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How much money are you losing in unnecessary meetings?

Contemporary OB/GYN Journal, Vol 67 No 8, Volume 67, Issue 8

Tips to avoid wasting time and optimize meetings you do need.

Those of us in management have come to recognize meetings as an inevitable part of our workday. The greater your administrative to clinical time, the greater the amount of time you will spend in meetings both as a meeting participant and as a leader. the increased number of remote meetings has had a negative impact as the threshold for creating a meeting decreased and the ease of inviting participants to meetings increased. The cost of meetings is rarely considered, but the next time you are at meeting, think about this: It is not unreasonable to estimate that an hourlong meeting of clinicians may cost close to $1000 in missed clinical revenue. It is imperative that meetings are managed as effectively as any common clinical scenario.

Why so many meetings?

Whillans et al describe 6 pitfalls that lead to excessive meetings1:

1. Meeting FOMO (fear of missing out): What will our colleagues, or worse, our bosses think of us declining an invitation for a meeting of marginal necessity? this is rooted in the belief that just being present is being productive.

2. Selfish urgency: As leaders, not everything that we think is important justifies disrupting others’ days or adding an extra hour to the workday.

3. Meeting as a commitment device: using a meeting solely to establish a deadline is not a great use of time.

4. The mere urgency effect: This is where we feel better for completing a task, no matter what the value is. An example is low-value regular meetings. If we complete a series of meetings, we feel we have accomplished something, even if we have not.

5. Meeting amnesia: this is the meeting to review what was accomplished (or not) at the previous meeting. A much better tactic would be real-time debriefs or distribution of meeting summaries.

6. Pluralistic ignorance: Chances are we are not the only one who recognizes that a standing meeting is a waste of time. Open dialogue can remove a standing meeting from our calendars. Action plans and end goals are neededthere is a lot of science around effective meetings.

A review of 100 articles on the subject came up with some tips2: Do you really need a meeting? Can a quick call or email suffice? Invite the smallest number of people required. This not only makes the meeting easier to manage and more effective but will greatly facilitate its scheduling in a timely manner. Build an agenda and stick to it. This seems so simple yet is probably the most common reason a meeting succeeds or fails. Everyone should know the end goal of the meeting. An agenda describes the process, but an end point will drive efficiency. It is a great tool for refocusing those who may be derailing the meeting. End with an action plan and a follow-up deadline for items on the agenda. this will effectively reduce the frequency of a second, less valuable meeting. Allow participants to leave a meeting if they feel that they are not contributing or that the meeting is not of value. After evaluating whether a meeting is necessary, deciding who needs to attend, and establishing an agenda and goals, the next decision point is the duration of the meeting. Meeting content seems to follow the laws of natural gas: It will expand to fill the available allotted time. scheduling your meetings for shorter periods of time will force discipline around roles and agendas and will free your teams up to be more productive in other spaces.

Lucy Handley takes the 30-minute meeting 1 step further and promotes a 15-minute meeting.3 The purpose of the 15-minute meeting is 2-fold. The 15-minute meeting is not just about going more quickly. It is about prework. The foundation of this prework is asynchronous communication. A shorter meeting requires individuals to read materials sent prior to the meeting so they need not be reviewed.

One highly creative approach is a brief video sent premeeting by the organizer. this shows that the organizer values the participants’ time and will lead to greater focus. Although the 15-minute meeting is not for every subject, it can be a great strategic tool. Make the most of online meetingsAlthough the foundation of meetings remained unchanged when they moved online via Zoom, Microsoft teams, etc, there still are special considerations.

An article recently published in Forbes4 discussed the potential for remote meetings to be draining rather than energizing to those working remotely, along with reasons and tactics for mitigating the risk of disengagement. Although the discomfort of constantly being on display and having to look at a screen of others throughout a meeting is something we can get used to, other issues such as multitasking during meetings will always hinder the productivity of a session. Although some have advocated mandatory “cameras on,” constantly being present on screen can increase the fatigue of a remote workday.5 Suggestions for improving appearance on remote video calls include both technical and physical strategies. Computers’ imbedded microphones and cameras rarely compare in quality to many inexpensive combined apparatuses, which are easy to install. Individuals should be aware of posture and facial expressions, watch out for lighting mishaps, and make sure they are well lit from the front. Unlike an add-on camera/microphone, which is essential, professional lighting is not something everyone needs. But it is important to ensure there is not an intense light source behind you, which can cause you to appear as a silhouette.


In a recent Harvard Business Reviewarticle,6 Rae Ringel wrote that “I’m going to give you 10 minutes of your life back” is a phrase to stop using. Ringel points out that if a meeting is run properly, one might be able to say, “Because everyone was so productive, we’re done 10 minutes early. Thank you so much for your presence and participation.” That’s the kind of meeting you should be aiming for.


1. Whillans A, Feldman D, Wisniewski D. The psychology behind meeting overload. Harvard Business Review. November 12, 2021. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://hbr.org/2021/11/the-psychology-behind-meeting-overload

2. LePage E. Tips for effective meetings we learned from reading 100 articles. Unito. January 13, 2020. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://unito.io/blog/running-effective-meetings-tips/

3.Handley L. The rise of the 15-minute meeting —and how to run one. CNBC. January 25, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/25/the-rise-of-the-15-minute-meeting-and-how-to-run-one.html

4.Discovery RSM. How to have effective zoom meetings—and make them less boring. Forbes. March 4, 2021. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rsmdiscovery/2021/03/04/how-to-have-effective-zoom-meetings-and-make-them-less-boring/

5.Gabriel AS, Robertson D, Shockley K. Research: cameras on or off? Harvard Business Review. October 26, 2021. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://hbr.org/2021/10/research-cameras-on-or-off

6.Ringel R. Please stop using these phrases in meetings. Harvard Business Review. January 11, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://hbr.org/2022/01/please-stop-using-these-phrases-in-meetings4 / 466%