How to respond when you have too many meetings at work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Meetings are a regular part of many different jobs, but the precise number of meetings you participate in can vary depending on your role and employer. When your job involves an excessive amount of meetings, it can make it harder for you to complete other tasks. Knowing what to do when you're in this situation can help you navigate it successfully and improve your productivity at work. In this article, we discuss what it means to have too many meetings, explain how to avoid having excessive meetings and look at some of the alternatives to having meetings.

What does it mean to have too many meetings?

Having too many meetings refers to when your job involves excessive meetings that can take up a large amount of your time. Participating in more meetings than is necessary might mean you have too little time to focus on other aspects of your job. This can make it harder to complete your work and be productive. Frequent meetings might also be disruptive to your routine. You might have a high number of meetings because there's low productivity during each meeting or because your team is using meetings instead of alternative options.

It's worth recognising that different professionals have varied expectations about the appropriate number of meetings. The appropriate level is likely to depend on the nature of your job and your individual preferences. Due to this, if you're organising meetings, it's helpful to be considerate of other people's needs.

Related: Types of business meetings (with tips and benefits)

How to respond when you have excessive meetings

Below, you can find out how to respond when you have excessive meetings:

1. Assess the meetings you have

If you feel that you have more meetings than necessary, it's advisable to assess the meetings in which you're taking part. Consider what the purpose of these meetings is, whether they're serving this purpose and whether they provide any value to your team. If you find that some meetings have little value or might be unnecessary, consider whether it's appropriate to stop having them.

2. Utilise meeting agendas

To make the meetings you have more effective, use meeting agendas. These agendas set out the discussion topics for each meeting. Preparing and sharing agendas in advance helps meeting participants to focus and limits the risk of the discussion going off-topic. When participants know what to expect from a meeting, they can prepare beforehand and make more valuable contributions.

Related: How to write a meeting agenda (with tips and sample)

3. Make meetings shorter

When your meetings are necessary but are taking up a large amount of time, it might be sensible to make them shorter. Having shorter meetings may help participants to focus and communicate more effectively. Additionally, some people may find it easier to engage during shorter meetings. For example, consider experimenting by making some meetings 30 minutes long.

4. Add meeting-free time to your calendar

If attending meetings is necessary but you require time to focus on your workload, adding meeting-free time to your calendar is a sensible solution. This means that other people can't schedule meetings with you during this time, which allows you to catch up with other tasks. Depending on the number of meetings you attend, you can consider blocking out a morning, afternoon or even a whole day each week.

Related: How to structure your workday for maximum productivity

5. Set some meetings as optional

If team members have different preferences for how often they attend meetings, setting the attendance for some of your meetings as optional can be helpful. This means team members can choose to work on other tasks rather than attending these meetings whenever it's necessary. Also, those who do attend these optional meetings are more likely to engage and make valuable contributions, as there are fewer people there. You can also share meeting notes afterwards for those who didn't attend so that everyone in the team is aware of the meeting's discussions.

6. Decline meeting invitations

If you receive a lot of meeting invitations, as a courtesy, you can consider declining some of them. Some meetings, particularly those where you have nothing specific to contribute, might be worth declining. It's a good idea to carefully review the meeting agenda or contact the host to find out more about the nature of the meeting before you decline, as it may come across as unprofessional if you decline invitations to meetings where your presence is necessary.

7. Establish rules for scheduling meetings

Establishing rules for scheduling meetings is useful if meetings are disrupting routines. This might involve allocating meeting-free times for the entire team or requiring a certain amount of notice before a meeting can take place. When the team knows what to expect from meeting requests, it's easier to organise their time effectively. For regular meetings, it's advisable to keep them to the same day and time if possible.

Related: Project scheduling: definition, benefits, formats and steps

8. Delegate responsibility for meetings

If you're responsible for leading a large number of meetings, you can consider delegating this to other team members. Before giving the responsibility to someone else, it's crucial to think about which meetings are necessary for you to lead and which ones are appropriate for delegating. You can then share this responsibility and reduce the number of meetings you attend. This also contributes to other team members' development.

Related: How to chair a meeting effectively (with steps and tips)

9. Use alternative communication methods

If some of your meetings are about issues that you can discuss in other ways, you might consider using alternative communication methods. For example, other approaches like digital communication can be useful for project updates. Whether your team works remotely or together on-site, these tools can be useful for sharing information without taking up the time that a meeting does.

Alternatives to having meetings

Below are some alternative approaches to having meetings that can allow team members to focus more on other tasks, which can help them to work more efficiently:

Use messaging tools

Digital messaging tools can be a helpful way to discuss issues. They're a useful alternative to last-minute informal meetings that you can use to share updates or ask the team questions. Team members can also use these tools for longer group discussions. Moreover, these tools allow for instant communication between team members but also enable everyone to continue working at the same time. Using these tools also means that not everyone has to be present during the discussion, as team members can read the conversations and add their input at any time.

Utilise collaboration tools

Collaboration tools help team members to see a project's progress and add updates. With these tools, managers can also add new tasks and assign these to specific team members. These tools provide clear information about a project's progress, including any outstanding work. This is a useful alternative to meetings that purely involve sharing work updates. It also means that managers and team members can check a project's status at any time.

Related: 14 project collaboration tools (benefits and features)

Send more emails

For more detailed information about a decision you've already made, sending an email to team members might be more effective than holding a meeting. This also gives recipients a written record of all the relevant information that they can refer to at any time. They can also respond directly to you if they have any questions or concerns. A more informal alternative is to record a short video for your team that explains the information in the same way as you would during a meeting.

Related: 15 guidelines for professional email etiquette at work

Request individual updates

If you need updates on each team member's progress, but it's not necessary for everyone to know each other's progress, you can request individual updates from each person. You can do this informally via email or an instant messaging tool. This is an effective alternative to meetings that normally involve progress updates and prevents team members from attending unnecessary meetings.

Encourage casual conversation

Encouraging casual conversation about what's happening at work can be a good way of sharing information and limiting the reliance on formal meetings. You can do this by organising an optional coffee break or catered lunch that encourages the team to come together. This takes away the pressure that meetings sometimes have of forcing attendance or compelling employees to present in front of others. This also might mean they're more likely to share valuable information.

Explore more articles