A Guide to Tackling Too Many Meetings in 2023

Figure out why your team has too many meetings, plus learn about 6 tricks to make your time more efficient!

The gift of time is a precious one. We’ve all had days that we wish could be extended just so that we could get more done. On days when you have too many meetings, you don’t get a lot of time to actually do some of the deep focus work that’s on your to-do list. To help you overcome this and get back to driving higher productivity, we’re covering a few reasons your calendar might be overloaded as well as some ways to prevent that from happening in the future!

Why you’re having too many meetings 

Meetings don’t have a clear purpose

A meeting’s purpose statement is essential to help attendees know why the meeting is worth their while. Without it, teams show up to the collaboration time unprepared and unsure of what the conversation will be about. This leaves a lot of room for the conversation to derail onto some other topic and leave you without the end result you actually needed from the meeting. 

Fellow helps ensure every meeting has a clear purpose. With the Meeting Guidelines feature set, when a meeting is being created, meeting organizers are prompted to add a meeting purpose to the description of the meeting, to help boost meeting engagement.

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There’s a lack of trust

Team members who don’t have trust in one another will have a tough time coming to agreements at work. Building trust takes time, but it’s essential. Once formed, it helps employees feel confident in making decisions, taking risks, and assigning project requirements to specific team members. Meetings will then move faster because participants will be efficient in their decision making. Teams will then need fewer follow-up or review meetings, too!

Responsibilities are unclear

At the end of each meeting, action items should be assigned to specific, individual employees with a clear outline of what is to be completed and by when. If you haven’t been assigning action items, or you have been but without the requirements that keep your team members accountable, this is probably one reason things aren’t getting done. Without clearly defined responsibilities, teams will rely on more meetings to re-focus, re-discuss tasks, and re-distribute work—all of which should be unnecessary if action items are assigned properly. 

With Fellow, you can assign, visualize, and prioritize all your meeting to-dos in one place. John Gleeson, VP of Customer Success at Motive says,

“Fellow helps us stay organized and follow up on the action items that inevitably come out of every meeting. It’s been a game-changer for our team.”

Too many people are invited

It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase, too many cooks in the kitchen.” Well, the same can be said for meetings with too many invitees! If you’re asking more than seven people to have active engagement in a meeting, it’s very likely that you won’t be able to hear everyone’s perspectives within the scheduled time. Instead, you’re more likely to either go over time or need to book additional meetings. So unless you’re hosting a town hall, stand-up, or another meeting type where the majority of participants are observers, try to only bring presenters, decision makers, and subject matter experts to the call.

Decision making is poor

Coming back for yet another meeting for a previously settled meeting topic isn’t something anyone wants to do. But when poor decision making happens, it forces teams to re-schedule additional meetings to sort it out. Depending on the complexities of the project, poor decision making can also lead team members to feel confused or stressed, which then increases the likelihood of having an unclear purpose or responsibilities. When you’re in this situation, it’s important to make things as simple and as actionable as possible so teams know what to do next and why. 

What happens when you have too many meetings 

When you or your team are involved in too many meetings, you run the risk of lowered productivity, burnout, and misalignment across teams. Meeting recovery syndrome (MRS) can also occur, particularly after meetings that are chaotic, stressful, or disorganized or those that fail to meet their goal.  

Forbes contributor George Deeb explains,

“[having too many meetings] leads to combating issues like analysis paralysis, management by committee, micromanagement, disgruntled employees and an overall loss of business productivity. So, instead, take more of a hands-off role in managing your team.”

There’s even quantitative proof that having too many meetings can negatively impact your team’s well-being and productivity. One Harvard Business Review article states,

“Across the 76 companies we surveyed, we found that employee productivity was 71% higher when meetings were reduced by 40%. This is largely because employees felt more empowered and autonomous. Rather than a schedule being the boss, they owned their to-do lists and held themselves accountable, which consequently increased their satisfaction by 52%.”

How to deal with too many meetings at work 

1Cancel meetings that don’t have an agenda

Fellow’s motto is no agenda, no attenda! The saying was born from the fact that teams need some sort of structure to facilitate a productive working meeting together. Without an agenda, how are you supposed to know what to talk about? Meeting agendas should be collaborative and involve all participants to make sure that everyone’s desired talking points are accounted for. The final agenda should be shared with everyone at least one business day before the meeting to allow for review and preparation time.

2Consider asynchronous meetings 

Asynchronous meetings are a fantastic option for teams that don’t have a lot of mutually available time slots, such as remote teams operating from different time zones. How these meetings work is that teams have a set period of time to add comments back and forth on a shared agenda that acts as a means of communication. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, this is quite an effective approach! They say,

“Our research found that 83% of employees preferred using [asynchronous] chat touch points over traditional one-to-one meetings because it saved them time. If your team members have a question, they can drop you a message instead of having to find a 30-minute block on your calendar.”

3Use a meeting management tool

Luckily, there’s meeting management software like Fellow that helps automatically organize meetings when you already have a lot on your plate. Use this tool to create your meeting agendas, share notes with the rest of your team, track the completion of action items assigned during meetings, and collect feedback about meeting effectiveness after each call. As a bonus, you can even track how much time you’re spending in meetings as a metric to improve meeting productivity! 

4Only invite people who provide value 

Limiting your guest list to high-value contributors is important. If you’re inviting attendees who aren’t relevant to the meeting’s purpose, you’ll spend more of your call providing them context and less making decisions. Fellow’s Meeting Guidelines feature set helps you ensure only the most essential attendees are in your meetings. If a meeting has more than seven attendees, Fellow will send the meeting organizer a prompt to remove additional attendees or mark them as optional.

5Assign meeting roles

Having set meeting roles is a great practice for many reasons. The first benefit that meeting roles provide is organizing your meeting so no task goes unattended. You’ll have someone to track time, take notes, send the invite, and more. Secondly, you’ll also provide your attendees with a sense of purpose, which motivates them to participate. When your participants are more engaged in the conversation, they’re more likely to have impactful contributions and retain more of the discussion. 

6Implement a no-meeting day 

No-meeting days started as an inspirational workplace improvement trend but quickly proved to have a lot of value for employees and organizations alike! These days allow teams to get deep focus time on their projects, which increases progress towards growth goals and actually encourages employees to be more resourceful in finding answers independently. 

The best and easiest way to implement a no-meeting day is by using a tool that has the functionality already baked in. As part of its Meeting Guidelines feature set, Fellow enables company leaders to set a no-meeting day for their organization so that new meeting requests can’t be booked for those specified days. 

How to have fewer meetings with Fellow

Fellow is the #1 rated meeting management software where teams gather to have productive team meetings and meaningful 1:1s, build collaborative meeting agendas, record decisions, and keep each other accountable. Fellow’s Meeting Guidelines feature set ensures every meeting has a clear purpose and a collaborative meeting agenda. The feature set also has smart functionality to prompt questions about the importance of every invitee or the frequency of recurring meetings, for example. Additionally, Fellow’s meeting analytics help you get insights into how your company collaborates, prevent meeting overload, and understand your company’s meeting etiquette to improve your companies meeting culture!

For leaders who want to keep their meetings efficient, Fellow’s AI meeting assistant can step right in! Ahead of each call, Fellow’s AI-generated agenda takes cues from meeting titles, meeting descriptions, previous meeting notes, and attendees to suggest relevant meeting structures with topics and talking points so your meetings are set up for success. Then, Fellow’s AI meeting assistant takes care of recording and transcribing meetings so participants can stay focused and engaged in the discussion. Finally, Fellow’s AI meeting summaries, paired with recordings and full AI meeting transcriptions are all in one place to keep all stakeholders in the loop, even when they’re not in the meeting. Fellow is a central repository for all meeting records so everyone is aligned and follow-ups are clear.

Parting advice 

High-growth teams frequently run into the challenge of having too many meetings. And when you’re in the thick of it, it’s difficult to think about better ways to organize your meetings or even cut out some calls on your calendar. When you’re leveraging meeting management software, you won’t have to think of this yourself. Instead, the tool will automatically remind you of new and simple ways to practice great meeting hygiene. In turn, you’ll have a cleaner calendar that is intentional, purposeful, and effective at achieving its goals!

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About the author

Alexandria Hewko

Alexandria Hewko, holding a Master's of Digital Transformation & Innovation at the University of Ottawa and a Bachelor's of International Business from Carleton University, brings a rich blend of international marketing, business management, and IT expertise to her writing. Founder of a travel blog in 2018 and an experienced global marketer in the tech and consumer electronics sectors, Alexandria excels at illuminating lesser-discussed topics through compelling storytelling.

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