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When Should I Have A Meeting?


Have you ever ended an online meeting and thought: that issue could have easily been sorted out via a quick email or text? Although bringing all your colleagues to one table can be the most powerful weapon you have in your communication arsenal – as a powerful weapon, you should be very deliberate about when to use it.

This is because meetings are high bandwidth and high effort. 


High Bandwidth

In a meeting, you are able to exchange more information, and faster, than in any other form of communication.

A large proportion of this information is non-verbal, like facial expressions, and tone of voice. This allows to build connection and get emotional feedback in a way that is just not possible otherwise — and that also speeds up decision making.

Unfortunately, a good chunk of non-verbal information gets lost in calls, which seems to be the reason why calls are more exhausting than meetings, and way less valuable.


High Effort

For the same reason, meetings drain people’s energy pretty fast. The meeting’s fatigue can derail people’s productivity in a way that vastly exceeds the time actually spent in the meeting.

As Paul Graham said in the famous Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule:

I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning.

So when should we use meetings?


The C.U.P. rule for good meetings

Meetings are incredible tools, we should just use them sparingly.

A good rule of thumb for when to use a meeting is to follow the CUP rule. Use meetings for:

  • Complex matters — e.g. solving a pressing company problem that needs the collaboration of many minds to solve it.
  • Urgent matters — anything where you need to act really quick, like emergencies.
  • Personal matters — anything where emotional connection matters, like 1:1s or team building moments.

90% of communication in a company is neither complex, nor urgent, nor personal. Still, meetings are often the default way of addressing anything that should be done. So next time you say to a colleague, “I’ll schedule a meeting for this,” stop, and think – is this matter complex, urgent or personal?

If not, perhaps an email, voice note or text will suffice!

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