Better Meetings

Too many meetings? Why it happens & how to solve it

Too many meetings featured image

Imagine this – you’ve sat down at your desk, had your morning coffee, and you’re ready to get down to some deep and productive work.

Oh, but, what’s that? Your calendar is pinging you. You have one team meeting, two 1:1s, and a brainstorm session today that you need to prep for. 

And just like that… your focus is gone.

Schitt's Creek GIF
Image Source: Giphy

When meetings happen too often, they become an unproductive waste of time that causes people to disengage from work. Before you know it, you have a culture of boredom and burnout (instead of collaboration and engagement).

In this guide, you’ll find out why you’re having so many unproductive meetings and how to streamline your meeting time once and for all.

Table of contents

  • What happens when you have too many meetings?

  • How many meetings per day is too many?

  • Why you may be having unnecessary meetings

  • 8 ways to reduce meetings

What happens when you have too many meetings?

Having too many meetings impacts the productivity of the whole team and can drain morale and motivation.  It makes sense:  if you’re constantly in one meeting after another, when are you going to get the time to do your actual work?

Some unfortunate news: your company probably spends too much time on meetings.  A typical 30-minute standup call consisting of 12 team members can take away 120 hours of focus time each month. According to the Harvard Business Review, the yearly amount of time that meetings take on a company level is a staggering 300,000 hours.

No wonder 92% of employees feel most meetings are unproductive and costly. 

Simply put, too much time in meetings affects your bottom line through lost productivity, while your employees lose engagement and focus.

How many meetings per day is too many?

It’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The number of meetings and the average meeting time vary depending on the type of organization, the number of team members,  the scope of projects, and more.

According to research, 83% of employees spend up to a third of the workweek in video meetings. Moreover, 31 hours are wasted a month on unproductive meetings – more than a full day!

Other research points to the fact that office workers are only truly productive for 2 hours 53 minutes each day. So, in reality, we’re working for no more than around three hours daily. Keeping this timeframe in mind, we don’t have enough time to spend locked in a meeting room giving real-time status updates.

So, where does this take us as to how many meetings are ideal in a day? 

It’s a question only you can answer. Take into account the time you’re already spending on meetings. Then try to come to a happy medium – enough meetings so that important ideas and updates are shared (and decisions made), but not so many as to take away precious time for deep work and productivity.

Why you could be having unnecessary meetings

The Harvard Business Review surveyed 128 senior managers in 2017 and found that 71% of them felt meetings were unproductive and inefficient; 65% said unproductive meetings keep them from their work.

Both unproductive meetings and too many meetings are a drag on a company's time and resources. Why in the world are we having so many?

Reason #1: You’re inviting too many people

It’s tempting to send out a meeting invitation to everyone who’s even remotely a stakeholder but hold your horses. Try to limit your meeting guests only to those people who are truly relevant to the agenda so you can avoid having an unproductive meeting.

Even a couple of extra people end up creating unnecessary complexity. 

There’s certainly no room for inviting people just for the sake of it. Keep your invite list as short as possible!

Reason #2: The meeting could have been something else

And when we say something else, it’s most often an email. “The meeting that should have been an email,” is a cliché for a reason.

If you can share the info in an email, a phone call, or even an instant message in an app like Slack, then there’s absolutely no point in having a meeting. Remember: not all communication needs to be synchronous!

Reason #3: You're not making decisions

Meetings are effective when they end up with the team making a concrete decision. So, be sure you’re making valuable decisions instead of just “discussing things” and writing them down. 

By not making any decisions and simply “discussing” the topic without concrete next steps, you’re wasting time and only contributing to your team’s meeting overload. 

Reason #4: You’re not using the right meeting software

Tools like Zoom and Meet are good at helping you see and hear one another, but they’re not the best at capturing meeting knowledge so you walk away knowing what to do next. 

With a video meeting platform like Vowel, you can record + transcribe every meeting, take collaborative notes (and follow along with the agenda), and bookmark important moments to revisit later. And everything is available instantly after the meeting is over — no waiting around for downloads or documents to be shared! 

Post-meeting screen in Vowel with summary

You can also plan meetings on Vowel — that way, you can streamline meeting preparation (a time killer that’s not often talked about!) and hold productive meetings where you’re focusing on the agenda and action items instead of worrying about who’s keeping the meeting’s minutes.

8 ways to reduce meetings

Identifying that you’re having too many meetings is one thing. But, how to deal with them? You can't simply avoid all meetings – they’re an integral part of working with others.

There are ways to control the number of meetings you’re having, while still being at your productive best – here they are and you can thank us later. 😉

1. Set an agenda (and follow it)

Having a  meeting agenda keeps people on the right track during a meeting. Before each meeting, you plan, and draft out an agenda that outlines the action items, discussion topics, and goals of the meeting.

Ideally, you’ll want to send the agenda out with the calendar invite to the meeting. This makes sure everyone is on the same page before the meeting begins. 

Setting an agenda with Vowel

Vowel’s meeting agendas help you do that because you don’t need an extra doc to share your agenda. 

An agenda in the invite that everyone can easily refer to means that nobody will show up wondering why they’re there. How’s that for making your meeting culture better?

2.  Cancel meetings that don’t work

Most recurring and ad hoc meetings with no clear purpose and goal are nudging people toward wasting time.  Why not simplify things and cancel all the useless or redundant meetings?

If you have a clear purpose or a vision for the outcome of the meeting then it’s probably worth holding.

Here’s a great litmus test: can you write a simple meeting purpose statement? If you have to think too long about it, your meeting probably doesn’t have a purpose and you should cancel it.

3. Reduce meeting time

Not every single meeting requires a full hour – or even half an hour to be honest. If you’re often scheduling meetings that run out of steam before the time you’ve blocked out for them expires – start scheduling shorter meetings. There’s no need to run out the clock with meaningless jabber.

You should instead use the extra time you have to do something productive. At the end of the day,  people are happier to leave meetings if they’re over earlier than expected. So, every time there are 10 minutes left and nothing to talk about, let the class leave early.

4. Get on board with  asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication is one of your best bets to reduce meeting overload. 

How?

The major benefit of asynchronous communication is that it reduces the need to rely on real-time meetings. 

By using email, instant messages, project management software, shared docs, and similar tools, you can brainstorm, make decisions, and get a lot of work done without ever having a face-to-face meeting.

For example, you can make Vowel work for you even after a meeting is over. The async communication features it offers turn all of your meetings into a dedicated knowledge base. People can simply search for what they need and use it asynchronously. 

Plus, anyone can create and share clips to offer more context to others over technical issues, insights, and decision-making.

5.  Evaluate weekly meeting productivity

Typically, organizations measure and evaluate different metrics regularly. This way, they know when something works and when it doesn’t. They can then move to pinpoint the problem area and solve it immediately. 

Turn that same critical eye to your meetings.

Team leaders, managers, and stakeholders should look back on all their previous meetings and pick out the things that work and the ones that don’t. By doing so, they can make all future meetings more consistent and productive. 

A good idea would be to use features like Vowel’s live transcription function which creates live transcripts from your meetings that you can scan for things like off-track conversations and other indicators of unproductive meetings.

You can also take notes, create multiple action items and manage time limits to ensure your future meetings are productive and successful.

6.  Have a “no-meeting” day (and follow it)

A no-meeting day is exactly what it sounds like: a day with absolutely no meetings!

Mackenzie Ziegler Whatever GIF By Kenzie
Image Source: Giphy

Well, it’s less “school’s out” and more “let’s all focus on deep work,” but your team members will appreciate a day without meetings nonetheless.

With no in-person or virtual meetings for a day, everyone can be better contributors during all the other meetings you have each week. Employees also get to enjoy an uninterrupted time of productivity.

7.  Make sure you invite the right people

There have been times in everyone’s life when we’ve attended meetings that have had no impact on the work we do. What a massive waste of time and productivity. 🙄

Take a brief pause before sending out your meeting invites. Double-check the invite list and try not to invite everyone to all meetings. Instead, consider how the meeting agenda will pan out and what each participant brings to the table. 

Once you’ve come to a better, more informed decision, hit send on that invite. 

8. Search your past meeting content instead of meeting again

Remember: having recurring meeting days with no clear goals reduces everyone’s output. That’s especially true when a particular issue was discussed in a previous meeting. 

Even if you think you’re adding something “important” to a previous discussion, your employees are likely to be distracted and disengaged. Instead, rely on searching your older, recorded meetings to see if every important agenda item has been discussed thoroughly. 

Tools such as Vowel reduce the need for follow-up meetings by allowing you to record them all, outline your meeting notes and agendas, and always have a library of past conversations you can go back and reference.

Plus, Vowel’s meeting features let you bookmark key moments from a meeting, which you can review as many times as you need, or save or share clips to give more context.

Add bookmarks to meeting transcriptions

Ready to have fewer meetings?

Meetings are an essential tool for collaboration and decision-making. When they’re good, they’re both necessary and useful for moving work forward.  But a workday full of unproductive meetings is a huge drain in every sense – on your company’s bottom line and your employee’s motivation and well-being.

You can spend less time on meetings if your previous meetings are available as a searchable and shareable knowledge base. Instead of meeting again, you can look back at what was previously discussed or see if it’s the right time to have a follow-up meeting. Or, skip meetings where you’re optional and catch up later. 

You can do all these things and more with Vowel — sign up now for free!