My grandfather used to say: The older you get, Nancy, the faster time flies. I must admit I thought this was an early sign he was losing his marbles. That is until recently when glimmers of his reality arose as half a year of my life sped by in a blink of an eye.

I began examining my work life, attempting to identify where my time was being sucked away without ever giving it permission to do so.

Would it astonish you that my number one top of mind issue was meetings?!

Are you one of the mid-level managers who spend 35 percent of your time in meetings?  Or perhaps you’re in upper management where the number can be a humongous 50 percent.

Do you find many of your meetings an incomprehensible waste—as in what did I accomplish—as I discovered?

A McKinsey survey confirms your sense, revealing, 61 percent of executives said that at least half the time they spend making decisions was ineffective—most in never-ending meetings.

Ask, “In which of the meetings I have attended has my presence advanced the discussion or made a difference to the outcome?” These are your keepers.

Now, challenge yourself regarding the rest:

  • Think contribution: Could I have added value if I came to the meeting with ideas or spoke up more? Then, commit to becoming a key player at every meeting you attend.
  • Think expansion: Is there someone I can delegate the meeting too, so they have an opportunity to be a more significant player in the company and/or expand needed skill sets for their future career development? That’s who you want to attend in your stead.
  • Think streamline: Introduce efficiencies to the meetings you attend: be sure agendas clearly define objectives (discussion, decision, etc.); set predetermined time limits on each item with real-time stops; challenge attendees by verifying everyone is essential (because their time is valuable too); and send off-purpose topics to the “parking lot” (to be scheduled for a future meeting). These are just a few techniques that will save time.
  • Think Network: More decisions are resolved through off-book discussions thrashed out before a meeting than are made in one. These conversations have a two-fold purpose:
    • First, planting seeds as to why I’ve concluded my proposal or position is beneficial;
    • Second, gain a clear-cut understanding of opposition to aid me in crafting an approach to counter the differences. And if you don’t have a valid argument to convert mindsets, rethink presenting your project.  
  • Think Enrollment: Broach eliminating the meeting from your division’s calendar with your boss. Or if you’re the boss, be brave by slashing any meetings, which do not connect to improving the bottom line. Be bold and specific when sharing your reasoning. Everyone has to understand you intend to gain much needed time to work on larger, impact projects for your organization.
  • Think Next Steps: Once a decision is made solidify the group’s “Yes” doesn’t become a “No” or a “Maybe” during the after meeting dialogue by identifying everyone’s stake in the outcome. And it doesn’t hurt to create clarity over next steps. 

Your life has significance. If you believe this, commit to having time work for you. The more you allow time to own you, the less joy you’ll experience, and the less effective you’ll be. You were created with a purpose. Don’t allow inconsequential busyness to rob you and the world of all you’re intended to be.


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