Supercharge Your Team by Creating a Culture of Productivity

Meetings play a significant role in today’s workplace, and there’s plenty of debate about their utility. Like them or hate them, we spend a lot of time in meetings. In fact, most knowledge workers spend at least 45% of their time at work in meetings. While meetings at work can help to organize a team together around a difficult decision or foster collaborative brainstorming sessions, they can also quickly devolve into unproductive distractions.

How to Reorganize Meetings

There are essentially two problems with meetings at work today – (1) too many of them (some are necessary while some are not), and (2) too many of the necessary meetings are run poorly.

Here’s how to organize your team to use meetings as a competitive advantage:

#1 – Create a Culture of Productivity

The first and most obvious step to reduce the impact of meeting overload is questioning the necessity of every meeting. To get started, empower your team to have autonomy when it comes to deciding whether or not their meeting attendance is required. Just because there’s an open slot on your calendar, that doesn’t mean it’s available for anyone to add a required meeting.

During my time at BrightRoll, I worked hard to contribute to our culture of productivity. We were fortunate to have a leadership team that encouraged employees up and down the organization to question the necessity of meetings and demand well-structured agendas. The result of this practice was clear. Meeting overload wasn’t a problem until we were much larger, and most teams were able to move quickly.

Bookmark this interactive flowchart (and share it with your peers at work) – there are lots of alternative solutions to scheduling meetings when you need to get stuff done.

The direct impact of meeting overload is obvious – but the hidden cost context switching is much harder to spot, and is arguably even dangerous for your team’s productivity. For every meeting on your calendar, you should add roughly 20 minutes, regardless of the duration of the actual meeting. That’s because it takes about the brain about 15 minutes to regain the necessary context to resume any activity after an interruption like a meeting. And add another 5 minutes or so to account for stopping whatever you’re working on and walking over to the conference room, etc.

Culture of Productivity: Add 20 Minutes to Any Meeting For a Realistic Analysis of Time

Now you’ve established a system for avoiding most of the unnecessary meetings. So next, let’s set your team up to use their time as efficiently as possible.

#2 – Create a template for running effective meetings

There’s no magic formula for fixing meetings at work. But there are best practices that will significantly increase your chances of success.

  1. For meeting organizers, make sure you’re doing your part to run a productive meeting.
  2. Create a clear, focused agenda (and distribute it ahead of the meeting). Not prepared to provide a framework for the conversation along with a pre-defined goal? Then you aren’t ready for the meeting.
  3. Only invite people who are critical to the discussion. More than half of all meetings at work have 8 or more people, which is too many.
  4. Keep the meeting as short as possible. If you schedule a meeting to last the full hour, you’ll probably use all the time – but see if you can accomplish the same goal in 15 or 30 minutes instead.

For meeting participants, make sure you aren’t wasting your time or anyone else’s.

  1. Close your laptop (or don’t bring it). Either go to the meeting and be engaged, or don’t go at all. Multitasking in meetings doesn’t work. If you have more urgent or pressing matters that demand your attention, then skip the meeting.
  2. Provide feedback to the meeting organizer. Did you think the meeting was a helpful and productive use of your time? Great – let her or him know. Could you have skipped this one altogether? You should definitely let the organizer know.

Managing meetings effectively at work increases your ability to self-reflect on your own workflow and that of your peers. Self-awareness is easily one of the most underrated character traits for productive, successful, and impactful workers. Ultimately, self-awareness lets you slow down the chaotic day to day happenings and actively assess what you’re doing.

Danny Roosevelt is a product manager and entrepreneur with deep expertise in building complex marketplace products and a passion for productivity, golf, and BBQ. 

  • Originally published July 31, 2018, updated April 26, 2023