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3 Cures for Meeting Fatigue

It’s the end of the day and you now have a list of action items from a full day of meetings. Now what? Start the actual work at 5pm?

If you’re a manager, this dilemma can place you in one heck of a bind. At their best, meetings can be purposeful forums to convey information, plan, exchange ideas, solve problems, strategize and build camaraderie. At their worst, meetings can lack focus, veer off-topic, inflame percolating tensions and waste valuable work time. In fact, a study by the University of Nebraska blames “ineffective” meetings for wasting an astounding $37 billion a year.

A Harvard Business Review survey of 182 senior managers may put “meeting madness” in more concrete terms:

  • 71 percent of the respondents said meetings are unproductive and inefficient
  • 64 percent blamed meetings for replacing “deep thinking” time
  • 62 percent said meetings fail to bring coworkers closer together

Like many managers, it’s your job to help delegate and assist in meeting planning and scheduling. As you work to limit the number of daily meetings, often many are put into the “unavoidable” category. There are alternatives to the traditional workplace meeting — try these cures for meeting fatigue:

1. Shift to a brainstorming session – because semantics matter

Managers know that the atoms in the room (or virtual room) change appreciably when employees are summoned to a “brainstorming” session.

  • It piques interest.
  • It signals a less formal structure.
  • And it fosters greater participation and productivity, especially if you encourage collaboration beforehand in an application such as Google Docs.

Will your colleagues know that you’ve disguised a meeting as a brainstorming session? Maybe. But if you’re careful about not intermingling the terms and you emphasize the action and results you expect from a brainstorming session, your colleagues should learn how to delineate the two as well.

2. Make the most of sharing

Speaking of Google Docs, whether it’s the Google Suite, SharePoint, an asset management solution, and/or project management tools, file sharing and collaboration can save a team hours of meeting time. Imagine sending a Teams chat to a group of stakeholders who need to review the collection of stock photos chosen for the next campaign. They can access, view, and send feedback in the group chat, eliminating the need for a meeting altogether.

3. Call ‘em up

Call!? On the phone?! I can hear the millennials cringing.

Getting the information you need to make a decision can be difficult. Your first instinct might be to set a meeting with all the appropriate parties to make the decision as a team. While it’s certainly a plausible option, you now have another meeting on your calendar.

Instead, call stakeholders individually. You’d be surprised how much information you can gather in a 5 – 10-minute phone call. Prepare your questions in advance to keep the call outcome-focused. In just one or two phone calls, you’ll have the information you need to proceed with your project. Just because meetings are status quo, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a phone conversation in getting what you need. Your peers will thank you for your extra diligence and thoughtfulness.

Meetings happen and using the tips shared here, you can start to eliminate those full days of often unnecessary meetings and give your team some time back. It’s a mindset and the more you practice it, the more your team members will want to join in the cause. The cause to end meeting madness.


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