I Never Attend Meetings

a busy calendar

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are too many meetings. My calendar is sliced into 30-60 minute pieces. All day I run from meeting to meeting, just hoping that I might get lucky today and have time to eat lunch or use the restroom. And it is only when the day is done (or in the small hours before the day begins) that I’m able to do my ‘real’ work.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

I sat down and analyzed my days. I concluded that if the meaningful work only happened before or after my normal workday, then the meetings during the day must be the source of the problem.

Analyzing deeper, I found that I attended many meetings where I just sat there and listened to a speaker talk about something that I didn’t care about and didn’t impact me. Or, there was a team discussion where 3 people had an engaging dialog while 8 other people watched. Or, there was a topic I cared about and discussed, but because there weren’t clear goals for the conversation, we ended the meeting exactly where we started, except we all had just wasted an hour of our lives.

So, I stopped attending meetings. Completely. And I now find that I’m more effective. I can think more clearly. I’m getting better work done. And I’m less drained and frustrated at the end of the day.

Now that I’ve stopped attending meetings…my calendar looks exactly the same as it did before.

Yep. Exact same calendar. Each day broken into 30-60 minute chunks.

So how did I become more effective by not attending meetings if I didn’t change my calendar?

I changed my attitude. I kept my time allocation the same, and chose to spend the time differently.

For many of us, when we ‘check our priorities for the day’, what we really mean is we are reminding ourselves what our calendars are going to ask us to do today, and in what order.

Somewhere along the way, meetings became an end to themselves. Somewhere along the way (and definitely as many shifted to more remote work in recent years) we began to let our calendars drive our priorities.

At some point calendars stopped being a useful tool that we use to work more effectively, and we became the tools our calendars use to get work done.

You are not the victim of your calendar (or at least you don’t have to be).

Everything on your calendar is either something you created or something to which you were invited and you clicked ‘accept’. This means that everything on your calendar is there because you allowed it to be.

I decided that if meetings are a waste of time I would never attend another meeting. But it wasn’t the meetings that changed, it was me. I re-framed my attitude toward my day. Instead of an endless series of wasteful meetings, my days now consist of highly productive ‘collaborative working sessions.’

If a particular ‘collaborative working session’ isn’t adding value, then I either need to change my behavior, change how the session is being run, or decline the session.

I am responsible for the effectiveness of each collaborative working session I’m a part of. If the session isn’t effective, I have a responsibility to improve the session or find a better way to use my time. But I am not and will never again be the victim of a meeting.

I never attend meetings. I choose effective collaboration instead.