Those endless blocks of time during the workday in which we are given tacit approval to zone out but that we cannot skip.
One study estimated that American companies hold 11 million meetings daily. Another said the unproductive ones cost the country about $37 billion yearly. This amusing calculator lets you estimate how much money your company spends on meetings.
So why do we bother? Well, the problem is not the meetings; we know collaboration is an overall benefit for the workplace. The real issue is how organizations, and individuals, approach them.
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"An excess of meetings is a symptom; it's not a problem in and of itself," said Michael Mankins, an author of "Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team's Productive Power" and a partner at Bain & Company.
That problem, Mr. Mankins said, is "either a culture that rewards collaboration for collaboration's sake, or more commonly, an organizational structure that basically necessitates more people being involved in critical activities than should be required."
Justin Rosenstein, who worked at Google and Facebook and was a co-founder of Asana, a productivity management tool, said even those vaunted tech icons of productivity fall into the trap.
"It was really sad the amount of time we spent not doing work, but doing work about work," he said. "Even if a 30-minute meeting seems innocuous, context-switching is so hard, and it's hard to get back into the rhythm of things."
Doing away with meetings altogether would be counterproductive, so the trick is to get more out of the meetings you attend.
Here's how to do it.