picture of some virtual people meeting around a table, with a big red banned sign over top

A Year Without Meetings

Jeffrey P. Bigham


A year ago today[1], I proclaimed that I would no longer have meetings.

Being a professor involves a lot of meetings. Most meetings I attend are not a waste, but they are very inefficient. The average meeting I attend is not structured to use time well, and expands to the time block allotted to it. I spend what seems like a huge amount of time pre-meeting arguing back and forth with people’s meeting scheduling bots to arrive at an acceptable time to meet.

Most people I talk to complain about meetings, but they’re still stuck in the grip of meetings. A Twitter search shows I’ve been
 complaining about meetings for a long time… I bet you have too. So, I proclaimed no more meetings!

In practice, I was able to avoid a number of meetings, and push many “meetings” to email. I still met with people. But, I tried to do so purposefully. I also learned a lot about what makes for good meetings.

What worked:

my no meeting policy means that when i want to meet with someone i actually generally have the time

What Didn’t Work as Well

Jeff tweets:  "Meetings happen because it's easy to feel like deciding a date/time is doing something. Way easier than actually doing something"

Andrew Moore tweets: "This is spine-chillingly true for 55% of meetings thought there are good mtgs too"

Going forward, I’ll probably stop advertising how much I dislike meetings. But, I’ll take my lessons forward. I’m still going to recommend people visit me during office hours, I’m still going to ignore requests for meetings when I believe I can adequately answer via email instead, and I’m still going to try to better organize the meetings that I need to have.

I’ll have my work cut out for me. I just became PhD Co-Director at the HCII, and I’m now part of the
ACM Future of Computing Academy. Both of these things involve a lot of meetings. In fact, one of my first steps as PhD Co-Director is to attempt to set up, … wait for it, … a MEETING with each of the PhD students, although the goal is mostly social and I’ll be offering coffee :)

[1] You know, roughly… somehow this is one of the few things I did that didn’t make it onto Twitter, so I don’t have evidence.

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Blog posts are not intended to be final products, but rather a reflection of current thinking and/or catalysts for discussion, like tweets but longer.