Meetings are supposed to enhance productivity, yet they often have the opposite effect. With teams siloed and goals lacking unity, meetings become an endless explanation of who’s doing what, when, and why, with little benefit.
In fact, studies show that 70 percent of meetings prohibit employees from doing productive work. The stop-and-start nature of the meeting-obsessed workplace means that there are few undisturbed moments for workers to truly focus on the job at hand. But this productivity drain can be easily avoided by setting appropriate, company-wide goals.
6 ways to cut mindless meetings
- Make your goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Put technology in charge of progress tracking.
- Give your team the freedom to reach goals in their own way.
- Practice transparency throughout the whole organization.
- Embrace asynchronous communication.
- Use your reclaimed time to tackle OKRs with your team.
What Are OKRs, and How Can I Use Them?
The objectives and key results framework is an increasingly popular tool among leading organizations used to define measurable goals and keep track of progress. Well-defined OKRs can ensure every team and individual is aligned and working toward the same company-wide targets, reducing the need for constant check-ins and status updates.
Eliminating unnecessary meetings from the workday is a challenging task, but these six tips can put your team on the path to better productivity and a more fulfilling work life.
1. Set SMART Goals
It’s important that your OKRs are clear and focused. Well-defined goals will ensure that team members understand what is expected of them and what needs prioritizing without seeking clarification. When creating your OKRs, you should make sure that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound — or SMART — to ensure clarity.
5 questions to ask when setting a SMART goal
- Specific: What task needs accomplishing? What steps must be taken to accomplish it?
- Measurable: What is the intended outcome? How can we keep track of our progress?
- Achievable: Is this goal reasonable and can we actually accomplish it?
- Relevant: Why are we setting this goal? Is it really necessary or important?
- Time-bound: When will we start and when do we intend to finish? Is this timeframe reasonable?
2. Keep track using technology
Rather than setting aside time in every meeting for status updates from each individual, teams should establish weekly or bi-weekly sessions for team members to share their progress, accomplishments, and challenges. This way, teams can stay aligned without constant interruptions.
The rest of the time, put technology in charge of progress tracking and sharing updates. What teams need is a tool that puts a number on progress, automatically updated when steps are completed, so anyone can instantly know how close a goal or task is to completion.
The issue is how progress is communicated — a problem easily solved using solutions such as OKR Board, which provides automated notifications for any updates or changes that occur to an assigned OKR, essentially replacing those endless catch-ups with an equally effective email.
With well-defined, measurable OKRs and a reliable goal-tracking system, teams can dedicate their time to addressing issues, adjusting strategies, and achieving results instead of verbally reporting their progress to others.
3. Trust your team
Too many meetings in the calendar are a good sign of micromanagement. Cutting meetings reduces feelings of being micromanaged, resulting in happier, harder working teams.
Each member of your team is skilled at what they do, so let them do it. An outcome-oriented approach, where you set a desired goal rather than the individual steps that should be taken, can produce surprisingly positive results (and free up invaluable time in your schedule).
4. Encourage open communication
When it comes to OKRs, the entire company should be on the same page. Transparent communication and mutual understanding are vital to ensuring everyone knows their role and that of others — and how those roles contribute to the organization’s overall goals.
However, communication doesn’t require a full calendar of meetings between different teams and departments. All you need is a shared document, regular email updates, or a dedicated collaboration platform. If any uncertainty arises, all the information needed is immediately available.
5. Use asynchronous communication
You’re just starting to find your flow, then a notification pops up reminding you of that Zoom call you have scheduled in 10 minutes’ time. You then return from the meeting to an email from your boss asking for a status update and, before you know it, half the workday has passed and you’ve made no meaningful progress.
You can easily avoid this by adopting an asynchronous approach, where teams communicate at their own pace through email, text, or video messages — deciding for themselves whether an urgent reply is necessary.
5 BENEFITS OF ASYNCHRONOUS MEETINGS
- It leads to fewer interruptions. There’s no deadline by which you must respond. If you’re busy, you can simply answer once it’s convenient.
- Participants have time to think. Not everyone can think on the spot. This way, you can take time to plan your responses and get creative with your problem-solving.
- Everything is documented. There’s no need to take notes or transcribe minutes. Everything is already right there on your platform of choice.
- Globally dispersed teams can collaborate. Async meetings don’t require entire teams to be present at the same time. Anyone can contribute, regardless of country, continent, or time zone.
- It eliminates unnecessary involvement. If a topic being discussed is irrelevant to you, you can simply ignore it — without a second wasted.
6. Reduce meetings, not collaboration
Spending time at the end of every meeting going over a problem rarely delivers results. Team members haven’t prepared and their minds are already elsewhere, so these discussions typically end with, “Let’s think it over and come back to it.” That doesn’t mean, however, that collaborative problem-solving isn’t effective. It just requires more time and focus than meetings allow.
With all the time saved from removing meetings from the team calendar, dedicate a few hours each week to bring teams together and focus on tackling particular OKRs. This isn’t a meeting where everything and everything is up for discussion. It’s a collaborative focus session solely focused on a specific problem. Identify your most pressing challenge, find a time that works for everyone, and block it off in the calendar.
For these sessions to be a success, forethought is a must. Every team member needs to come prepared, ready to share their thoughts on the problem and how to overcome it. If the conversation happens to stray or the room falls quiet, it’s your job to maintain focus on the task at hand. For those few hours, nothing else matters.