Almost every company has too many meetings, and it's getting worse. According an article in MIT's Sloan Management Review, the average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings, up a whopping 10 full hours (!) since the Mad Men era.

That sounds like a lot of time and it is. Since the average work week is 47 hours, you're spending approximately half of your time each week in meetings. Because most executives and professionals work for about 45 years, that's 22 years spent in meetings.

Some of those meetings are no doubt productive but conservatively at least a third of the time spent on meeting is wasted in irrelevant conversations, boring presentations, and meandering chit-chat.

Do the math.

That's 7 years of your life that you'll spend in dumb, boring, unnecessary meetings!

Consider what else you could accomplish in those 7 years! You could earn several advanced degrees. You could write several books. You could master skills. Or you could spend that extra time enjoying life.

But instead you're flushing 7 years of your life down the toilet. Why? Because you (and the people around you) aren't doing what's necessary to keep meetings short and to the point.

Are you angry? Good!

Here are three things you can do today to recapture that lost time:

1. No more PowerPoint.

Overheads are a horribly inefficient way to communicate. They force everyone to absorb information at the speed with which the presenter talks. Furthermore, Harvard research reveals that displaying words while you talk actually reduces retention and comprehension. So when it comes to PowerPoint, just say no. Use one of these alternatives instead.

2. No meeting longer than 30 minutes.

The longer a meeting lasts, the more likely it is to become a waste of time. Meetings should not be turned into information-transfer lectures nor should they be an opportunity for general hob-nobbing. Every meeting should have an agenda and it should be possible to achieve that agenda in less than a half-hour.

3. If there's no value added, leave immediately.

Elon Musk has a brilliant rule: "If you are not adding value to a meeting, walk out or drop off the call." It is not rude to do this. What's rude is people who expect you to waste your precious time because they're such snowflakes that they'll be offended if you leave. And even if you are being a little rude, isn't 7 years of your life worth a bit of rudeness?

Published on: Sep 23, 2019
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