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Are many meetings wasting your employees' time?

I was speaking at a conference two months ago when a woman stood up to tell our session a story. The story supposedly had a happy ending, but it isn't quite so happy, if you think about it.

We were lamenting how much time was spent on meetings. She said that she'd run an analysis on her calendar and figured that, before any given month started, she was already booked for 100 hours of meetings. If you figure that a workweek is 40 hours, that means that 100 of 160 hours was consumed by standing meetings. Forget emergency meetings and the like. These were just meetings undertaken in the normal course of business, and that no one was forced to continuously justify.

The happy ending was that she took this number to her supervisor, and shared it with her colleagues, and everyone agreed that it was ridiculous. The department got rid of a few standing commitments and freed up 30 hours per month.

Of course, that still left her with 70 hours of standing meetings.

That she was grateful for the improvement should give us all pause. But it got me thinking. When is the last time you and the people you work with have conducted a "meeting audit?" Have you looked over your calendar and calculated how many hours are booked before people have even been able to evaluate what matters and what does not? Does this make sense as a percentage of overall time? Or are you wasting your employees' time -- and hence potential productivity -- just because meetings accumulate like piles of mail if no one pays attention?

How many hours do you and your team members spend in regularly scheduled meetings each week?

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