Say Yes to No-Meeting Days
Meetings are a symptom of bad organization
“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.” — Peter Drucker”
Love them or hate them, meetings make up a large chunk of what we call work. It’s how we discuss ideas, share updates, brainstorm on projects, and get things done. Yet many business leaders consider meetings a necessary evil, and it’s easy to understand why — we meet too often.
We tried this experiment with Artha’s CEO and Managing Partner, Anirudh, for the last month. Anirudh’s demanding schedule made us wonder at times if there was an app to add an extra hour to the day & make it 25. We still made an attempt and blocked no meeting days on his schedule & guess what — We got closure on projects that were pending on the to-do list for months.
Unfortunately, overcoming the “let’s get everyone together in a room” instinct can be difficult for seasoned leaders and new managers alike. The result? Employees get little to no flow time, projects always seem to get put off, and team productivity suffers.
The numbers don’t lie.
Your average employee attends 62 meetings each month, spending a full-fifth of their work hours in meetings that are unproductive at best.
Higher up the corporate ladder, it gets worse — middle managers and senior leadership spend 35–50% of their time in meetings. Instead of being an engine of productivity, one in two business meetings is considered a waste of time. In 2019, poorly organized meetings cost US businesses $399 billion.
To be clear, we can’t get rid of all business meetings — they do often help us work together, take collective action, and get things done — but we can (and should) be picky about the ones we host so we can run better meetings and get more accomplished.
Further, implementing measures like no-meeting days as seen in businesses as diverse as Facebook, Asana, and Okta, can help cut down on unproductive meetings and give employees back their time to focus on doing actual work that needs to get done.
What is a no-meeting day?
A no-meeting day is a day for focused work. It’s necessarily a day each week with no meetings, so you (and your team) can focus on getting things done. It can be any day of the week — some businesses pick Wednesdays while others like Thursdays better for no-meeting days.
Regardless, every team member knows not to schedule meetings on a no-meeting day, unless necessary — so everyone gets uninterrupted time to do their best work.
The advantages of no-meeting days
- Helps the team focused without interruptions
Unproductive meetings are a waste of time, but each meeting also interrupts your employees’ “flow” at work and eats up additional work hours. Even if it’s an insanely productive 30-minute meeting, it takes people another 23 minutes (on average) to get back into the groove.
A few such meetings each day and before you know it, half the workday is gone! With no meetings, the team enjoys an uninterrupted work zone that is perfect for deep work and more significant projects that keep getting pushed aside.
- Achieving a ‘state of flow’ is easier, so productivity goes up.
When people do what they love without distractions, they enter a ‘state of flow’ that leads to stellar output. Without meetings interrupting the workday, employees can check more tasks off their task lists and be more productive.
- Allows everyone, managers included being “doers.”
Most managers are used to schedule-driven days, spending about 35% of their work hours knee-deep in meetings. Implementing a no-meeting day across the business gives everyone, including managers, more opportunities for focused work so they can be “doers.”
- Increases employee engagement in meetings
Too many meetings kill not just productivity but also engagement. Nearly 73% of employees admit to doing other work in a meeting, and 39% say they fell asleep during one. Removing meetings from the equation for a day makes it easier to schedule meetings during the rest of the week since all your team members schedules are in sync.
How to implement no-meeting days?
Once you’re convinced that less is more, at least when it comes to meetings, here’s how you can get started with no-meeting days and weave them into your team culture.
- Get buy-in from your team.
Present your no-meeting day proposal and ask for feedback. Individual contributors will be an easy sell; they’ll love more time for focused work. For managers — explain how a no-meeting day gives them time to dig into their neverending to-do lists and get more work done.
- Agree on a day of the week
Getting everyone to agree on a no-meeting day can be tough. Conduct a company-wide survey to identify what works for everyone (or most people). Distributed or remote teams may find it easier to make a call based on timezone overlaps.
- Clean up your calendar
Cancel meetings that don’t add value. Get rid of status meetings; use a project management system like ScrumGenius instead to keep an eye on progress. Work with managers to ensure this action is repeated throughout the business for every employee’s calendar.
- Communicate and encourage
Every employee must know what to expect from no-meeting days and the benefits you’re hoping to achieve. Ensure that you set the right expectations, not only in terms of meetings but also about how employees can make the most of no-meeting days.
Keep in mind that sometimes it might be necessary to schedule a meeting on a no-meeting day, so clearly set that expectation upfront.
If you see meetings scheduled on a designated no-meeting day, encourage your team to move them and reiterate how no-meeting days benefit the business as a whole.
Most importantly, stay flexible and open to trying new ways to make no-meeting days fit into your team schedule. Remember that no-meeting days are for everyone in your team — not just the individual contributors or managers.
Lead by example and encourage everyone — managers and leaders included — to make use of no-meeting days. And every so often, poll your team for feedback on making your meetings more efficient and effective.