This Is Why Meetings Are Bad for Creative People

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Ah, meetings: They provoke a variety of feelings for the average team member. For some people, meetings can be a fun excuse to get together with coworkers, talk about work issues, catch up with each other’s lives, and generally have an enjoyable hour or two of conversation while working out the details of company objectives. For others, meetings are often the bane of their existence; they’re stuck listen to people talk about seemingly pointless things for hours on end when they could really be getting something done. The average meeting does more to interrupt productivity than it does to encourage it. In the time tasks are doled out to their respective recipients, precious time is often lost to the superfluous and the unnecessary.

Banning Meetings

From many perspectives, it’s obvious that productivity is not high on the agenda at the majority of company meetings.

No one is more aware of this than start-ups, where productivity is the difference between abject failure and astonishing success. At AsanaDustin Moskovitz‘s productivity software start-up, meetings are approached more from the maker’s perspective than the manager’s. As a tech start-up, it’s essential that the coders and designers are able to reach maximum productivity levels, while having the freedom to create new innovative solutions to big problems. In the spirit of maker’s scheduling, meetings are outright banned on Wednesdays. The team drew inspiration from Paul Graham, programmer and founder of Y Combinator, who wrote the infamous article Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. 

Paul Graham says:

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

Making meetings help, not disrupt the “flow”

For a maker absorbed in a task, the interruption of having to remember the meeting, prepare for the meeting, walk to the meeting, and sit through other people talking at the meeting can put a huge damper on their productivity.

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What’s wrong with the average meeting?

  • Meetings disrupt the natural workflow of the “makers” in your business: the employees doing the tasks you hired them for.
  • Meetings often involve discussing concepts and abstractions that the average maker doesn’t care about or have an interest in.
  • Meetings take a long time to convey small amounts of information.
  • Meetings often veer off-topic, and anytime a group of people gets together, someone inevitably steals the show (and wastes people’s time).
  • The most productive meetings involve prior preparation, which the average worker rarely does.

Most organizations consist of two types of employees: Managers and makers. The Managers are the people who coordinate team tasks and goals, and benefit most from meetings. The Makers, on the other hand, are the employees who create and build things, as directed by the managers.

Figure out a system that works for you

Meetings are an essential element to any organization’s success, but oftentimes the average team member feels they are a complete waste of time. For the makers in particular, meetings interrupt the day’s workflow. Management schedules are generally composed of one-hour blocks, so it’s easy to add something new in a block. Makers, on the other hand, need uninterrupted time to focus on innovative solutions to bigger problems. Management generally runs the show, so it’s easy to see why their particular schedule format has long dominated corporate culture.

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It’s not that Asana never has meetings; on the contrary, meetings are an integral element of any sort of teamwork. The company simply approaches them from a new angle, and takes the extra effort to accommodate those who are not best served by the traditional way meetings are held. The makers of any organization are the lifeblood of productivity. The makers are making, and if they make things more productively everyone wins. By creating a company culture that caters to both those in charge and those creating, Asana gives everyone a specific day of the week to tackle the priority task they’ve been putting off, or spend time solving a difficult problem without knowing someone could pop in to “grab coffee“.

Try scheduling your own “meeting-free” day, and see how much more you can accomplish in a day free of interruptions. You may find it’s worth bringing up in the next meeting!

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