Yes, the meeting can be expensive, but it’s also inevitable when a group of people with different expertise work toward a common goal. 

We should make sure the meeting takes up the right amount in our working lives, no less—no more. I have some tried-and-true to share; keep reading.

1. Guard against your performance

Take your peak performance time into account. Typically, most people can only focus 4 to 5 hours a day before their creativity wane.

Find your most productive hours and tell your boss and colleagues that you will set aside those hours for focused work and preferred not to accept meetings. They will appreciate that you’re striving to put your best.

Self-prioritisation is an excellent foundation. Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.

2. Outline the outcome upfront

Have you ever found yourself in a meeting and wondering why you were asked to attend? Maybe the discussion was essential but had nothing to do with you.

Let’s consider Elon Musk’s rules of the meeting. “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave; it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

Before accepting an invitation, consider the give and take kind of question.

Give—do you have a unique contribution or ideas you’d like to share? Will your team miss out on important information and make a wrong decision if you’re not there?

Take—would you benefit from attending the meeting? Is there any information you need from the team before you can move forward in your project?

If both give and take answers is No—you better decline.

3. Be cautious with your time

The rule is universal; punctuality is a sign of respect for others and, importantly, yourself.

A productive meeting always starts and end on time. Although you can’t control others, you can control yourself.

Ditch back-to-back meetings to avoid being late and give yourself a headspace to get the most of the meeting you invested in.

Don’t pack your whole week meeting on a particular day; schedule your meeting at a specific time on a different day instead.

4. All-in or leave

Let me confess; I would do tedious works rather than attend a boring meeting. In the work-from-home era, I multi-task if I get bored on Zoom. I mute my mic and do some tasks while others speak.

It sounds productive, right? No, I can do the same task faster and better when no one speaks in my ears. Even worse, sometimes I miss the context, and my teammate has to repeat it for me—which is double time-wasted.

Be all-in in the meeting or politely ask to leave. By the way, people know if you’re not listening anyway.

5. Size matters

When President Obama invited Steve Jobs to a high-profile tech leaders gathering, Jobs turned him down; he thought the meeting seemed too large to accomplish anything.

The size of the meeting determines by attendees and time. If too many people attend, it isn’t easy to hold a productive conversation. Also, if the session is too long, it’s hard to maintain everyone energy.

Most people tend to schedule a meeting in 30 or 60 minutes time blocks. But do you need an hour for quick catchup? 

I like to budget my meeting for 15 minutes at a time. It’s okay to have 2 of 15 minutes rather than 30 minutes that only needs 15.

Breaking down a big topic into a small one with 2 - 5 people always work better.

6. The recurring is laziness

Not all meetings are created equal. I insist on keeping my calendar clean. I occasionally get rid of the recurring meeting that’s no longer relevant. Otherwise, the meetings will get rid of my time instead.

As a product designer, it is tough to get back to the creative flow once it gets interrupted.  Distractions aren’t just productivity-killers; it’s also addictive; if you have any social media, you know what I mean.

7. Deliberately join the meeting

After all, meetings are where ideas are born and excellent opportunities to influence your peers.

The innovation team is where everyone has a clear role but blurs boundaries. Although we know who does what, we still rely on each other to make our responsible progression.

As a product designer, I made a classic mistake once. I kept focusing on design and avoided as many meetings as I could, which I ended up creating a design that engineers couldn’t build.

We cannot work in isolation to achieve ambitious goals; constant communication is essential no matter your expertise.

The meeting is a group problem-solving, where people build on top of each other. You should deliberately join a meaningful engagement once required.

•••

To wrap it all up

Just like two sides of the coin, a meeting can advance your career or kills your productivity.

A meeting can temporarily change the dynamic of authority. You’re the leader in your subject—no matter your title. But attend the wrong one would drain your energy from other important things too.

Use it wisely, and don’t let it slow you down.

Happy meeting!