How To Know When Your Meetings Are a Waste of Time

a month ago   •   3 min read

By Zero Machina

Meetings are supposed to improve productivity and communication—but many times, they have the opposite effect.

If you've ever left a meeting feeling unproductive or frustrated, then you've probably attended ineffective meetings that waste your time. But this doesn't have to be the norm. By avoiding common mistakes and following best practices, meetings can be productive and effective.

Let's explore the attributes of unproductive meetings so you can better invest your time.

A Shocking Amount of Time Is Wasted in Meetings

Most meetings you attend probably aren't effective.

According to an Igloo survey, 47% of respondents find meetings unproductive. And time spent in ineffective meetings costs U.S. businesses $37 billion annually. In another study, organizational psychologist Constance Noonan Hadley surveyed 182 senior managers—65% reported that meetings keep them from completing work, while 71% said meetings were unproductive and inefficient.

It's shocking how much time gets wasted in meetings.

And this has real consequences for most companies, teams, and individuals.

Bad meetings miss opportunities to improve productivity, focus, and engagement.  And ineffective meetings are associated with lower levels of market share, innovation, and employment stability.

When meetings are a waste of time, everyone suffers.

Warning Signs for Wasting Time in Unnecessary Meetings

It's common for meetings to be scheduled without considering their impact on attendees or an organization's goals.

But this leads to productivity issues, poor collaboration, and weaker morale. Be careful. If you're mindlessly attending meetings, your team can end up in a black hole of wasted time.

To avoid this, look out for the following warning signs that indicate you're wasting time in meetings.

1. One-Way Communication

Are you the only one doing the talking?

If so, your attendees might be tuning out. They also may feel you don't value their input.  One-way communication is ultimately a waste of meeting time because it doesn't facilitate collaboration and mutual respect. Instead of lecturing, try to facilitate two-way communication.

This will improve engagement and facilitate trust with your attendees.

2. Disrespecting Others' Time

Do you start and end meetings on time?

If not, you're disrespecting other attendees. Time is a precious commodity. And when you don't start or end meetings on time, you're implying that you don't care about their schedule. You're breaking integrity and displaying a lack of empathy. Of course, no one's perfect, and sometimes you mismanage time. But are you making a habit of it?

It's tough to have effective meetings when you're disrespecting others' time. Good luck winning their excitement and enthusiasm when making requests.

3. Focusing on Status Updates or Informational Meetings

Status updates and informational meetings are typically one-way conversations.

If this is the only reason you're meeting, it's probably a waste of time.  These types of conversations can be handled with an email or messaging platform.  But if you must have meetings for these purposes, make sure to allow time for open discussion.

This will ensure that attendees are engaged, gain clarity, and feel respected.

4. Unclear Goals and Objectives

If you're unclear about the purpose of your meeting, it's likely to be a waste of time.

Each meeting should have specific goals. And they should be communicated to attendees before the meeting. This way, everyone knows what's expected of them and can prepare accordingly.

You can do this by creating a simple meeting agenda template.

5. Wrong Meeting Attendees

Do you have the right people in your meeting?

If not, it will be a waste of time. You want attendees who have the knowledge and expertise to contribute.  If you're unsure they belong, ask yourself this question: "Would the meeting still be successful if this person was absent?"

If the answer is yes, then consider removing them from the meeting.

Next Steps

Bad meetings are costly and cause unnecessary stress.

By being aware of the warning signs, you can avoid wasting time in your next meeting.  Keep these things in mind to ensure that your meetings are productive, efficient, and worthwhile. Bad meetings don't just happen by accident. They're the result of poor planning and execution.

Want to learn more about what to avoid during meetings? Check out our article: 4 Virtual Meeting Mistakes That Will Sabotage Your Team’s Effectiveness.

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