Check Out This Brilliantly Simple Way to Cut HOURS Out of Your Workday

by Darwin on February 7, 2012


OK, so after reading The 4-Hour Workweek (incredibly transformative book by the way) and various other career and productivity blogs, I thought I’d heard all the various ways people shave time in their day.  Some of the tactics I’ve read about range from checking your email only once per day (not feasible for many of us), to making people stand up in your meetings (I’ve read about this in numerous places and apparently it makes meetings go MUCH quicker!…but pisses off a lot of people).  However, I’ve been seeing some people in my company pull this on me and I finally caught on to what they were doing:

See, our company’s going through all kinds of new initiatives and everyone’s feeling overloaded.  There are a ton of new projects and hence, a ton of meetings.  Since many of us need to run virtual meetings due to geographical locations, we end up with a lot of webmeetings/telecons, as opposed to face to face meetings where you actually have to be in a conference room in person.  Many of us are finding 6-8 hours of the day eaten up by meeting requests.  When you add in some time for lunch, a bathroom break and doing actual WORK that requires dedicated quiet time, it’s a 10 hour day easily every day.  So, what I’ve been getting from a lot of people in my meetings is the following:

I can only make the first half hour of the meeting, is it OK if we cover my part early on?

This seems reasonable, especially since my projects span several different functions and often times we can get the particular issues relevant to certain functions done at a particular time.  However, after seeing this same message from the same couple people for different projects at different times of the day, I figured out what they were doing!

They’re effectively cutting their time spent in meetings in half!

On one hand, you might say, “Why not just stop going to meetings altogether?”  or maybe you think my meetings are unnecessary or unproductive… I do cancel plenty of meetings when we can handle issues offline or I turn weekly meetings into monthly meetings when projects go into a lull like a capital project phase or awaiting regulatory approvals or something along those lines.  However, we often need some cross-functional discussion and decision-making which is the intent of the recurring meetings.

While flat out skipping meetings is sure to hurt the team, the timeline and ultimately, their feedback, if people are getting their work done and moving things along during that attendance time, I guess it’s not killing me as a project manager.  Now, nobody has flat out admitted that this is what they’re doing, but it seems to be a systematic, planned approach to meetings – and it’s working for them!

Since I run most of the meetings I’m in, it’s tough to do that in my own meetings.  But admittedly, there are probably 3-4 meetings a week that someone else is running that arguably, I’m only invited for one portion due to an update, a decision or to escalate issues.  So, perhaps I’ll start the ole’ “first 30 minutes” method and buy myself back a couple hours a week.

What Are Your Thougths?


Am I the Last Guy to Figure This Out?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Maggie@SquarePennies February 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Not a bad idea. It gets to the crux of the issue. Who really needs to hear about which projects? And are there reasons that others could benefit from hearing projects that don’t directly affect them? A manager has to make those judgments.

As far as having standing meetings, I think that could be called discriminatory towards older workers or those with health problems. I’d think there would be better ways to handle the problem of lengthy meetings. When I was president of a non-profit, we had a member of the board who often would say, “Let’s move on.” It was very helpful when discussions started going in circles. Perhaps there should be an unofficial or official person assigned with the task of saying, “Let’s move on.”


Darwin February 8, 2012 at 12:11 am

Wow, I hadn’t thought about the discriminatory thing; or even just making someone feel like crap that isn’t in good shape if they’re not technically “disabled”. That probably explains the reaction I heard about when someone at my company was doing it! The meetings were fast, but I don’t think it lasted very long.
To manage time in my meetings, I work off an agenda and we usually end a bit early, but some people do have a tendency to drone on and I sometimes have to push them along.


Maqggie@SquarePennies February 8, 2012 at 12:44 am

Also what about women who are pregnant? Not to mention that some women might not feel well enough to stand for a long time during their period. That’s not the case for many women, but it could be true for some. And how many of them would feel comfortable asking to sit because it’s their period? I have a feeling there would be more people taking sick days on meeting days to avoid the embarrassment/strain of it.

A cashier at Sam’s Club told me that they used to have stools to sit on until management got rid of the stools. Since they were standing on concrete floors I assumed that was an under-handed way to get rid of workers who were older or had health problems. Those were the kind of things that unions used to be able to help with. Now that unions are rare or have little power, workers have less choice in working conditions.


Andrea @SoOverDebt February 8, 2012 at 2:20 am

If that many people only need to present (versus staying for the whole meeting to hear what others have to say), why hold a meeting at all? Seems like you could have each person email you their info and slap together one email for those who need to know everything. I could be totally missing the point, but if several people are just spitting out a status report and leaving to get back to work, it seems like their presence really isn’t that important.

In my last job, my supervisor just loved meetings. It was easier/faster for her to have all of us in one place instead of talking to us separately. However, once I finished discussing my part of what we were doing, I really didn’t need to be there for anything else (yet I was required to stay the whole time). The meetings were more for her convenience than ours, and it was very frustrating to deal with.


Darwin February 8, 2012 at 8:28 am

I probably didn’t classify the type of work I do very well. It’s project management for pretty complex technical transfers of products from one site to another. There are so many functions involved from Procurement to Technical to Quality to Planning to Logistics that none of these people talk to each other outside my team meetings – they’re involved in too many projects at once. So my meeting is the hub for these discussions and resolution of problems, of which there are many.


JT February 8, 2012 at 3:32 am

Oh man, I’m sure everyone has a “meeting story.”

A little more than a year ago I worked with a firm as an outside contractor/consultant. My whole experience working with them turned into one massive meeting of a job. Things were slow. Everything was talked over and discussed to the point that it might have been more productive to just go around and ask everyone their favorite color.

Long story short, I realized that this firm’s larger size could be a definite speed bump in getting things done. It wasn’t until a few months in that I realized what was going on – a so-called “task force” was put together internally to smooth their sales process. Me being an outsider, I wasn’t entirely in-tune with the internal culture. I was being paid quite well for a few hours of my time, and this was a really big deal for me.

Then I realized exactly what was going on. The people spearheading the “task force” were slow-rolling any progress for their own benefit! The slower we went, the better – the “task force” was enjoying extra compensation for their time spent working on their own internal processes. Progress counted only so far that we could show progress (no matter how minute) actually existed.

I can definitely see what your coworkers see: meetings can be a complete waste of time if they are far removed from the main business, or such a small segment that they’re hardly noticeable. I blame this partly on management – CEO disease is very real! But I also blame in on workers who realize that they have it so good that any progress is monumental.

Awesome post! I really got a chuckle out of almost forgotten memories.


Darwin February 8, 2012 at 8:29 am

Oh wow, I could see that with contract-type work. I’ve heard before to never let the contactors tell you what’s needed, you tell them…or they’ll drag out the scope of work and the timeline.


Moneycone February 8, 2012 at 8:12 am

If I’m invited to a meeting that I don’t think I need to attend, I politely refuse. Send me the minutes, I can add my thoughts.

Most meetings are a time-kill. There are occasions when a meeting is useful, brainstorming for instance, but calling a meeting for statuses is counter-productive.


Darwin February 8, 2012 at 8:20 am

So what about a meeting you DO have to attend? As part of a team with a key role, you need to update on your status, help resolve an open issue requiring discussion/decision and answer a few questions that aren’t being addressed adequately over email? This is the case for many of my folks (and myself) where presence is needed for some time, but perhaps just a portion of the meeting.


Andrea @SoOverDebt February 8, 2012 at 10:04 am

Jumping in here because Moneycone’s comment is similar to the point I was trying to make.

If people aren’t needed for the entire meeting, maybe there should be shorter, separate meetings. Gather the people who need to hear *everything*, then schedule small groups to come in for 15-20 minutes instead of everyone for an hour. Essentially, it sounds like that’s what happening already – people are showing up for only the portion that applies to them.


Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog February 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm

That sounds like a pretty effective way to stop wasting your time in the meetings. Did you ever read “getting things done” he talks a lot about meetings in there – always ask “what’s the point of this meeting, and why do I need to be here”


krantcents February 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Any meeting that lasts more than 45 minutes is ineffective! Whenerver I ran a meeting, I got to my points and kept to the agenda and we generally finished under 45 minutes. It takes more of an effort, but it is worthwhile. When your butt goes numb from sitting there, it s time to end the meeting.


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