1 Simple Way to Boost Productivity by 50%

People Sleeping in MeetingDo you want to hear a sickening statistic? I write the SmartPulse poll for SmartBrief on Leadership (if you don’t read SmartBrief you’re missing out and should sign up here). Last week I asked how much time people spend in recurring meetings. The answer was shocking.

30% of respondents are spending 25%-75% of their time in recurring meetings. Oh my goodness. How can you possibly spend more time in meetings than you spend at your desk working? Unbelievable.

Clearly there’s a very simple way to boost productivity – kill some meetings. Imagine if you could take all that time you spend in meetings and turn it either into productive time getting stuff done or into time away from the office doing things you enjoy ding. The good news is, it’s reasonably easy to kill a meeting even if it isn’t “yours” to run.

First, let’s acknowledge meetings do have a place in our lives. They’re great tools for quickly and efficiently sharing information. Recurring meetings also have a place. They’re a good forcing mechanism to bring groups together around a certain topic and by having them recur on the calendar, you can efficiently circumvent crazy calendar synchronization challenges.

Unfortunately, once a meeting achieves “recurring” status it takes on a life of its own. That’s where the trouble begins. Fortunately there are four simple steps you can follow to eliminate wasteful meetings.

Determine the Cost

Time is money. For any recurring meeting it’s easy to ignore the cost involved in the time you invest around the conference table. For any recurring meetings you’re evaluating, do this math:
– Calculate the total annual compensation of the people in the room (best estimate).
– Divide by 250 (days in a year).
– Divide by 8 (work hours).
That’s the meeting cost. Example:
– 10 participants in a monthly 2 hour staff meeting is 10 x $150,000 (fully-loaded comp estimate) = $1,500,000 / 250 / 8 * 2 hours * 12 months = $18,000 per year to hold that staff meeting. Now the scary number – multiply that by 10 because people should generate 10x their annual salary in positive financial impact through the work they do. That’s a $180k staff meeting. Now ask if that meeting is worth $180k per year. I’ll bet a few meetings die during this step.

Determine the Purpose

Have you ever stopped and asked “why do we have this meeting every week/month?” Usually the answer is “we’ve always had this meeting.” Wrong.

Ask what the expected outcome and benefit of the meeting is/should be. If it’s not clear, either invest the time to redefine the expected outcome or kill the meeting. If you don’t know what the objective of the meeting is and what the value you’re supposed to generate will be, how can you justify the meeting’s existence?

Determine the Alternatives

Even meetings you’re looking to kill have some shred of value. But ask with a critical eye if there’s a better way to accomplish the same objectives. Can the information be shared more efficiently via a report or email? Can the meeting be shortened? Can participants be trimmed and invited only “as needed?”

If there’s a more efficient alternative you need to seriously consider adopting it.

Murder a Meeting

If you make it through the above steps and determine the meeting must die, kill it and kill it fast. Communicate the decision broadly to the team and affected stakeholders. Let them know you went through a deliberate decision making process to arrive at the conclusion. Not only does this provide transparency into the decision, it helps set an example and expectation with your team that they too can consider taking similar actions with their recurring meetings.

Aren’t we all a little too busy to spend half our time in a conference room meeting on a topic no one cares about to fulfill an objective no one can explain? Go kill a meeting today.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

7 Responses to “1 Simple Way to Boost Productivity by 50%”

  1. Brian Link says:

    Aside from your advice about regular meetings (which are probably the greatest time suck), another great strategy is to only schedule 30 minute meetings or when someone asks you for an hour long meeting, ask them if you can cut to the chase in 10 or 15. Another great strategy, if collaboration is a big part of your meeting agenda is to make a few one minute stops by people's desks a day before the meeting to prep them to read whatever they need to do to be prepared for the meeting and to give them an idea of what they need to be prepared to decide.

  2. MeetingBoy says:

    Did you see my post about how people need to Stop Wasting My Time. In particular:

    "You called 20 people to a 40-minute meeting that served no purpose, thus wasting 800 minutes, yet somehow I’m the bad guy for wasting 30 minutes on Twitter?"

  3. Jim Canterucci says:

    One more tip – Send a designee. This is a great opportunity to expose your folks to what's happening outside the department. And your debrief is a great opportunity to talk (teach/learn/coach) with your team. More tips in our most recent post at ELCircle.

  4. Guy Martin says:

    Great stuff (as usual) Mike!

    This is one of the areas that I *really* like the SCRUM methodology for (at least in software dev or technical endeavors). You have a daily meeting, but it is called a 'stand up' (for a reason). 15 min MAX (strictly enforced), with only three questions/points per person:

    1) What did you do yesterday?
    2) What are you doing today?
    3) Any obstacles/blockers (usually taken offline into a separate discussion with just the necessary folks)

    Now, I realize that this approach doesn't necessarily work for all types of meetings, and it can be a bit of rough sledding to get people used to it, but once you get the 'battle rhythm' of this down, it pays for itself in terms of productivity improvement.

  5. cyndit says:

    Good stuff. For more on this topic, check out

  6. Kirk Baumann says:


    Fantastic advice here! Meetings can certainly kill productivity, even when they're supposed to foster it. I like your approach and will definitely keep this in mind as I attend or schedule future meetings!

    Kirk Baumann
    Campus To Career

  7. Writing is Immortality says:

    I come from a differing vantage point…education. We "meeting" ourselves to death. Departmental, Cadre, Staff, Parent, Coach, etc., and it really adds up. Killing some is a definite possibility, but we are so reliant (as we should be) on collaboration, that we have to really decide what we truly need.

    P.S. I would much rather "waste" my time finding useful and informative blogs, that meet anyway=)

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