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Productivity tips, calendar hacks, & product updates from the Reclaim team.

This Meeting Could Have Been an Email: 9 Examples to Avoid
June 10, 2022

When’s the last time you sat through a meeting, and before the end, thought: this meeting could have been an email. This feeling has been shared by so many professionals that the expression has literally taken on a life of its own, carving out a new niche of despairing office humor. Now sported on mugs, shirts, GIFs, and countless memes – pointless meetings have become a bonding pain point across the workforce. 

And (unfortunately) it’s not just a silly joke. 71% of senior managers believe most meetings are actually unproductive, and 32% of workers attend meetings they think could have been an email. But with a 69.7% increase in meetings since the start of the pandemic, in part, thanks to remote work, a shocking 78.7% of professionals are stressed about bigger task loads and a lack of time to get it all done every week. While not every meeting can, or should, realistically be an email – taking a hard look at your team’s meeting culture is crucial to productivity and limiting wasted time. In this post, we’ll compare meetings vs. emails, and highlight 9 common examples of meetings that could have been an email, featuring personal anecdotes from the community!

What should be a meeting vs. email

When done right, effective meetings are awesome opportunities for teams to authentically connect, ideate, innovate, and push progress for the company. But on the flip side, unproductive meetings distract employees from high-value task work, and can cause demotivation and mental exhaustion in the long run. But when you’re trying to make the most of everyone’s time – how do you know when to schedule a meeting vs. send an email? Here’s a basic guideline to follow. 

When to schedule a meeting

  • Group meetings for brainstorming or problem solving.
  • Topics that require discussion or decision making. 
  • Planning sessions with a lot of different elements.
  • Networking opportunities and relationship building. 

When to send an email

  • Simple logistics.
  • Standard check-ins.
  • Basic requests. 
  • Information sharing.
  • Announcements. 

So if the topic really requires dynamic contribution from team members – it can be a worthwhile meeting for real-time, or synchronous, communication. But if it’s a basic exchange of information – an email, chat message, or comment on a task/project is usually the way to go. Emails, chats and comments are examples of asynchronous communication, which are communications that aren’t happening in real-time. This kind of communication is more prevalent in remote workspaces since you’re in a different physical location than your team. Both have productive uses and their own challenges. 

When considering a meeting, it’s also important to keep in mind the true cost of that meeting for your team. On top of the cost of every attendees time in that meeting, you also have to account for the interruption cost to each team member’s day and resulting productivity lost to context switching. Doist created a realistic equation to consider when deciding on a meeting that might put the option of a ‘quick meeting’ in more perspective:

[Length of meeting in hours + Productive time lost to context switching x 2 for both before and after] x [Number of attendees] x [Average hourly cost of attendees]  = [$$$ cost of the meeting]

While there’s some gray area in the middle for when it’s best to book meetings vs. send an email – let’s take a look at common examples of ineffective meetings that would definitely be better off as emails.

1. It would have been a quick office chat 

With a huge shift to hybrid and remote work environments, it’s not surprising that 85% of meetings are organized as remote vs. in-person. And the reality is that remote work can be limiting when it comes to what would have once been a quick, office hallway chat. But that doesn’t mean that calling a meeting just to ‘sync up’ is an efficient alternative.  

Try to not make impromptu meetings the default in dispersed teams, and instead, start by sending asynchronous communications via email, Slack message, or comments. It allows you to be more clear and concise with what you want to say, and gives others time and flexibility to get back to you about non-priority issues. You can always schedule a meeting later if you really need to. 

Community contribution: For true ‘watercooler’ conversations – use the internal messaging platforms instead of clogging up email inboxes for ‘non-important’ communications.

2. You need specific information 

Have you ever been invited to a meeting just to be asked (or asked someone else) for specific, straightforward information – only to need extra time after said meeting to compile your answer and send it over to them? Asking your direct reports or coworkers for data in real-time is counterproductive when they haven’t had the time to prepare for it.

Community contribution: There’s always that one person. Have a data question that takes 3 minutes to research and 20 seconds to answer? Let’s block off a 30-minute Zoom to go over all the details so it takes longer to get connected and do the small talk - just for me to have to email you afterwards anyway. Oh, and don’t forget the unscheduled phone call immediately after too because he forgot to ask the right question.

Sending an email with information requests allows you to communicate the task better, creates a distinct to-do for the other person, and allows time for the answer to be researched and complete as opposed to having to be followed-up on again later - probably in another meeting. 

3. You want feedback

While presenting visual projects like a slide deck or design mockups to your team can be helpful in a meeting – hopping on a call to review content like a strategy doc or data report for feedback in real-time is often inefficient (and awkward). 

Attach your document in an email with a request for feedback and note specific areas you’d like thoughts on. This allows everyone the opportunity to review it in their time and formulate more valuable feedback and with less risk of groupthink, where team members piggyback on others’ opinions instead of sharing what they really think.

4. You’re just relaying information

Community contribution: Every other week I have a 30 minute meeting where 30 people attend a Zoom call and fill out their updates on a Google Doc. We all silently review it in Zoom for 10 minutes, then the facilitator will read the comments people left. That's it. No collaboration, no discussion. 

Before you get the team together to make an announcement, consider that meetings are multiples of their attendees. 10 people sitting through a 6-minute meeting listening to someone relaying information is an hour of productive time wasted just in attendance, plus the cost of context switching around it. When announcements don’t require action, just send an email and attach any relevant attachments to fill out or review – if it’s something better said than written or requires a demonstration, send over a video message through a platform like Loom. That way you can reach everyone at once to share news, updates, and changes – without having to disrupt everyone’s workflow.

5. It’s not relevant to everybody

Keeping in mind that meeting ‘cost’ goes up with every attendee present, it's important to be critical of who is really providing value in a meeting. 

Community contribution: Every week, scores of us had a conference meeting over the phone that lasted three hours. We all had to listen to the entire meeting. My contribution took a minute.

When you have attendees sitting through meetings about things that do not pertain to them, it’s a colossally expensive waste of employees' time and company money. To keep group meetings agile and valuable – limit attendees to those who are active contributors to the issue, with the option to email meeting notes to others who might benefit from an overview without having to be pulled from their priorities.

6. The most important attendees can’t make it

Building off the above note – if the people that actually do need to be there can’t make it, it’s probably best to send a group email covering any important notes, and reschedule for a better time that works for key attendees. 

Having incomplete meetings can mean more follow-up down the line, which isn’t maximizing time or productivity for the team. Availability calendars are a great way to help streamline group scheduling and avoid these kinds of conflicts from coming up. 

7. You’re rehashing the same meeting

Community contribution: 

  • Every week we have a 1-1.5 hour status meeting with 20 people high in the firm, going over the exact same thing. 
  • An hour-long weekly meeting that got nowhere in my last position. They kept going back to the same topic, with no conclusions.

This scenario is obviously a common pain point. If you find yourself in meetings that keep going over the same issues without progress – there’s a good chance that the meetings aren’t being efficiently managed. 

But the only thing worse than an unproductive meeting is to make it a recurring unproductive meeting! If there are no updates on progress or plans for a new approach – an email is enough to keep everyone up to speed, and allows everyone more time to put towards deep work.

8. You don’t have a clear objective

Not having a clear plan is a surefire way to run a meeting into the ground (as per the above examples). And while 65% of professionals think both the attendees and the person leading the meeting are responsible for making the meeting productive – a level of preparation needs to be facilitated to ensure group meetings don’t end up being completely pointless. 

Group meetings, like brainstorming sessions for example, have unique challenges that require dedicated planning to be successful. Assigning a moderator, setting clear objectives, and only scheduling your group meetings as-needed helps reduce unnecessary and unproductive sessions. 

Community contribution: The “let’s do another meeting next week” when there was no progress, again. If you and your team are not prepared - you guessed it - send an email update until you have the time to organize a thoroughly planned meeting.

9. You’re just checking-in for updates 

While there seems to be a misconception that meetings are more thorough than an email, the reality is that only 56% of workers walk away from virtual meetings with clear action items that don’t require follow-up. 

When you’re just syncing up for status updates – you’re wasting time that could be better used elsewhere, like on your task work. Sending a follow-up email on a task or assignment is a more efficient way to flag something important and determine if a meeting is really necessary. And if chasing down updates is eating up your week – consider setting up weekly status reports to replace those inefficient status meetings. That way, when it does make sense to have a meeting, it can be focused on providing more value for everyone involved. 

This meeting could have been an email 

Professionals average 25.6 meetings a week - more than half of our workweek! And unfortunately many of these meetings aren’t a productive use of our limited time. By being critical of the true cost vs. value of meetings we organize and attend, we can start to create a more productive meeting workflow for everyone on our team. 

Before scheduling your next meeting, ask yourself: could this meeting be an email? And if the answer is yes, or even just maybe – start with an email. You can always schedule a meeting later. 🙂

Have a great anecdote to add to one of these scenarios? Or just a perfectly tragic example of a meeting that could have (or should have) been an email? Tweet us @reclaimai to share!

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Megan is a full-time working mother of four who runs three successful companies, Megan Killion Consulting, newly launched startup Coven Cloud, and a property rental business. See how she makes time!
More Calendar Control for Meetings! Reclaim Free & Busy
September 28, 2021

More Calendar Control for Meetings! Reclaim Free & Busy

Add more productivity and control to your smart calendar with advanced Reclaim free and busy event hashtags. Block time for no-meeting days, focus time, meeting times, and clock-out of task scheduling
Top 7 Time Management Tools (for Busy People)
September 23, 2021

Top 7 Time Management Tools (for Busy People)

82% of people don’t have a time management system, but there are hundreds of apps available to improve productivity for every working style. Find your best fit in the top 7 time management tools list.
Job Burnout: How to Fix at Your Workplace
September 21, 2021

Job Burnout: How to Fix at Your Workplace

Over two-thirds of employees have experienced job burnout recently, and more than 50% of all annual turnover results from burnout. See which signs to look for and how to prevent them at your company.
Top 5 Work Habits to Boost Productivity
September 14, 2021

Top 5 Work Habits to Boost Productivity

See the top 5 work habits to try to boost your productivity. If you’re seeking a promotion, trying to pivot your career, or just simply looking to step your game up in the workplace, this is for you.
Calendar Heroes: Chris Hunt, Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow
September 10, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Chris Hunt, Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow

Working on a team that is spread across 10 different time zones and our Calendar Hero, Chris Hunt lets us in on how he is able to do it. Check it out!
Durable Identity: Employee-Friendly SaaS for Life Changes
September 7, 2021

Durable Identity: Employee-Friendly SaaS for Life Changes

The average person changes jobs every 4.1 years, but you shouldn't have to re-sign up for every SaaS app that often. The future of work will be more durable - your identity will survive life changes.
Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity
August 31, 2021

Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity

"This meeting could’ve been an email.” We're all thinking it. Even 71% of senior managers feel their meetings are unproductive. Reduce meetings and boost productivity with weekly status reports.
The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care
August 26, 2021

The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care

The best time to meditate depends on your intention and your schedule. But no matter when you meditate, you can reap the benefits. The important thing is that you make time for this healthy habit.
Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools
August 24, 2021

Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools

Staying organized can feel like a constant battle for people with ADHD before you find your ideal rhythm and workflow. Here are the top ADHD organization tools to help you become more productive.
No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company
August 19, 2021

No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company

Are meetings consuming your workweek? 78% of people feel their meeting schedule is out of control - see how one no-meeting day a week can improve your productivity, team morale and prevent burnout.
Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman
August 17, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman

Working as JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman, Ben shares how he balances priorities while developing the JSON Schema strategy and it's tooling, and supports the open-source community.
Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite
August 11, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite

Shay Kingsbury at Hootsuite shares how she balances priorities while leading merger and acquisition integration and Go To Market for Sparkcentral at the social media marketing and management platform.
Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages
August 10, 2021

Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages

Slack released a much-anticipated feature in June of 2021: scheduled sends for Slack messages. This, paired with some awesome Status syncing capabilities from Reclaim, can help you become a rockstar Slack communicator and role model for your team.
Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk
August 9, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk

Michele Wiedemer at Synk shares how she balances priorities while developing the education training program for security champions and developers at the open source security platform.
Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever
August 4, 2021

Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever

Exercising for as little as 15 minutes a day can increase your lifespan by as much as 3 years, and you’ll sleep better and feel less stressed too. Here's how to optimize your workouts for the best time of day.
Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People
July 28, 2021

Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People

Reading has amazing benefits, and 35% of people want to do it more. It increases verbal intelligence, makes you a better leader, reduces stress, and fends off Alzheimer’s. Here are 5 tips to try out.
Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square
July 26, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square

Rohini Pandhi, a Product Lead at Square, shares her style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the product efforts for one of the top digital payment companies in the world.
15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work
July 22, 2021

15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work

Check out the top 15 Slack apps productive teams are using today to build and support the future of work at their organization across calendar management, project management, status updates, HR and team building.
Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge
July 19, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge

Connor MacDonald at The Ridge shares his style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the marketing vision for the brand that brought the world the first RFID-blocking wallet.
Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools
July 7, 2021

Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools

We get asked almost every day: what's the difference between Reclaim.ai and Clockwise? While we're both in the smart calendar space, there are some key differences to consider.
Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips
July 2, 2021

Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips

Need to create better calendar event titles to communicate context to your invitees, colleagues and incoming schedulers? Calendar communication starts with the first thing people see: the event title.
Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity
June 22, 2021

Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity

Want to improve your quality of work, energy level, and creativity? In this article, learn 5 ways in which taking a lunch will actually boost your productivity.
Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time
June 17, 2021

Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time

Learn the 5 key differences between effective vs. pointless meetings, and 3 tips to avoid unnecessary meetings getting booked on your calendar.
3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal
June 10, 2021

3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal

You want work-life balance, but work and life can't separate into equal halves. Forget balance, here are three ways to make work-life harmony a reality.
Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉
May 26, 2021

Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉

We're excited to announce that Reclaim has raised $4.8M in seed funding led by Index Ventures. Here's what comes next.
Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management
May 25, 2021

Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management

How to use the Pareto Principle 80/20 rule to block time for your priorities.
3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus
April 28, 2021

3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus

While you may think multitasking is a skill you can master, only 2.5% of people can do it effectively. Your brain performs best when “single-tasking”, focusing on only one thing at a time.
How to Create a Smart Calendar
April 22, 2021

How to Create a Smart Calendar

A smart calendar can help you simplify calendar management and boost productivity. Here's how to create a smart calendar so you can take control of your busy schedule.
Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them
April 9, 2021

Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them

Most time management advice is out of touch with reality. Here are the top 3 problems with it and how to solve them.
Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek
April 5, 2021

Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek

We're excited to announce that Planner is now available in public beta for all Reclaim users. Planner lets you prioritize and schedule all your Tasks and Habits exactly the way you want, every week.
4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules
March 25, 2021

4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules

Time blocking is the habit of mindfully scheduling daily and weekly tasks to get everything done as efficiently as possible. A time blocking planner is used to organize your new, efficient schedule.
Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It
March 16, 2021

Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It

How do you stop context switching from eating into your productive time? We look at tactics to help you reduce task switching and improve your concentration at work.
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