Anybody working in an office knows the frustration of a meeting that could’ve been an email. Indeed, other people are not necessarily as conscious of your time as you are, so you must take active steps to protect your time and minimize the number of unnecessary meetings you attend in a day. It may seem challenging if you’re wondering how to reduce unnecessary meetings without being rude or offending colleagues. Luckily, there are a few tactful ways that you can address this problem and protect your time.
1. Time Block Your Work Calendar
One of the best ways to eliminate unnecessary meetings is to time block your work calendar before the day begins. To do so, you’ll need to carefully divide every hour into a designated block of time, labeling it to indicate the task you’ll be doing at that time. Time blocking is a great way to account for every minute in your day so that there’s no spare time to be stolen by a meeting. It’s also a genuinely helpful strategy for time management that can help you focus on a specific task.
2. Propose Alternatives
If you have a colleague who continuously schedules work meetings that are a waste of time, you may try initiating a conversation about the necessity of these meetings. If their meeting request doesn’t hold up to scrutiny — as it likely won’t — you should suggest some other methods of communication. Remind your colleague that they could send out an email to the team, for example, or post a bulletin in the break room to share the information in question. Many alternatives can spare you from a meeting you don’t need to attend.
3. Learn to Decline
Sometimes you need to say no. Although this is difficult, it’s imperative if you want to stay out of unnecessary meetings. Remember that when you decline, you don’t need to offer an excuse or justification — and in many cases, this may even make things worse. Instead, offer a polite “no thanks” and resume the tasks you are working on. Your colleague may be tempted to take this personally, but once you set an example, other team members will likely follow suit and decline. This will make it evident that their meetings do not bring value to the team.
4. Request a Meeting Agenda
Requesting a meeting agenda is yet another savvy way to excuse yourself from an unnecessary meeting. When you receive the invitation, ask the meeting organizer if they would be able to send a meeting agenda before the scheduled time. It’s improbable that they will be able to accommodate this request, and you can explain that your day is already filled, so you’ll be unable to attend. Asking for a meeting agenda also reminds meeting organizers that their meetings should always be purposeful.
5. Have Daily or Weekly Team Meetings
Perhaps the most effective way to eliminate unnecessary meetings is to schedule regular meetings. If a meeting is scheduled every day or week that allows team members to voice their ideas, they will be far less likely to schedule their mini-meetings throughout the week. When you’re coordinating your regular team meetings, be sure to build in time for comments and concerns from other team members. This will ensure that everybody gets a chance to speak up, making additional meetings superfluous. Invest in an online meeting platform that allows everybody — in-person or remote — to communicate clearly.