Meetings are the worst. And complaining about them is so in right now. Everyone loves to talk about how much they hate meetings. Google “I hate meetings” or “meetings suck” and there are more articles, lists, how (not) to’s to take up an entire day of reading. Because you have a ton of time for that right now.
Have you noticed that people who have actual work to do, hate meetings the most? Makes sense, right? Do you work with people who love to call a lot of baseless meetings? Observe them. Are they really doing anything that requires concentration during the course of the day? Just sayin’. Think about it, get back to us.
So, why do people hate meetings? Because meetings disturb the flow of thought, creativity and progress. They are a loss to profit and create job dissatisfaction. Most meetings act as interruptions, and work interruptions have a proven track record of decreasing morale, happiness and the bottom line. (See this article that uses the term “time bandits”. And this article with a lot of really cool graphics. And this one that has the scholarly charts and things. Basically, there’s a lot of existing research on this that we didn’t have to conduct ourselves.)
So what to do? We can’t do completely away with meetings, because no agency is an island. There are people and projects co-dependently churning. Communication has to take place for progress to happen – yes, occasionally IN PERSON. But as we improve our processes and streamline the things that hopefully make Ambient its best and happiest self, we’re trying to implement better meeting practices to decrease interruptions to productivity.
How? Well, to start, we’ve found that certain times of the day are generally better suited to meetings:
FIRST THING IN THE MORNING
The Ritual of the Coffee Drinking is a practice we love around here. While the coffee is brewing, being poured, consumed and kicking in, rather than surfing the same Instagram feed we’ve already perused twelve times since waking up (and hitting the obligatory like on Aunt Barb’s blurry, X-PRO—filtered graduation pics of Cousin #4), we have a quick production calendar pow-wow. There’s no official agenda, there’s no time blocked off on the calendar – just a fast conversation, while standing even. Often near the coffee maker, let’s be honest.
What do we need to do today?
What are you working on?
What’s today’s priority?
Ok, great, bye.
About sums it up. No Tyranny of the Official Meeting is going to hijack half our day with self-important fanfare.
END OF THE DAY
Some meetings can take place at the end of the day, because they’re not relevant to the day’s work. Project debriefs, creative reviews, policy planning, internal assessments, performance reviews, and any client work not requiring urgent attention (as in, it’s currently on time and on budget) can be relegated to the end of the day.
Meetings having to do with company culture, work activities, volunteer opportunities, special events planning, cat videos, talking about how your friend went to the Rihanna concert, also don’t have to take up prime concentration time. Usually by 4:00 or 5:00 PM, many people have already checked out of work and checked into whomever they’re stalking on Facebook, anyway. Why not gather around with some beer in hand and chat about things that don’t require everyone’s laptops, pens and pads.
This is a controversial one. Occasionally, there are things that require a meeting of all the relevant minds, but they’re so low on the priority scale that they will never make it on the daytime docket. However, if left unattended they’ll eventually cause undesirable results.
These things are usually related to your company itself, and include seemingly minor decisions from office decorating to party planning to finding ways to improve culture. They can also be be bigger and carry weightier implications, like creating a social media strategy, developing engaging agency content and website re-designs and updates. At a small company, or in a small department, it’s easy to push aside tasks and activities that aren’t generated by clients – work that brings in money often rules the day with its perfectly designed iron fist.
Off hours meetings can be a great way to resolve some of these needs and are often mentally freeing to creativity and collaboration. The lunch hour, evenings, weekends and other “not office hours” blocks don’t have to carry the stigma of being off-limits. If they are an invitation (not mandatory), have definite starting and stopping points, are clear about the expected results/outcomes, and come with free food and drinks (or compensation if it’s appropriate), they can lead to great progress on internal projects and bring your team closer together.
Sometimes, the best time for a meeting is never. We have a client for whom we put out a digital monthly industry newsletter. For a while, every month, we would meet internally to talk about what’s going in the newsletter. We’d use a whole hour to “curate” articles and talk about “strategy.” Then one day, we just started collecting ideas in Basecamp, communicating (quickly) about direction on HipChat and emailing the client for approval. That’s it. And it’s just fine. And the client is happy. No one had to stop what they were doing to use up an hour of their day on something that definitely did not require a meeting. We employ this tactic liberally now, across many projects and tasks.
Do you have something that can be easily shared for feedback on a digital platform? Do you feel a burning need to gather people to talk about it in person in the middle of the day? Looks like the only people available are Nobody and No-one. Use your time better!
These are few things we’re trying to make the day more productive and meetings more tolerable. How meetings are actually run and how to make them beneficial across the board – that is a subject for another blog. What do you do to make meetings less awful? Share your ideas with us – we want more ways to reduce the need for this necessary evil. firstname.lastname@example.org