Bad meetings.

We've all experienced them at one time or another. Whether it's a series of unending discussions or knowing that you have nothing to contribute, there's nothing worse than wasting time in a meeting you shouldn't be in, while your real work continues to pile up.

Of course, you and your team can take definite steps to make your meetings more effective. But sometimes, the solution to making sure you don't waste time in a meeting is to skip it--or even, to not hold the meeting at all.

Think about it: Would you spend hours writing an email that your people will barely glance at, or that won't lead to any significant results? Of course not. And that's the same reason you shouldn't hold meetings that are ineffective.

But how can you decide which meetings are worth holding (and attending)?

Here's an easy way to estimate the general value of a meeting, using a great tool that was recently published by the Harvard Business Review. It's called "The Meeting Cost Calculator", and it looks like this:

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Here's how it works:

The calculator will prompt you to enter the following information:

  • Meeting name
  • Estimated duration
  • Total number of attendees

The calculator will then ask you to enter an estimated annual salary for each meeting attendee--even multiplying salaries by a factor of 1.4 to account for benefits. Once you enter the final person's salary, the calculator automatically estimates the cost of the meeting.

Once you see the price, you'll get a message based on the cost of the meeting. I played around with the tool and got messages ranging from "Gold Star! That's time well spent" to "Yikes! Wanna make it cheaper?"

You can then actually make the meeting cheaper--by deleting potential attendees, or replacing them with counterparts who earn less. 

It also happens to be the perfect excuse for skipping out on a meeting yourself. If anyone complains, just tell them: Hey, times are tight! I'm trying to save the company some dough.

Obviously, there are certain intangibles that the meeting calculator won't take into account--like the value of building a collaborative spirit among your team, or the advantages gained through face-to-face contact.

But this simple tool could help your people think twice about which meetings are truly necessary--or if another form of communication would better serve the purpose. (Think message boards for status updates, instead of 30 minutes multiplied by an entire team.)

Because, after all...time is money.

Why not start saving a little more of both?