Meeting Creep

I was having a chat the other day with a peer about the struggles we each have with “meeting creep”.

This is a medically diagnosable condition with the primary symptom being the inexplicable expansion of meetings into every crevice and corner of your schedule.

Meetings are fine if they (a) serve a specific purpose, (b) will provide you or the team with something needed in order to get the job done and (c) are the best way to disseminate important information that is timely and urgent. But some of us collect standing meetings like baseball cards and soon our entire schedule is full of marginally useful conversation about projects we’re loosely attached to.

Here are a few thoughts to help stem meeting creep:
1. Set a specific time frame for the meeting. Once that time expires, meeting over. Period. Honor this – no exceptions. It will keep people engaged if they know when the meeting will be over.

2. If you’re leading a meeting, start the meeting by asking what everyone needs out of it. Once everyone has what they need, the meeting is over. Tell participants that it’s their responsibility to get out of the meeting what they need.

3. Begin each week by looking at your schedule and asking if there are any meetings that could be canceled or handled with a quick conversation involving two or three people.

4. Give people permission to excuse themselves from a meeting if they don’t need anything or have nothing to add.

5. Reward especially productive meetings in some way. Meetings are an important culture-builder within our organizations and if we associate productive meetings with rewards we are more likely to gravitate toward more effective get-togethers.

Because of the highly collaborative nature of creative work, meetings are a necessity. This is not an “anti-meeting” rant. But we must do our best to ensure that meetings aren’t sucking the life out of us or preventing us from doing what we are really paid to do – create value.

Any other “meeting creep” tips? Anything you’ve found effective?

photo credit: clagnut

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