Meetings Are Your Worst Nightmare?

Well, you’re not alone!

black white window people

As an introvert equipped with a very limited patience (especially when it comes to enduring not very intelligent people), I feel terrified every time I hear the word ‘MEETING’. Every meeting with more than 3 people is guaranteed to be a nightmare. A useless nightmare.

Meetings are dreadful, unnecessary bore-fests that seem to last a lifetime. And there are too many of them.

The videoconferences and Zoom calls are the worst. You can write off the first several minutes because you and your colleagues will be troubleshooting technical issues, checking that everyone can see what’s being shared on the screen, and struggling to mute or unmute yourselves.

And just as everyone finally gets stuck into some content, someone will inevitably crash in, apologise for being late, and the whole thing starts over. The guy on the speaker usually sounds as if he was in a cole mine. In my experience, I’ve found that it’s best to mute yourself before you start screaming.

Often there’s no pre-meeting agenda, so it’s entirely possible to attend a meeting without knowing what you’re supposed to contribute or get out of it. People usually start initiatives like “Let’s vote on whether to take a vote”. During your presentation, everyone’s watching cat videos on their phones. After four hours, the place smells like a locker room.

Nor is it always apparent why some of us are in the meeting. We may be wasting our time spectating, when we could be getting on with something more valuable — like working. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting and not knowing what the topic is, what the individual parts of the meeting are, or when it is going to end.

My favourite part? Scheduling yet another meeting to finish everything off.

Let me also mention the essential words without which none decent meeting can happen: ASAP, Win-Win situation, Touch base, No-brainer, Back to the drawing board, Get the ball rolling, Hit the ground running, Thought shower, Benchmark, Brainstorm, Moving the goalposts. Sounds familiar?

hold a meeting

It is really a disaster if you are actually trying to make or create something. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything complicated. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone who is having meetings all day long as a main part of his job. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But if you usually get some deep work done, you have to think about it.

Paul Graham confesses:

find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you’re a maker, think of your own case. Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don’t. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.

In a recent TED talk on bad meetings, communications experts David Grady and Jason Fried noted that in the US, most employees attend 62 meetings a month. Executives average 23 hours per week in meetings, where almost eight were unnecessary and poorly run — almost 2 months per year. In financial terms, one Fortune 50 company estimated losses in excess of $75 million per year due to poor meetings. Can someone explain rationally this desperate appetite for wasting so much time and money (and getting people like me completely out of their mind)?