Business meetings can be highly productive, offering insights into your organization and employees. They’re also often an exercise in ego, dragging on for far too long, achieving nothing and blocking employees from completing their work.

Learning how to deal with having too many meetings is a now a top priority for any professional, in any industry. This article will help you to say “no!” to excessive meetings.

A Meeting to Discuss Too Many Meetings

First, a story: A marketing department once had 10 hours of meetings in five working days. In each one, three business heavyweights talked to each other for an hour while everyone else politely waited for them to finish. Eventually, after department-wide complaints, the three leaders held a meeting to discuss why they were having too many meetings.

It’s a common scenario: Many meetings turn into an ego exercise rather than a productive gathering. As author and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam notes:

The biggest problem with meetings is there are too many of them. Packed schedules create a vicious cycle. People call meetings to force deadlines because they know you’re too busy with other meetings to get things done. They call meetings to share information, because you’re too busy with meetings to read your emails. Push back on this nonsense.

Other common problems with meetings include:

  • No clear purpose or agenda.
  • Lack of engagement.
  • No agenda.
  • Overpacking your agenda.
  • Going off topic.
  • Ignore introverted or shy attendees.
  • Ending the meeting with more information needed.

The good news is there are many ways to shake up the status quo.

How to Say “No” to Meetings

Innovation is reshaping how we go about our daily routines, making now an ideal time to say no to relentless meetings. You can use the following tactics to disrupt your business’ meeting routine:

Schedule ahead. Plan well in advance, stick to your schedule and keep it concise. If you have a brief matter to discuss with a colleague, is a meeting necessary? Maybe you can just walk over to his or her desk to talk it through.

Use alternative methods. The natural tendency for many professionals is to call a meeting, but there are faster options that are just as effective. A quick call, one-to-one or email can often be enough to resolve an issue.

Set a time limit. Most meetings can be wrapped up quickly, so make expedience the name of the game. Get right to the point, and cover your core issues rapidly.

Leave meetings early. If you’ve had your say in a meeting and want to move on with your day, consider politely excusing yourself.

Ignore fads. Walking meetings were once touted as an ideal format, but the research on their effectiveness is mixed. Focus instead on what works for your business or your team.

Learn to stand your ground. It may seem revolutionary, but you can leave or avoid meetings to work on high-priority projects. As a leader, try to reduce the number of meetings you call; all it takes is making that first step.

The Right Approach to Meetings

Meetings are a great tool — if you use them wisely. They can reduce email clutter, help participants understand issues and problems better, and help colleagues bond. The trick is to limit them to when they must take place. Recognize that necessity, and you’ll free up many hours to focus on driving productivity — and your employees will embrace the revolution.