How to cancel most of your meetings

We live in a world of too many meetings. Since the pandemic started, every day, millions of workers log on to their computers and sit through hour after hour of back-to-back meetings and do not get any work done.

A recent survey cited that 67% of respondents found that meetings made them lose focus and overall less productive. Zoom fatigue is damaging our workforce. A Stanford study that noted “excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense, the cognitive load is much higher in video chats and seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.”

Luckily there’s a simple solution that eliminates the problem, and is quite simple: cancel most of your weekly meetings. While it sounds impossible, or too good to be true, my own company implemented this policy from its start and only had success since. Let me dive into it.

My past experience brought me to work at great companies like Uber and Google. With teams spread around the world, I found myself in video meetings all day, late into my personal time. Not only that, I found that most of the time these meetings were just a rehashing of things we already knew and simply cut into productive thinking and working.

What makes it worse is that people tend to draw out meetings to fill their allotted times, even if everything is covered before the agreed upon time is finished, whether it’s 30, 60 or even 90 minutes. Nearly a decade of this helped inform how I would run my business, when the time came.

When I set out to create Rock, a multipurpose messaging app that promotes asynchronous work, I made it my mission to ensure our internal team would not have to deal with unwieldy meetings all day. Not that it was even feasible to maintain this practice anyway, as our team is made up of people in 10 countries and seven time zones. We had to break free from the 9-5, work-work-work routine.

We eliminated nearly all of our planned meetings

Most video calls do not need to occur live and can in fact be replaced by asynchronous updates and tasks. I wrote about this in a previous article“Asynchronous work, in short, is when work happens for different people on their own time. Work is instead where teammates set tasks and deadlines for the other without the expectation to respond right away.If you need to chat with a team or another teammate, you can always set something up when they have time.

Based on our experiences at Rock, here’s how companies should be thinking about reducing the amount of time wasted on meetings:

  1. Take stock of all your meetings and cancel all status update meetings. There’s no need to have multiple 30-minute “check in” meetings week to week when simple written updates through tools like Rock can solve and do everything a status update meeting does.
  2. If you have to have a weekly check in style meeting, cut back the time you spend on each meeting gradually. You’d be surprised at how easy it is and how little you’ll miss these meetings when they’re gone or so much shorter. Shorten a 60-minute meeting to 30 minutes, then to 15 minutes and you’ll end up with a five to 10 minute stand up that will no longer be burdensome.
  3. Consider everything that gets discussed in your meetings and think of ways these could be communicated without doing it in real time. You can share asynchronous video updates to be watched later through tools like Loom or leave audio messages through Rock.
  4. Set up status updates via a tool like Rock. At the start of each week, team managers should create topics or tasks that team members can work on and add their updates. If there are issues or questions these can then be discussed asynchronously.
  5. Reserve face-to-face meeting time for the most important and complex discussions like brainstorming, one-on-ones, and other things that don’t work as well asynchronously.

Video meeting fatigue is a real issue and wasted meeting hours can cost money companies. Fielding a team of tired, depressed and unproductive employees can only lead to failure in today’s working world. To truly succeed, we need to reevaluate how we spend our time working and what methods we can employ to maximize not just productivity but our lives. With these changes, you’ll be shocked at what you and your team will be able to accomplish.


Kenzo Fong is the founder and CEO of Rock, a multipurpose messaging app.

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