Meetingitis – Meet the Time Vampires Extraordinaire

As published in the Business Newsday today March 10 2011

Meetingitis is a disease that turns businesses into unproductive, indecisive, behemoths.

These meetings can be of the ‘got a minute’ variety to the all day marathon and any version in between but ‘got a minute’ is the most insidious of all the time vampires. He lurks in the shadows, just outside your office door, in the elevator, in the parking lot, in the lunch room. And once you give in to him he will gain more confidence. He may vary his approach from ‘got a minute’ to “I just need a couple minutes of your time” or “I just have one quick question,” but rest assured, when he does interrupt it will usually be right when you’re in the middle of doing something extremely important – like getting mentally prepared for that make or break meeting, and his drop in times can approach a bakers dozen – each time needing that ‘one minute’!

Don’t try calling me tomorrow – I’m going to be in meetings all day!” Sounds sexy huh? When we talk about ‘being in meetings’ we say it with an air of importance; being in meetings is definitely seductive but also sometimes a colossal waste of time. Mr. Meeting is the next most dangerous time vampire.

According to a study published in Corporate Meetings Magazine in the late ‘90s people were spending an average of 20 to 40 hours per month in meetings. The average time spent in meetings by managers was 1.7 hours per day and executives spent 50% of their time in meetings. Those surveyed said that the most productive meetings lasted under an hour, but most meetings lasted two hours or longer. We are in 2011. I am certain that this situation has only worsened.

Here’s what I want you to do first: search on line for a vampire sucking blood. Print it out with the headline ‘got a minute’ so the next time he drops in you can be reminded of what he is there to do – that’s right – suck you dry of your precious time.  Don’t entertain the idea at all that it is EASIER to deal with his ‘one quick question’ immediately than to defer till another time and do not at any time think that you are being rude or unreasonable for refusing him. Think about this: does he value your time? No. He is telling you that your time is less valuable than his, that whatever you’re doing is unimportant and easily interrupted.

So here’s a stake for dealing with ‘got a minute’ time vampire numero uno: “I’m busy right now. Let’s meet at 3:00 pm for 15 minutes and tackle everything on your list at one time.” This will not only stop him in his tracks but teach him a new discipline. He is not going to get it immediately but keep trying (remember ‘pig headed discipline and determination’) – If you keep whipping out this one stake and firmly placing it in his chest ever time he WILL eventually get the message.

What about Mr. Meeting? First off – ask yourself: Do I really need to be in or hold this meeting? Is there a more time efficient way to handle this – perhaps a conference call, an email, posting on the company intranet, sending out a memo?

If you’ve decided that you MUST have this meeting here are a couple of stakes to have ready to stop any vampire from making it an ‘endless blood’ affair. (Keep in mind that many of these vampires relish meetings because it’s a great way to hide from making and taking responsibility for decisions.)

  1. Set the meeting for immediately before lunch or at the end of the day, so the vampires are eager to get it done and over with
  2. Don’t serve refreshments
  3. Circulate a written agenda in advance
  4. Have and communicate a clear achievable objective for the meeting
  5. Determine in advance what information you are to contribute
  6. Have an exit strategy: like a pre-arranged call to your cell

Makes you want to re-think your open door policy and rightly so! This is a great idea in theory but in reality if you entertain everyone at their convenience – when are you going to get any work done? Meetingitis is a disease you can tame but make sure to always have your stakes handy because who knows – a time vampire might be camping out near your car in the parking lot or worse show up at your home. Now I KNOW I have your attention!

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