Did you know that, on average, executives spent nearly 23 hours a week in meetings? What’s more, 65 percent of senior managers say meetings keep them from completing their own work and 71 percent say the meetings are unproductive and inefficient.
I came across these depressing stats while reading an article from the Harvard Business Review about how to “Stop The Meeting Madness.” My husband suggested I read it after yet another dinner-time exchange that resulted in me describing my day as mostly spent in meetings. In an effort to understand more about how this meeting culture developed and how it was impacting my day-to-day, I dug a little deeper to also find some solutions.
The Good Soldier Trap
The article describes how “executives want to be good soldiers.” We often see the sacrifice of our own time and well-being to join meetings as the price we pay to do what’s best for the business. Forget the toll on our own work, we’re simply keeping our chins up and forging ahead – often resulting in late-night or weekend work to make up for the time lost in meetings during the day. Is that really what’s best for the business? I certainly don’t think so.
The Cost of Meetings
The most surprising – and yet totally obvious – theory I learned in this article is how time spent in meetings affects the quiet time we need to concentrate and accomplish “deep work,” a term coined by Cal Newport. In our hectic world of social media, non-stop emails, meetings and phone calls, we rarely make time to focus on individual work, which is essential for creativity. Have you ever stayed up late to draft a memo, or found yourself sitting down on the weekend to craft a plan? Knowingly or not, it’s likely you were seizing the quieter time for deep work – and your output was potentially better for it.
Tips To Make Time For Thinking
It feels pretty luxurious to think about carving out time in the day just to think. But if you’re interested in reclaiming your weekends and upping your impact on creativity and problem solving in your office, making time for thinking is imperative. This Inc. article outlines nine steps for creating time dedicated to thinking. I particularly appreciated step No. 7 which asks what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. Both questions require some introspection and brutal honesty – but imagine the time you could reclaim in your schedule and the positive impact on the company if you could hand off the things you’re bad at to someone brilliant in that area. Step No. 5 suggests revisiting your to-do list during the week and asking whether an action item or attending a meeting is really important. Upon reflection, it’s possible what first seemed important just isn’t anymore – and this realization alone frees the mind to dig in where it’s needed most, on the strategic items that have the most impact.
I plan to implement some of these tips and reclaim time on my calendar for deep thinking. If you have tips for doing so, we’d love to hear them!