Dilbert Wally

Whether you like it or not, meetings are a significant time suck in your professional life. Irrespective of whether you have email, messaging, or other collaborative solutions at your workplace, you will still end up attending a lot of meetings in-person or online - and more often than not, they still feel like a waste of time.

Let’s put that perception aside and look at the data. Folks at LucidMeetings have done some detailed analysis.

Some eye-opening stats

Number of meetings

While there isn’t a standardized way to count this, here is an estimate based on some data and extrapolation. These statistics are staggering:

  • In the US alone, approximately 55 million meetings happen every single day
  • If you’re a manager, on average you’re probably meeting 12 times/week
  • If you’re an individual contributor, on average you’re probably meeting 8 times/week

Effectiveness of meetings

Most people actually think meetings are useful and good, but of course, there is some room for improvement as well -

  • 69% of people said meetings were good and productive
  • 31% of people said they weren’t productive

Why do we do so many meetings?

Not all meetings are wasteful or unnecessary. In fact, if they’re done well, they’re very effective in:

  • putting names to faces
  • building relationships
  • bringing alignment and clarity
  • getting things done and making progress

Unfortunately, this is frequently not the case with the way meetings are run today. A lot of them may feel like a waste of time because they require a lot of work for preparation, collaboration, and documentation.

Let’s look into that in detail and understand what’s a typical lifecycle of a meeting looks like.

A typical meeting lifecycle

In general, there are really 3 phases of any meeting’s lifecycle:

  • Before the meeting
  • During the meeting
  • After the meeting

And in each phase, there are typical tasks we do.

Before the meeting

  • Planning an agenda
  • Scheduling a meeting
  • Researching attendees
  • Preparing presentation or discussion material

During the meeting

  • Preparing to join a meeting (dialing into a conference bridge for online Vs planning a commute for in-person)
  • Deciding action items, respective owners, and timelines
  • Taking brief meeting notes

After the meeting

  • Writing detailed meeting notes
  • Sharing notes with attendees and colleagues who were not part of the meeting
  • Entering information into some system of record for tracking purposes
  • Completing your action items
  • Following up on others’ action items

What’s the cost of managing a meeting?

Now let’s understand what’s the true cost of running or managing (not attending) a meeting.

Low-value tasks

If you look at the list of all the tasks, you can identify there are certain tasks like scheduling a meeting, dialing into a conferencing bridge, or planning for external meeting commute - all are low-value tasks that busy professionals should not be doing.

These low-value tasks take somewhere between 2 to 5 minutes per each task to do.

High-value tasks

At the same time, there are certain tasks like planning an agenda, preparing discussion materials, taking detailed meeting notes, etc., which are high-value tasks, which busy professionals must do it, but they are doing it poorly because of multi-tasking or lack of time.

These high-value tasks typically take somewhere between 5 to 20 minutes per each task to do.

Significant time suck!

If you do some quick math and sum it all, you realize that you would be spending somewhere between 15-45 minutes managing activities around a single meeting (not actually attending)!

For the simplification, let’s average it out and assume -

On average, you’re spending 30 mins in managing a meeting.

And if you’re in a management role, then as per the research quoted above, you’re attending on average 12 meetings/week -

You’re spending 6 hours/week or 15% of your work week time just managing activities around meetings (again, not attending meetings).

That’s a significant portion of your work week!

Obviously, I just highlighted a problem that exists in our day-to-day life, and you might be wondering, but what’s the solution to this problem?

In the next week, I’ll write the second half of this post and share how can we get back 15% of our time, that we didn’t know we’re spending on just “managing” meetings, and not actually attending them!

This post is a part of a 3-part series on managing meetings effectively:

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