Minimize Meetings

by Jim Stovall

Every few days, I am asked to serve on a board or committee somewhere in the world.  I immediately reject virtually all of these requests, not because the opportunities or causes are not valid, but because many boards and committees tend to be inefficient, ineffective, and unproductive.

The lack of productivity does not come from the members of the boards or committees not being talented, committed, or dedicated.  The lack of productivity comes from the fact that boards and committees, by their very nature, exist to have regular meetings.

If we are to succeed in business or in life, we should never confuse activity with productivity.  Productivity is the constant progress toward a worthwhile goal, utilizing a well-thought-out plan.  Activity is quite simply any task that takes up time and creates work.  A hamster running around the wheel in his cage demonstrates great activity but no productivity.

I would be the first to admit there are times that a face-to-face meeting or the process of getting together a group of stakeholders is vital to success; but having the Monday morning meeting, the monthly committee session, or quarterly advisory board review are most often a recipe for wholesale ongoing activity with little chance of any meaningful productivity.

Never hold a meeting if a call will suffice, and never have a call if an email will meet your needs, and never send an email when doing nothing is likely to garner the same results.  This activity hierarchy should be used any time someone tries to corral a large portion of your productive time and turn it into a regularly-scheduled meeting which is virtually guaranteed to make you feel like the hamster running feverishly on the little wheel.

Following are some ways to stay as far toward productivity and away from activity as possible:

  • Reject all invitations to join a board or committee unless there is a specific, well-defined reason that you need to participate that will result in progress toward a meaningful goal which cannot be achieved any other way.
  • Avoid meetings by asking if you can participate via conference call or, better yet, send in your thoughts and input via email.
  • Unless otherwise compelled to do so by your employer, do not post your appointment calendar online where anyone can get to it.  Those huge blocks of unencumbered time where you were looking forward to being creative and productive can be gobbled up and commandeered by anyone in a meeting or committee frenzy.

As you go through your day today, define for yourself what is important, and avoid exchanging productivity for activity.

Today’s the day!

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