There is a constant debate within today’s enterprise landscape about the level of productivity that comes out of each and every work day. Besides all of the minuscule things that distract us such as coffee breaks, talkative coworkers and social media sites, meetings have become one of the most unproductive formalities during the work day. Even keeping complete focus during a meeting is borderline impossible with 90% of all employees saying that they daydream at some point during every meeting.

One of the biggest reasons that meetings tend to be so unproductive is that there are simply too many of them each day. It is reported that there are over 11 Million formal meetings per day in the United States – that’s over 3 Billion meetings per year.  Besides the fact that most people say that they can’t pay attention during these meetings, 71% of those that do feel like the meeting is unproductive. So how do you stay more productive during the work day? Easy, avoid your next meeting.

There are many reasons why meetings are a huge time suck and productivity waster. Regardless of the fact that the action item being discussed during the meeting could have easily been accomplished through email, the meeting still happens. What’s even worse is that 63% of typical meetings in the United States don’t have a prepared agenda which leads to about 25% of meetings discussing irrelevant things. Click here for more statistics on meeting productivity.

Worse yet, your hour wasn’t the only hour wasted. Think of it like this: if you show up for an hour long meeting with four others and nothing of significance gets done that isn’t just one hour wasted – it is FIVE hours wasted. You and the four others just wasted one hour each; and that’s only counting the actual minutes spent sitting in the room and not the time it took to “prepare” , get everyone in the room, and send out/reply to follow ups. Besides turning this into a full blown rant about wasted time, here are some alternatives to formal meetings that will keep your productivity level high.

Video Calling

Have you ever needed to set up an impromptu meeting because you need an answer from someone at that very moment? For example, you have a huge presentation this afternoon with a potential client or board members and you need some data from Sue who has been working on this project with you for months. Sue is obviously slammed and doesn’t have time to make a formal meeting. You’re both in front of your computers so what do you do?With one click of a button you can start a video call with Sue and discuss the action items at hand so you can get ready to kill it during this presentation.

But what if Sue isn’t 100 percent sure about the answers she is giving you? With certain video calling integrations you can instantly bring in John who has also been working on the project. Within five minutes you have your answer and you’re ready to move forward with the work that is actually important. Better yet, no one had to leave their office or spend more time than necessary in the meeting.

The value from video calling capability on an enterprise level is sometimes overlooked.  The future of increased productivity and enterprise collaboration across all departments with mass adoption of real time video, screen share and file sharing is something we all are looking forward to.

Email

I know what you’re thinking and yes, email can definitely be a major distraction during the work day. But if you limit the amount of times you check email throughout the day you can manage your productivity significantly. Tim Ferris, in his New York Best Selling Book “The Four Hour Work Week” recommends checking your email only twice a day and never before 10AM.

Low priority meetings can be avoided by simply starting an email thread. This allows the information to be transferred to the responsible parties and participants can respond at appropriate times so that interruptions and ultimately productivity drop offs don’t occur.

Frankly, the first 20 or 30 minutes of each meeting is sometimes the “let me get you up to speed” part of the meeting where data, which could have easily been shared through email prior to the meeting, is finally being regurgitated from the mouths of your coworkers who probably don’t want to be there just as much as you don’t. So next time please don’t send the calendar invite, send the email.

Walking Meetings

Probably the least traditional of any of the alternatives listed here is having a meeting that gets you outside. There are a lot of good reasons to make your next meeting a walking meeting.  Fresh air and physical activity stimulate our bodies and minds which makes us more alert and focused. How many times have you needed to get some “fresh air” after being inside for most of the day? Probably a lot. Walking burns calories which increases the flow of oxygen throughout the body increasing brain function.

Next, a change of environment can inspire creative thinking and new ideas. These types of meetings can be extremely effective as brainstorming sessions and don’t worry about the ability to take notes.

Nolifer Merchant gave a great TED Talk about why getting outside and having a walking meeting might actually save our lives. You can see her talk here.

Even though avoiding your next meeting will increase your productivity by 3,000% (not a scientifically proven number) it is sometimes difficult to break through the traditional way business is run. If all else fails and you are still trying to avoid the next meeting – so that you can get work done that is actually important – try using the three alternative solutions we just mentioned so that your time is effectively utilized.