3 Ways to Convince Your Manager That a A ‘No Meeting Day’ Is Essential for Productivity

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Sara London at Hive
Sara London at Hive
April 23, 2024 at 5:0AM UTC
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to work a full day without meetings, the concept of “no meeting days” could be an answer to your prayers. However, no meeting days aren’t just about getting rid of meetings – they’re about getting rid of the way you think about meetings. Experts Peter Docker, pilot, consultant, and author of Leading from the Jumpseat, and Tanvir Bhangoo, business strategist, CEO, and author of The P.R.O. Business Mindset, weigh in on how to capitalize on this trend and why rethinking meetings is so important.

What is a no meeting day?

A no meeting day is precisely what it sounds like — one day blocked off of your calendar every week in which you only focus on your own work, and you aren’t interrupted by meetings. However, no meeting days aren’t just about having free time. They’re invaluable tools for learning about company culture and the organization’s ethos around meetings.
“We were trying to boost overall productivity and address the fact that everyone felt they were too tired from too many meetings,” he says. “At first, we saw that implementing a no meeting day just made people cram all their meetings into the rest of the week, making people even less productive. So, instead, we decided to address the root cause first, which was to shift people’s behavior from having meetings for the sake of meeting to getting results.”
This behavior shift involved chat tools, rules for booking and outlining meeting agendas, and building better ways for teams to exchange information – all because of a no meeting day.

Why do you need it?

It might seem like you’re getting enough done throughout the day, even when you’re in a few meetings here and there. But meetings are a loaded concept in the future of work, and you may have an unknowingly fraught relationship with how they impact your productivity.

1. You’re in meeting overload.

One of the reasons we might need no meeting days is that meetings dominate our calendars at this point in the pandemic. Docker says that the days of remote work have brought about more meetings than ever ­— a 2020 study of 3.1 million people in 16 global cities found that people were attending 13 percent more meetings, though each meeting was, on average, 12 minutes shorter.
As to why this might be, Bhangoo adds that because quick office huddles or check-ins aren’t occurring just by stopping by someone’s desk, these days, the once spontaneous conversations are now meetings blocked off in one’s calendar.
Too many meetings can end up feeling monotonous and draining, and important exchanges of information may be lost when a meaningless meeting feels the same as an important one.

2. Your flow is broken.

Another way that meetings can impede productivity is by breaking your flow and interrupting the way you work.
“A key driver behind this trend is the lack of information flow in virtual environments,” Bhangoo says. “Office settings organically allow information to flow much more freely. Brainstorming ideas, running something by your boss, or providing a quick update, for example, do not require you to set up an official meeting when you’re in the office. But when everyone is remote, it usually ends up becoming a call on your calendar.”
“Unfortunately, meetings are often viewed as a disruption – except by those calling them,” Docker says.
Some researchers say that the feeling of trying to re-establish a rhythm after a dull meeting is called “meeting recovery syndrome,” and back-to-back meetings make for a longer recovery time.
“Building focus requires effort and energy, especially given the number of distractions present all around us,” Bhangoo adds. “Furthermore, research shows that decision-making depletes our willpower. More meetings generally mean more decisions, hence leaving us fatigued by the time we’re ready to focus on our work.

3. Your mindset needs to be shifted.

No meeting days can also help reframe people’s antagonistic relationship with meetings and make them into meaningful, positive experiences instead of irritating necessities.
“Time is a finite resource,” Docker adds. “When we say “Yes” to a meeting, we’re saying “No” to the many other things our people could be doing. Every situation is different… the meeting is not the problem, it’s the perception that we do not value people’s time.”
Docker also says that meetings are less effective if you’re just afraid of missing out. If you have the same attitude towards meetings that kids in school have toward attendance, then you’re not coming into the meeting for the right reasons – and as a result, the way you think about meetings can be twisted.
“What we need to do is shift our relationship with meetings and redefine them, so we see them as a way to propel us forward, not hold us back.”

Making the perfect no meeting days

“The key is that before implementing no meeting days, identify the core problem you’re trying to solve and work with your team to first instill the right behaviors when it comes to overall productivity.”
This involves making rules, Bhangoo says, that fit in best with the company’s workflow. Layout appropriate exceptions to no meeting days, for instance, if that’s the only day a client, customer, or leadership can meet or if there’s a product launch.
“These rules need to be followed and championed by the leadership team,” Bhangoo says. “If the leadership team does not abide by these, it will become tough to get the rest of the team to buy-in. ”
Docker also notes that employees should be allowed to leave a meeting if they can contribute to the larger mission more productively in a different way.
The other important thing to remember is to match your own personal productivity with your teammates, and don’t feel limited to no meeting days. If your most productive time is in the morning, have a couple of no meeting mornings per week instead.
“Every person, team, organization, and industry is different. What I encourage is listening to your people. Ask them for feedback and act on it.”

No “no meeting days”? No problem

If you aren’t in a position to schedule no meeting days, there are other ways to cut back on superfluous conferencing so that you’ll have bandwidth left for the meetings that require your concentration.
“If two emails don’t solve a problem, then call the other person,” Bhangoo recommends. “We’ve seen this solve 80% of the issues that become labeled as meetings. Plus, it saves everyone time as writing emails still takes work.”
Whether you’re leading the meeting or just attending, Docker advises that you should take every opportunity to learn.
“Approach meetings from the perspective of continuous improvement,” he says. “At the end of every meeting, ask the attendees if they felt any element was a waste of time or irrelevant. Act on the feedback.”
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This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

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