How to Avoid Meetings

I just watched a video from Jason Fried talking why people cannot actually work at work. He explains how they try to avoid interruptions at their company, but most people cannot affect the way other people communicate in their office.

Meetings are the biggest interruptions for people without “Manager”, “Director”, or “VP” in their title. Most meetings are useless or take way too much time, still a lot people get dragged into meetings as experts, and they might not actually say anything during the whole meeting.

Try these tricks to avoid meetings.

1. Don’t go

If there are more than three people at the meeting, they probably won’t need you anyway. See, if anyone notices that you are not there. If they really need your opinion and input, they will come pick you up.

When you do this often, people will stop inviting you to meetings, because they know that you won’t show up, unless you are physically dragged to the meeting. You might get the reputation of someone who hates meetings, but don’t we all? You are just expressing your opinion better than others.

2. Ask for a clear agenda when you are invited

If there isn’t a clear agenda for the meeting, you are better of doing something else. Meetings without agenda get easily sidetracked and nothing gets decided.

The agenda should also say what is the actual goal of the meeting. If there is no goal, don’t go. You don’t need to waste your time listening to other people talking about their hopes and dreams.

3. Say you need to get some actual work done

You might be surprised that this actually works. When you say this to people they might actually realize that they shouldn’t just randomly invite people to meetings. If they keep arguing that the meeting is really important, then ask why is it more important than the work you are doing. If they can answer this question, then you might be out of luck.

4. Don’t obey your managers like in the army

Stand up to your manager, and explain how going into a meeting will interrupt you from getting your work done. Most managers should shield their employees from meetings, but if they don’t, you need to voice your opinion. Most people act like whatever the boss says is the law. Wake up! It’s not the army, unless you are, of course, working for the army. Show some backbone and stop acting like a lamb.

5. Make a mockery of meetings

This tactic will not win you any reputation points, but at least it should get you out of boring meetings. Question the usefulness of the meeting in the meeting. Show that you are actually angry that you were invited to waste your time. When someone gets sidetracked, ask if you can leave, because your time is being wasted. This, of course, requires some balls, but balls will get you out of meetings.

You can also bring your laptop with you, and not pay any attention to the actual meeting. When you show people that you have better things to do, e.g., harvest your Facebook farm, you won’t get that many invitations to meetings anymore.

6. Switch your job

This is the last choice, because some companies are so obsessed with meetings that there might be no way to avoid them. Life is too short and precious to spend it in meetings. Find another job from a company that has a better understanding of the true value of meetings. You should ask in the job interview what is the company policy and opinion about meetings.

I don’t think people want to tell their grandchildren that they spent most of the their work-time in meetings. People want to get things done. They feel good about themselves after a work day, when they actually accomplished something. Nobody feels good after a day of meetings.

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3 Comments

  1. Harry Simons says:

    The only problem is: People have memories. Some of your peers with meeting invites of whom you’re creating fuss today can be your bosses (or, land in some superior position) tomorrow. Then, when it’s lay-off time of the year *AND* you happen to be not so indispensable any more *relative* to the rest of your peers, you make it to the top of this lay-off list.

  2. Of course, if you burn bridges badly, you will probably be the first one to go. My main point was that you have to show that your work is valuable to the company and every invitation to a useless meeting will actually cost the company.

  3. I almost never go. I prefer ad hoc workshops and using IRC or messenger. Telcos are the worst. One-on-one phone is okay.

    I once told a certain boss of mine that I can’t remember when was the last time I attended a meeting. He replied: “Good.”.

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