Ask This Question Before Calling a Meeting

Time is valuable, and meetings don’t have to waste it

Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Published in
3 min readMay 28, 2020

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Illustration: Justin Cassano

Everyone loves to hate meetings. For good reason.

For one thing, they’re expensive: Organizations devote copious quantities of well-compensated employee time to meetings. One management consulting firm’s survey found that about 15% of an organization’s total collective time is spent in meetings, a proportion that has been rising.

Meetings can also feel like an obstacle to productivity and creativity: People higher up the ladder tend to spend even more time in meetings, yet a survey published in the Harvard Business Review found that 71% of senior executives said meetings are unproductive and inefficient, and 64% said they come at the expense of deep thinking.

Sadly, switching to remote work, as many organizations did this spring, doesn’t automatically change much. Virtual work leads to less casual office interaction, so people have a tendency to schedule even more formal meetings. That’s a big mistake since there’s some evidence that the slight time delay in videoconferencing makes meetings especially draining.

So given that meetings are sometimes necessary, how can you keep them from being terrible? The key is to ask and answer one question before a meeting:

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Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Writer for

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.