Nothing has the potential to slow progress more than the perpetual organizing of meetings. Meetings kill momentum in a variety of ways and I’d like to look at a 5 meetings you should always cancel if you find yourself being asked to attend.

Meetings Kill Momentum

First let me say right away – meetings don’t have to be bad. Meetings serve a very important roles and can be used for making a great cohesive team. But careless meetings and unplanned meetings can absolutely ruin a team. Nothing has greater opportunity for disrupting progress then a poorly constructed meeting. Here’s a few of the major warning signs to avoid when implementing meetings. Avoid these common meeting pitfalls and you’ll have successful meetings with purpose and productivity.

 The Eternal Meeting

Problem: This meeting type is the dreaded meeting without a definite length. Usually the eternal meeting is begun with good intentions, there may be some good points needing to be discussed and the various people involved simply want to give adequate time to each topic. In an effort to make sure no one feels rushed the meeting is given either an unbearably long duration or worse no ending time at all. The eternal meeting may also slip quickly into several of the other meeting types listed below.

Solution: I’ve read several different articles on the best length for a meeting. Some recommend setting a meeting length of 45 minutes. This gives enough time to share information but also encourages the meeting to stay on task and to the point in order to cover everything. I’d encourage you to look at taking that a bit further and plan your meetings to be 15 to 20 minutes max.

The Leaderless Meeting

Problem: The leaderless meeting is the meeting type where there is no clear moderator (or facilitator) and no clear note taker. The result is the conversation meanders aimlessly along without any direction or focus. The leaderless meeting is a complete time drain without a facilitator pushing the conversation towards a meaningful goal.

Solution: Every meeting should have a clearly defined facilitator and note taker. These two roles should be agreed upon and the people filling the positions should be capable of performing their duties. The moderator must be capable of keeping people on point while not stifling creativity or lively discussion.

The Impromptu Meeting

Problem: The impromptu meeting sounds like a good idea but never is. These meetings usually are last minute thoughts which very rarely give people enough time to prepare. Without adequate prep time the meeting participants lack clear direction and the ability to share their ideas or work effectively. Usually an impromptu meeting is also leaderless as well as eternal.

Solution: Plan your meeting times with enough lead time for the participants to prepare. In addition, be thoughtful about creating a meeting time and selecting a facilitator to run the meeting. Impromptu meetings don’t have to be bad but care must be taken to limit their length and have a clear focus and leader.

The Pointless Meeting

Problem: The pointless meeting is the meeting where nothing is decided upon; no outcome is defined and no definitive purpose has been created. These meetings typically start with good intentions. (e.g. We should meet every Friday at 4:00 PM to discuss the items accomplished this week)  These meetings quickly become nothing more than a ritual and in the example above a rite of passage to get to the weekend. The pointless meeting is the worst waste of time as attendees are typically frowned upon for not attending and yet attendance does not mean progress will be made.

Solution: Never hold a meeting simply to maintain a schedule. If your meeting does not have a purpose or a goal then the meeting is unnecessary. Don’t waste time sitting in a meeting where the only purpose is to regurgitate information about the previous week. Send an email to share accomplishments instead. The pointless meeting hurts productivity tremendously if the participants must drop what they are doing to attend a meeting without a purpose. Organize meetings with purpose and timeframes.

The Missing Meeting

Problem: The missing meeting is the meeting where attendees fail to show. This meeting type is more difficult one to cancel early on as you may not know if everyone shows up until the meeting is about to begin. Remember a few things though.

First, since you no longer have the “pointless meetings” then there is no “standing” meeting time. Each meeting is for a specific and defined purpose. Second each meeting should have a clearly defined length and a moderator or facilitator ready to lead.

Solution: Plan meetings in advance so participants have the opportunity to respond with an RSVP. This way attendees can schedule the meeting on their agenda and prepare to attend. Never schedule recurring meetings. Never start impromptu meetings without an opportunity for people to plan to attend in advance.

If attendance for a particular meeting is going to be too low to accomplish anything productive – cancel the meeting.

Be Vigilant

If you find yourself in a situation where these types of meetings are occurring – do something about it. These types of meetings should never occur and should always be cancelled. They disrespect the time (and ultimately life) of the people expected to attend and they fail to accomplish anything productive.

There is nothing worse to the momentum of a project then to be bogged down in pointless and mind-numbing meetings. Don’t forget that meetings rarely contain the power to make a motion and carry a decision. If your meeting is not capable of reaching a definitive decision then seriously question the purpose of the meeting. Talking things out can be helpful for some but rarely serve any real purpose. Ultimately anything covered will be rehashed in the follow-up email and resulting email thread discussion.

Don’t be afraid of canceling a meeting. Take the initiative to be adamant about valuing your team members time and progress. Respect each other and be willing to throw the stop and cancel the meeting. The last thing you want to do is stall out progress and productivity of your team.