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What happened when this workplace expert cancelled all his meetings

Pictured: Man checks his watch in boring meeting. Image: Getty
Ever wondered why you were in a meeting? Image: Getty

There are few workplace frustrations so universally hated as unnecessary meetings: they take too long, destroy your workflow, and keep you away from work that actually needs doing.

Imagine just cancelling them all.

That’s what Atlassian futurist and workplace expert Dom Price did. In early 2018, he realised that his calendar was unsustainable.

There were mentoring relationships he wanted to nourish, but found that to schedule a catch-up, he was looking six months down the line.

“It was just pitiful,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“I was in that situation because my calendar was full of meetings. [I realised that] no one's going to fire me for canceling a meeting. I might upset a few people, but probably not going to get fired.”

He cancelled every meeting in his calendar and informed everyone that if that ‘boomerang’ calendar invitation came back, it needed to explain what his role was in the meeting, what he was responsible for, how best to contribute to the meeting and what the purpose of the meeting was.

“Probably about a third of them came back and when they came back with the purpose of what they were, I was astounded because I was playing a very different role in most of those meetings, which is why they were pissing me off,” Price said.

“The other two were ‘sticks’. Sticks don't come back when you throw them. Stick number one was this type of meeting that doesn't need to occur, and probably never did. Don't invite me, don't invite me back in.”

The third type of meeting were ones that needed to occur, but without Price’s presence.

“There's a million other people that could contribute and you've only got me in for some sort of weird, tactical reason.”

The other two thirds of meeting requests just didn’t come back.

“For me personally, it gave me time to go back and invest in what I wanted to.”

The meetings eventually crept back in, so he had to cleanse his calendar again in December.

But what he found funny was that months later, several people approached him to say that they themselves came to the realisation that those meetings were unnecessary.

What if I can’t cancel all my meetings?

If you can’t just wipe your calendar clean, there are some other ways to minimise the effect of meetings on your workflow.

Innovation expert and founder of consultancy Inventium, Amantha Imber, says that Inventium staff have to ‘batch’ meetings.

“Meetings are such a productivity killer in terms of how they're scheduled,” she said.

This company has already tried to cut meetings down to those that are completely necessary, and when meetings happen, they have to be back-to-back.

According to research from Ohio State University, when workers have a meeting coming up in the next two hours, workers are 22 per cent less productive. This is because they feel they can’t get stuck into decent work with meeting coming up.

“If you do meetings, do them back-to-back but make sure that you've also got a few hours where you've got no meetings on the day. Or maybe do some days where you don't have any meetings,” Imber said.

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