Reducing Waste from Too Many Meetings

Sarah George on Team Building

MeetingsWorkplace meetings have their time and place. However, many scheduled meetings end up spending too much of everyone’s time without getting enough accomplished.

The answer to that dilemma is to decrease the waste from these meetings. In fact, some meetings can be cut altogether.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand which meetings you should cut back on, alternatives to keep everyone productive, and ways to reduce meeting time when you do have to schedule one.

Cut Back on Meetings

First, the best way to reduce waste from meetings is to cut down the number of meetings scheduled.

According to Harvard Business Review, many executives spend an average of 23 hours per week in formal meetings, not including casual ones that might discuss business too. The numbers might differ for employees, but you can bet they overspend company time in this area.

The question is: which meetings do you cut out? As a manager, you’re likely convinced that many of them are necessary.

Consider cutting back on these types of meetings:

  1. Announcements/News

  2. Project updates

  3. Group brainstorming

  4. Morale-boosters

  5. Team-building

On occasion, these meetings can improve the overall work. However, using these on a regular basis could be slowing your employees down. Rather than using meetings as a first reaction, schedule ones as a last resort—when you’ve determined that other methods can’t get the job done faster.

Determine If a Meeting Is Necessary

In order to cut back on meetings, you will need to judge whether those meetings are necessary. Before putting the meeting on the schedule, think through several steps to help you make that decision.

1. Write out the Goal

The best eliminator of meetings is the fact that many have no purpose at all. Writing out your goal should help you see whether you actually have a goal and whether that goal warrants using everyone’s time.

The best goals include an action plan and coincide with a business objective.

A business objective is a specific, measurable goal set in place to further a broader company goal.

For instance, the goal of your meeting might be to decide between 3 different marketing strategies so that you can increase company revenue. This goal includes an action (decide a strategy) and a coinciding business objective (increase company revenue).

However, if your goal is to stay up-to-date on current projects, you should consider whether that meeting warrants your team’s time.

2. Decide Who Will Attend

If you’ve determined that you do have a relevant goal, you should create a rough list of who will attend the meeting. Then, figure out how important each person is.

A good exercise is to give each person a ranking of 1-3.

1 = direct decision-maker or team leader

2 = productive thought leader who will bring good ideas or suggestions to the meeting

3 = team player who will execute assigned tasks

Next, try eliminating anyone with a ranking of 3 or anyone not ranked at all. Also, in meetings where the only topic of discussion is a decision, consider eliminating ranking 2 also.

Is there anyone left on the list? You may discover that the meeting isn’t necessary at all by the short list of people needed to attend.

Note here that training meetings will likely have few decision-makers and many team players. Since training is the purpose of the meeting, this attendees list makes sense.

You may need to eliminate people based on the goal of the meeting as well.

3. Calculate the Meeting Cost

Now comes the part that most managers or business CEOs don’t realize. Every meeting has a cost. The two biggest costs for the company are time and money.

To calculate the time, you should take the amount of time you expect to spend in the meeting. Then, multiply that by the number of people attending. However, you should also factor in preparation time for anyone presenting information, including yourself.

Next, add at least an extra 15-20 minutes for each person attending. This time will account for the time many people take to refocus on their previous task after the meeting.

The sum of all these numbers is the cost of time to your company. You can then use this information to calculate the money spent on the meeting, including employees’ pay and any expenses incurred.

Is the meeting worthy of the hours taken from productivity? Does it warrant the monetary cost? Even if the meeting is important, you may find that time for current projects should take priority.

4. Is There Another Way to Communicate?

Last, consider other ways to get the same goal accomplished or information relayed. Below are several alternatives you can use in place of a meeting.

Use Helpful Alternatives to Traditional Meetings

Now that you understand how to determine a necessary meeting, you can consider other ways of communicating the same information. You have many tools available to help fill this need.

One-On-One Meetings

Sometimes, the best option is not to cancel the meeting but to conduct one on a more casual or personal level. This alternative can replace project update meetings or help you understand a team member’s ideas or problems without using other people’s time.

Plus, one-on-one meetings tend to get work accomplished due to a deeper accountability for both people in the meeting.

Team Communication Apps

Then, a team app or software can provide team members with a way to communicate from their desks. Team apps usually allow members to instant message each other for collaboration on a project.

However, depending on which one you use, they can also easily send, view, and edit collaborative files. This way, members can get feedback from others or send a project on to the next person who needs to work with it.

You may want to avoid apps that include time-wasters, though, like adding special effects to an instant message.

Project Management Software

Next, you can opt for project management software. This software will allow you and any other team members with access to see all projects at a glance and know which parts of projects are completed. It’s important that team members update this information regularly.  

In doing so, the software can replace project update meetings and prompt communication between team members responsible for certain parts of a project. In some cases, the software will include similar features to team communication apps, making it even more versatile.  


Last, you shouldn’t overlook using an old-fashioned email. While email can also waste time if you’re using it for complex information or Q & A sessions, it does prove an effective tool for announcements, updates, and smaller bits of information.

Implement Ways to Reduce Time Spent in Meetings

You have now determined which meetings you can cut back on and implemented alternatives to help make up for that communication. However, you probably still have meetings on your list.

How can you reduce the time wasted in these meetings? First, you should make effective, goal-oriented meetings your priority.

Take a closer look at this topic in our article “How to Have Effective Meetings.”

In addition, you can implement the following:

Send the Presentation Ahead of Time

Any information you can send to team members ahead of time will reduce wasted time in meetings. By sending the presentation slides, handouts, and ideas ahead of time, people can come with their mind in gear for the subject being discussed.

They can also form judgments not influenced by their peers, helping them stay objective throughout the process. People will waste less time thinking aloud, and in turn will help everyone return to other work more quickly.

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Have Team Members Brainstorm on Their Own

Again, bouncing ideas around in a meeting is a sure way to waste time. Many people do their best work when thinking on their own.

To maximize brainstorming meetings, you can have team members research ideas ahead of time and prepare a list. You can still include new ideas that the team comes up with during the group session if needed.

However, the brainstorming can then come to a conclusion. In effect, the preparation turns it into an action-oriented, decision-making meeting.

Limit the Meeting Time Frame

Need motivation to get creative with how you conduct meetings? Limit your time frame.

You can set the meeting directly before another important meeting, deadline or event to prompt you to keep the meeting on track. You can even schedule the meeting right before lunch to keep everyone else motivated too.

Otherwise, set a timer to 30 or even 15 minutes and see what your team can accomplish in this time. You will find techniques such as ahead-of-time preparation helpful with this new timing.

Stay Goal-Focused

Finally, keeping the focus on an action—usually the stated meeting goal—will help reduce wasted time. Remind team members why they’re at the meeting and what you hope to get accomplished there.

Then, begin discussing topics as soon as possible. Anytime a team member brings up an off-topic idea, remind them to think about whether it will accomplish the stated goal. After awhile, team members will get the idea and become active parts in achieving action during your meetings.

Summary: Reducing Waste from Too Many Meetings

  • Cut back on meetings. Schedule meetings as a last resort, after you’ve determined that other methods can’t get work done faster.

  • Determine if meeting is necessary. Write out the goal, figure out who will attend, calculate the meeting’s cost, and then find another way to communicate.

  • Use helpful alternatives to traditional meetings. Alternatives like team communication apps, project management software, and email can replace many meetings.

  • Reduce time spent in necessary meetings. Challenge yourself to cut time in creative ways and stay goal-focused.


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