Welcome to the world of the modern office, where seemingly innocuous ‘meetings’ have morphed into productivity destroyers.
During busier-than-usual deadline seasons, we’ve all thought, “This meeting could have been an email.” It’s more than just an office grumble: It’s become a cultural catchphrase and an opportunity to send colleagues memes.
While we can’t banish meetings entirely (and we absolutely shouldn’t), reassessing and revamping our office structure can help us avoid yet another meeting that could have been an email. Discover productivity tips that will keep you armed with an agenda.
This Article Covers:
The Case for Fewer Meetings
There’s absolutely such a thing as too many meetings. While they’re meant to encourage collaboration, foster teamwork, and enhance productivity, the reality tells a different story.
The following discoveries underscore a harsh truth: Rather than facilitating productivity and teamwork, poorly planned and poorly executed meetings can obstruct work, hinder deep thinking, and even create barriers within teams. It’s vital to reconsider how we approach meetings, trim the fat, and avoid meetings that should have been an email instead.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, a whopping 65% of managers reported that meetings regularly keep them from accomplishing their individual tasks. When a flood of appointments fill up their calendars, the respondents admitted that they grappled with losing time — and not being able to fulfill primary job functions.
“Unproductive and Inefficient”
No one intends to hold meetings that fail to yield expected outcomes. However, 71% of respondents labeled meetings “unproductive and inefficient.” That’s time that could have been used to create, innovate, and solve problems.
The survey discovered that 64% of managers felt that meetings came at the expense of deep thinking. In human beings’ quest for frequent collaboration, we may inadvertently be stifling the focused, solitary thinking that many need for complex problem-solving and strategic planning
Poor Team Cohesion
Perhaps most concerning: 62% of managers felt that meetings missed opportunities to bring their team closer together. If meetings fail to foster team cohesion — a primary function they are supposed to serve — it’s necessary to reevaluate their purpose and execution.
How To Avoid “This Meeting Could Have Been an Email” Memes
While meetings can offer valuable opportunities for collaboration, they’re not always great for accomplishing your objectives. In fact, information shared in meetings could be communicated more efficiently through an email or a message on platforms (like Slack or Microsoft Teams).
By choosing emails or messages in suitable circumstances, it’s possible to save time, reduce stress, and enhance overall productivity. The goal isn’t to eliminate meetings completely. But how do you know when to ditch the Zoom invite and send an email instead?
1. The Information Isn’t Collaborative
If you’re delivering information that doesn’t require immediate feedback, an email is often a better choice. Maybe you’re providing updates on a project, sharing a new policy, or delivering performance reports. These can be quickly read at the recipient’s convenience, saving everyone’s time.
Remember: You can always call a meeting in the future.
2. You Don’t Need Immediate Interaction
Unlike meetings, emails don’t require everyone to be available simultaneously. If your message doesn’t necessitate real-time conversation, let members respond at a time that suits their workload and schedule.
3. Your Message Is Short and Sweet
Maybe your message can be clearly communicated in a few sentences, like reminding your team of a deadline or confirming a minor change in plans. You don’t need a staff meeting: Send a quick email or message instead.
4. You’re Dealing with Logistical Details
If you’re just determining the best date for an event or choosing a location, group emails or polls are more efficient than gathering everyone together for a meeting.
Related: How To Recall an Email in Outlook
5. Attendees Are in Multiple Time Zones
Coordinating a meeting with attendees in various time zones can be a challenge. If the discussion doesn’t require real-time engagement, an email may save everyone the trouble of waking up — or staying up — at odd hours.
Related: How To Record Google Meet
6. Your Purpose Is to Document or Track Progress
Emails can create records of communication that are handy for reference and accountability. If you’re providing task instructions or tracking project milestones, an email can provide a sufficient, traceable record.
How To Make Sure Meetings Are Productive and Effective
Let’s be clear: When they’re executed well, meetings can be powerhouses of productivity, collaboration, and innovation. Follow these tips to avoid making meetings that could have been an email.
1. Create and Send an Agenda Beforehand
Before scheduling a meeting, create a clear and concise agenda. Specify the overarching purpose, what will be discussed, and the outcomes that are expected. Share this document with participants at least a few hours beforehand so they have enough time to prepare.
2. Respect Time Limits
Time is a precious commodity. Show respect to attendees by starting and ending meetings on schedule. Keep meetings as short as possible (about 30-45 minutes). If an issue requires further discussion, consider scheduling a separate meeting with the relevant participants only.
3. Only Invite Necessary Participants
This is a good time to be selective. Many businesses invite too many people “just in case.” Don’t invite them if someone’s presence isn’t essential to the meeting’s objectives. You can always send them a brief summary (or the meeting minutes) afterward.
4. Encourage Participation
Meetings are most effective when everyone is engaged. Encourage participation by giving each attendee a role or responsibility, whether it’s presenting an item on the agenda or taking meeting minutes. This ensures everyone is involved and contributes to the discussion.
Tip: For minutes, either choose a volunteer or record the conversation and have someone write the main points afterward. Some people are better at multitasking than others.
5. Limit Distractions
Implement a “no phone or laptop” policy unless they’re necessary. While this may feel strange at first, it helps to keep everyone focused on the discussion and reduces distractions.
6. Follow Up
After the meeting, distribute a summary or minutes that outline what was discussed, what decisions were made, and what the next steps are. Assign tasks or action items — complete with deadlines — to ensure the work stays on course.
The goal is to make conferencing work for you, not against you. By implementing these strategies, you’ll avoid meetings that could have been emailed.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should I Send a Meeting Invite Instead of an Email?
Send a meeting invite when the topic requires real-time collaboration, immediate feedback, or in-depth discussion that can’t be handled via written communication. If the topic is sensitive or complex, a meeting might work better for a nuanced conversation.
How Do You Ask If a Meeting Can Be an Email?
If you firmly believe that your meeting should be an email, you might say something like:
- “I wonder if the points we need to cover could be effectively addressed in an email instead.”
- “Could we streamline our discussion by handling this over email instead?”
- “Based on an upcoming deadline, I believe this can be covered over email. This would free up time for our most pressing tasks.”
When Are Meetings Better Than Emails?
Real-time interaction and collaboration allow for immediate feedback, clarification, and more nuanced conversation related to complex decision-making. Meetings can also strengthen interpersonal relationships by encouraging face-to-face interaction.
The Bottom Line
Navigating the fine line between unnecessary meetings and vital collaborative sessions is a skill every professional should refine.
Stop wondering if this meeting could have been an email and start being selective with invites. When you ensure that each house is used purposefully and productively, you’ll start to reclaim your workday and enhance your productivity.