The driving question behind any meeting should be: “Why?”
If no one can cite a strong answer other than “It’s scheduled” or “It’s Tuesday; we always have meetings on Tuesdays,” it’s time to reconsider the best use of your time.
Some follow-up questions worth asking:
“Could this information be communicated in an email?”
“Does everyone have to be there, or can someone just give me a summary afterward?”
“Is my own input or expertise needed to fulfill the meeting’s objectives?”
Sometimes meetings are, tragically, unavoidable. Your best recourse is to minimize their degree of timesuckage:
Schedule strategically. If you or the other participants have someplace vital to be at 3:00, schedule the meeting for 2:30 instead of 2:00. “I’d love to stay longer and listen to the rest of you discuss something that’s irrelevant to me, but I have an appointment.”
Sit so other participants can’t see your laptop screen. If your participation is really that unnecessary, no one will notice that you’re working on something else.
When the topic goes astray, ask, “So are we done discussing what we came here to discuss?” That will steer the conversation back on course to save time. Even better: if you can get the person in charge to say yes, you win!
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