A single question can cut useless meetings from your schedule forever

Do you need to be here?
Do you need to be here?
Image: AP Photo/Steve Helber
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Meetings are a serious drain on an organization’s time and resources, consuming up to 17% of the workweek and an estimated $37 billion per year.

Some confabs are inarguably essential to business operations, and others . . . aren’t. Vague or nonexistent agendas, rooms full of people who aren’t sure why they’re there, and participant grandstanding can all consume precious time and energy without delivering much value.

Ron Carucci, a founder of the organizational consulting firm Navalent, recently shared the key question he asks clients who need to cull their meetings calendar. “In my experience, meetings being ineffective is often an indicator that they shouldn’t be occurring,” Carucci wrote in the Harvard Business Review (paywall). “To test this, I ask groups, ‘If you stopped meeting, who besides you would care?’ If they struggle to respond, I have my answer.”

Think about it: Do you need to hold that meeting? Does everyone involved in the project already know what needs to be done, and now actually needs to go do it? Can you wrap up points over email? If the project is still in the idea stage, will a group talk move you forward, or is that time better spent strategizing how the work fits with broader goals?

Questioning the value of meetings upfront can save time and frustration later. “Even a short meeting can have a cascading effect, whether it’s forcing you to switch contexts or preventing you from beginning an ambitious project because you know that a mid-day interruption awaits,” Quartz At Work’s Khe Hy has written. “We should always be asking ourselves, ‘Is this meeting necessary?’”