why you’re declining the meeting so they know how to optimize their own meeting efficiently in the future, too!

7Only invite attendees who need to be there

In theory, it sounds like a great idea to bring in every thought leader and high authority from your company into one room. After all, why not bring the best minds and decision-making power together? But in reality, having too many perspectives to consider at once can contribute to the risk of meetings going over time. Instead, try working with smaller groups that only need to see and make decisions on the project areas that are relevant to them. For example, only bring your chief financial officer (CFO) to the part of the meeting where they need to approve the budget. The rest of the meeting about execution might not be as relevant to them, so the CFO is better off spending their time outside of the call. 

8Consider asynchronous meetings

Asynchronous meetings are a great option to minimize meetings without affecting your team’s ability to collaborate in a shared space. They work by creating shared meeting agendas in a tool like Fellow, and then having team members add comments, updates, and feedback directly in the document within a set time period. And because asynchronous communication enables employees to chip in with responses at a time when it’s convenient to them, it’s ideal for remote teams to try out, too! 

9Try meeting-free days 

In January 2023, Shopify announced major changes to how it handles company meetings. Some of the changes include avoiding recurring meetings and having meeting-free days. The benefit of having meeting-free days is that team members don’t feel forced to attend meetings just because they’re on their calendars. Instead, they can incorporate more deep focus time that might be hard to find elsewhere in the week. Then, on the days that meetings are allowed, any planned meetings are more intentional and backed by a purpose.

10Time your meetings 

You might be surprised how much time you actually spend in meetings per year. All of this time adds up quickly if you calculate the hourly salary of every attendee for every meeting they’re in. To make a more conscious effort about how you earn a return on investment (ROI) from your employees, opt to time every meeting. In Fellow, once the meeting starts you’ll see a countdown clock under the title of the note. This will reflect the amount of time remaining in the meeting and will countdown as the meeting progresses. As a bonus, meeting timers will also nudge you to end your meetings on time by reminding you when the end of the meeting window is coming up.

Bonus: Your meetings are costing you more than you think. Find out how much it costs to bring your team together with Fellow’s Meeting Cost Calculator!

Parting advice

Because of how much time teams already spend in meetings each week, looking at how to minimize meeting times is a great way to start thinking about productivity improvements in your company. Becoming more intentional about your team’s meeting attendance can reduce the risk of burnout, ensure that you’re more likely to get the decisions needed to move projects forward, and help you build in more calendar time for deep focus work. As you start working on minimizing meetings, remember to ask your team for feedback frequently as their perspectives are important too!

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