Could too many meetings be sucking the life out of you and your team?
Chances are, yes. According to a study by Atlassian, the average employee wastes 31 hours of time in unproductive meetings each month. Forty-five percent of employees say they’ve felt overwhelmed by the number of meetings on their calendar and 47% say meetings are the number one time-waster in the office.
Oftentimes, teams default to meetings as the primary way to communicate with one another about projects and updates. And, while meetings are certainly valuable for collaborating, addressing blockers, and connecting as a team, meeting overload can lead to decreased productivity and engagement, and burnout.
It’s both a mentally draining and costly problem. Take a daily standup meeting as an example. A 30-minute standup for a group of 12 takes away 120 hours of focus time from your team each month. Plus, back-to-back meetings can be draining and take a toll on people’s ability to focus — so even after the meeting wraps up, it might be harder for the team to dive back into their work at full speed. (And if you’re meeting over Zoom, you’ve got Zoom fatigue to deal with too.)
All that to say: reducing the total hours spent in meetings each week can have a real and lasting impact on your team’s effectiveness, happiness, and well-being. Making changes at the team level — like shifting some of what’s typically covered in meetings to an asynchronous format — can help clear some of your calendar so you actually have time to get work done.
Too many meetings happen for a number of different reasons. Here are some of the most common.
If you’ve felt like you’re drowning in meetings, you’re probably not the only one at your org who thinks so. Too many meetings is a team problem that is best remedied with team-level solutions.
But what exactly does that mean?
When teams try to solve the “too many meetings” problems, they often approach it with changes at the individual level only — following tips and best practices like “set an agenda” or “assign a notetaker”. While these are solid actions folks can take to make meetings more effective, they won’t have the same impact on reducing meetings as foundational changes at the team-level will. Instead, focusing on dedicated ways to collaborate asynchronously, protecting individual work time, and creating norms and guidelines for communication can help your team improve the flow of information and move away from such a meeting-heavy culture.
Take a moment each quarter to evaluate the standing meetings on your team’s calendar and see if there’s an opportunity to do things differently.
Evaluate your meetings by asking yourself the following.
This should help you identify meetings you no longer need or meetings that can be moved to an async format.
Async communication happens in writing, instead of in-person. It’s a great way to keep teams in sync without having to meet in-person or over video. It also has the added benefit of improving access to information and creating a written record of all your team’s progress and accomplishments.
Async communication works really well for meetings like standups and status updates. But it can also be used to replace or shorten many other meetings on your team’s calendars too.
Make the shift from back-to-back meetings to asynchronous communication a seamless one with the following guidelines and templates.
These will help your team get the most out of async communication and simplify the sharing process.
To strengthen async communication even further, it can be helpful to define rules of engagement for the tools and apps your team uses too. For instance, if you use Slack, email, and Zoom all for team communication, you might build guidelines around what’s communicated where and how to resolve common issues and situations in each channel. (Ex. We use Slack for timely, short messages; email for more detailed, non-urgent messages; and Zoom for collaboration or discussion.)
Use these templates to shift your current meetings to an asynchronous format or prepare beforehand with a pre-read or meeting prep to save time and align.
Asynchronous daily standup template
Goal: A quick daily pulse check.
Tip: If you do standups daily, you might try swapping out different questions throughout the week. (Example: On Mondays, share your weekly focus. On Fridays, share something or someone you’re grateful for this week.)
Asynchronous status update template
Goal: Sync up on a certain project or initiative.
Team meeting pre-read template
Goal: Align beforehand to fuel a shorter, more engaging discussion in person.
Retro prep template
Goal: Prep ideas before you meet for a shorter, more productive retro.
1:1 prep template
Goal: Make 1:1 facetime more about personal growth and development.
Moving some (or many) of your meetings to an asynchronous format can be hugely beneficial, but you’ll still want to keep some facetime for connecting with the team. Rather than sprinkle these face-to-face moments in at seemingly random times, you can be most effective with your team’s time by structuring intentional meeting blocks throughout the week. (And protecting blocks of time as focused work time too.)
Consider how your team likes to work: If folks on your team tend to focus best in the mornings, consider using those hours as protected work time, scheduling breaks for lunch or exercise to recharge, and then coming back together for meetings or admin tasks in the early afternoon.
Use time-blocking: Try blocking certain hours of the day for meetings (example: 1-2pm every day is dedicated meeting time) or perhaps theme an entire morning or afternoon around meeting and collaborating (example: Tuesday and Thursday afternoons). People work and focus best with breaks, so if you find yourself wanting to block off a full day for meetings or focus time each week (i.e. No Meeting Wednesday), consider breaking apart big blocks into smaller chunks of time interspersed throughout the week instead. Two or 3 hours blocks of time work well, as they give folks time to get in the groove and a reset when energy starts to dip.
Check out our Guide to Windowed Work for more ideas on how to structure your team’s time more effectively.
Meetings are an important part of team collaboration and connection. But if all your time is spent in a conference room or Zoom, when are you actually supposed to get work done?
Asynchronous check-ins get your team out of meetings and into focus mode. You’ll improve productivity, engagement, and the overall well-being of your team by making the shift.Learn more about reducing your meeting load with asynchronous check-ins
Ready to give async communication a go? You can use the following email template to share your thought process with the team and get everyone on board.
Over the last quarter, we’ve heard feedback that our schedules have gotten too meeting-heavy.
To solve this, we’ll be testing out a new format to cut down on the number of hours we spend in meetings each week and hopefully free up more of your time.
We’ll be experimenting with a new, asynchronous format for our [MEETING NAME].
This means that, rather than come together to meet as a group, you’ll be able to write and share an update for these in your own time. We’ll be using Range for this. I’ve already set up reminders and prompts to make it easy to share your update just like you would in our in-person meeting.
Why are we doing this?
[Include 1 sentence here about what you’re trying to accomplish]
Here are a few resources that I think you’ll find helpful as you start using Range:
I’d love to hear your feedback as we pilot this new experiment, so please feel free to reach out at any time along the way with ideas for how we can make this work even better.