Before the pandemic, our calendars were already overloaded with meetings. The COVID hit, and our in-person and virtual meeting became ALL virtual. Staying connected is an admirable intention, but our mania for meetings has had a negative impact: an increase in virtual fatigue and a decrease in productivity.
It’s time to stop the madness and question the need for so many meetings. How healthy and intentional is your organization’s approach to meetings? Can you call a meeting whenever you feel the need? Or has your organization established meeting protocols?
We’d like to introduce a new way of thinking about meetings: the Meaningful Meeting Mindset™. This approach prevents digital fatigue and protects deep work time while keeping social connections alive and moving projects forward.
What is a Meaningful Meeting Mindset™?
Meetings are necessary, but they must be useful for participants—that’s not always the case right now. When your team adopts the Meaningful Meeting Mindset™, you don’t automatically default to scheduling a meeting. Instead, you pause for a moment to identify your intentions for the meeting and decide whether you can accomplish your goals another way.
Meetings are scheduled for many purposes:
- Status update
- Seeking input or discussion
- Brainstorming or collaboration
- Discussion of urgent or sensitive matters, like difficult feedback
- Consensus building and/or decision making
- Getting to know a new colleague or strengthening relationships with colleagues from another department
Is a live meeting the best way to accomplish your purpose?
Would an asynchronous method of sharing or discussing information be a better choice for all involved?
Status updates are low-hanging fruit just ripe for the Meaningful Meeting Mindset™. A live meeting is not the only way to get status updates; you can share them via Asana, Teams, or Slack. You don’t have to outlaw status meetings if you adopt this mindset. Instead, you become selective and strategic about when you have status meetings.
Group brainstorming is another activity to reconsider. Instead of scheduling a live meeting, you can post questions or slide decks in a Teams or Slack thread and invite teammates to brainstorm there. This asynchronous approach allows participants more time to think deeply before contributing and respond when it’s best for them.
If you decide a live meeting is the best method for your purpose, only invite the people who are absolutely critical to the successful outcome of the meeting. Send out a focused meeting agenda ahead of time along with any pre-meeting work. Pre-work is an essential element of the Meaningful Meeting Mindset™. Accomplish what you can before the meeting so you can dedicate agenda time to activities, like debate and decisions, which are better done ‘in person.’
Meaningful Meeting Mindset™ Benefits
- Quicker results. When you take care of pre-work before the meeting, the time spent together is used more efficiently. Discussions move quickly to decisions. As agenda items are ticked off and desired outcomes are achieved, work moves forward and meetings take less time.
- Fewer meetings. You no longer have to schedule secondary meetings to tackle what should have been accomplished in the first meeting. Everyone learns to take advantage of asynchronous methods for information sharing, discussion, and collaboration.
- Positive attitudes. With fewer meetings on their schedules, employees come to meetings with a positive attitude. They no longer resent the encroachment on their time. Morale improves. Everyone is in a better frame of mind to tackle challenges and hear new ideas.
- Increased productivity. Staff have more time to focus on strategic, deep work. They can finally make progress on big projects.
- Healthier brains. Say goodbye to Zoom fatigue and the dullness it causes. Balance is restored to everyone’s calendar.
- Institutional knowledge. When you use asynchronous methods for status updates, project information and institutional knowledge is captured for everyone, which is especially useful when new people join a project team or organization.
- Transparency and accountability. These asynchronous channels keep everyone in the loop. Team members better understand each other’s roles and responsibilities. People are more easily held accountable for their assigned tasks.