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9 times status meetings are a waste of time—and what you can do about it
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9 times status meetings are a waste of time—and what you can do about it

Discover nine situations when status meetings are a waste of time—and how you can avoid this to run more productive meetings people want to attend.

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There’s an enduring myth that because you have a project you must need a project status meeting. This can lead you to schedule these meetings even when there aren’t any significant changes since the last one, simply because it's on the calendar. 

Truth is, though, that’s not the best use of your team’s time—especially when it pulls them away from focus work. 

Meeting for a meeting’s sake can easily become a waste of time and lead to meeting fatigue. To avoid this, you need to think differently about how you use people’s time in–and outside of–status meetings. That might mean a shorter meeting or canceling the meeting altogether.

With that in mind, we’ll run down nine potential ways status meetings are a waste of time and give you practical solutions to avoid them. We’ll also outline how Switchboard creates a more engaging environment for collaboration, before, during, and after meetings.  

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9 situations when status meetings are a waste of time

Among other worrying meeting statistics, in the US alone unproductive meetings cost $37 billion and half of all meetings are considered a waste of time. Employees particularly dislike ones that lack a clear purpose and don’t show progress.

Let’s identify reasons that status meetings can be a waste of time—and what you can do to run more effective status meetings. 

1. The meeting lacks focus 

When you and your team aren’t clear about what you’re trying to achieve in the meeting–much less how–it’s easy to go off track. 

When status meetings are convened without a clear agenda nor goals, it can lead to unfocused discussions that don’t result in actionable outcomes. People may leave without a clear understanding of their responsibilities moving forward, resulting in confusion and delays in project progress. 

If you fail to progress, you may even have to schedule another meeting to address unresolved issues—which nobody will thank you for. 

To avoid this, create an agenda with topics for discussion, prioritized in order of importance. The agenda and meeting invite should state the goal for each topic and the overall desired meeting outcome. For example, “Align on plan to meet the new deadline.” 

Share the agenda with your team before the meeting so everyone knows what to expect. This will make for more focused discussions. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a clear goal is among the top factors that impact meeting effectiveness

Setting clear objectives and expected results not only helps keep the meeting on track, it allows you to evaluate whether you achieved your goals. 

2. People are unprepared 

When people turn up unprepared it wastes time bringing everyone up to speed. Or waiting while they hunt for materials they didn’t know they were supposed to present. 

To avoid this, Jordan Hirsch, CEO, Lead Trainer & Coach, FishTree, recommends being clear about what type of meeting you’re having beforehand: “People should know if they’re expected to discuss a topic, bring key information, learn from someone else, answer for something, or get help." This lets them prepare properly and come ready to contribute and engage, rather than slip into “robot mode” as they passively attend yet another meeting. 

“It takes more work on behalf of the meeting planner,” says Hirsch, “but it pays off in terms of people using that time for something valuable."

Pro tip: Share meeting agendas and expectations in your Switchboard project room before the meeting. That way, everyone can get up to speed beforehand and come ready to make progress. 
Switchboard room with apps open.
You can open any web-based app, file, or document in Switchboard.

3. The meeting gets sidetracked or runs long 

Even with focus and preparation meetings can quickly go down unproductive rabbit holes if you’re not careful. For instance, a brief update on a technical issue can spiral into an in-depth troubleshooting session, sidelining the main agenda. 

This, along with poor time management, can cause meetings to overrun and eat into time for focus work. Punctuality and lack of focused discussion are among the top 10 factors that hurt meeting effectiveness. 

While certain side topics may be interesting for some, others can feel it’s a waste of their time if discussions aren’t relevant to them. There’s also nothing worse than sitting in a never ending meeting thinking about all the work that’s waiting for you afterward. 

To stay focused: 

  • Have a meeting facilitator. It’s their job to keep discussions on track and stick to the agenda and meeting goals. If possible, rotate this role among your team: facilitating a meeting or activity teaches you how to be a better participant. 
  • Know when to table side conversations. Use the notepad or sticky notes in Switchboard as a parking lot. Then, schedule separate deep dives with smaller groups for in-depth discussions. This keeps your status meetings high-level and focused on project progress and whole-team input. 
  • Use time management techniques. For example, starting and ending on time without waiting for latecomers, timeboxing agenda items, and using the timer in your Switchboard room to keep people focused when speaking. 

4. It could have been an email  

Sitting through another status meeting where the project manager reads through a spreadsheet list or flips through slides on a presentation isn’t a productive use of anyone’s time. In fact, 56% of US workers get irritated by meetings that could’ve been an email. 

To make the best use of your team’s time, switch to asynchronous meetings where possible. Share information and updates that people can read on their own time over email, your project management platform, or Switchboard instead. Save real time meetings for topics that require everyone’s input, like collaborative problem solving. For example, strategizing on how to meet changing client requirements. 

“That time together,” affirms Hirsch, “is really valuable when there's something to discuss… If there's something complicated, or it's going to take a lot of slides to get through, or people will have a lot of follow up questions, that’s a great time for a meeting.” For example, changes to project deadlines or scope. In those situations, you want to see people’s reactions and respond accordingly. 

Real time meetings are also an opportunity to play matchmaker and get people the help they need to move forward. Remember, though, that specific one-on-one conversations should happen outside the meeting so everyone doesn’t have to listen to them.

Pro tip: Create a shared Google Doc or pull up your project management tool in Switchboard so people can see and share statuses. If you do need to discuss something, you can hop into a call in the same room or start a comment thread on anything, tagging the appropriate person to respond.
Switchboard comment thread on a document.
Switchboard comment threads let you communicate in context—without constant meetings.

5. It’s not relevant for everyone 

When updates or discussions aren’t relevant for the entire team, some people can end up disengaging. For example, developers may prefer more focused meetings that are more about resolving bottlenecks than passing info up to management. 

Another common complaint is that status meetings benefit team leads or junior team members more than established ones. This is a balancing act: While those who are more hands-on may have visibility into what’s happening, bosses may not, so the meeting is valuable for them. It can also be helpful for less experienced team members to touch base and get guidance. 

Inviting too many people who don’t need to be there can also cause meetings to become irrelevant and is a top 10 factor for meeting effectiveness. For example, if marketing is there to understand launch timelines, they may ask questions that are unrelated to the meeting goals, causing it to get sidetracked or run long. On top of this, there’s the hidden cost of meetings: According to Shopify, a 30-minute meeting with three people costs from $700 to $1,600, rising to $2,000 if a C-level executive joins. 

To make meetings valuable for everyone:  

  • Set a high bar for whole-team meetings. Reserve meetings involving the entire team or a larger group for topics that truly require collective discussion and decision-making.
  • Be thrifty with the guest list. Only invite those directly affected by agenda items or responsible for specific areas or milestones. This keeps discussions more focused and saves time bringing the uninitiated up to speed. Those from other departments who need visibility can attend as long as any questions they ask are on-topic.
  • Try focused check-ins instead. Shorter, more targeted meetings focusing on specific issues or departments let you save team meetings for items you need everyone’s input on. For example, prioritizing features implementation and testing in the upcoming release.  
  • Try a “funnel-shaped” agenda. Hirsch recommends starting with group topics that you need everyone there for. Then, give them the option to leave once their section is over. By allowing them to drop out before they mentally check out, engagement in the remaining team stays high. Plus, you get a reputation for running effective meetings that are actually useful. 
  • Try the lean coffee format. Have people contribute agenda topics ahead of the meeting then, at the start, review them and vote on what the team wants to talk about. Each topic gets five minutes, after which everyone votes on whether to continue, which gives them agency and boosts engagement. “People feel a lot more buy-in,” says Hirsch, “when they help come up with the agenda.”
Pro tip: Keep everyone in the loop–even if they didn’t attend–by using Switchboard AI to summarize room activity, meeting notes, and action items. Post the summary in your Switchboard room along with the room recording so anyone who missed the meeting can catch up on their own time. 
Switchboard AI menu options.
Switchboard AI saves time brainstorming, summarizing notes, and creating content.

6. You’re holding meetings for meetings’ sake 

If you have a project, there’s an expectation that you need a project status meeting. Also, if you’re following Agile workflows, you can fall into the trap of holding meetings because they’re part of the process, rather than because you need them. 

However, this isn’t always the case. 

To avoid this, assess whether your team and workflows warrant a meeting. For example, if your team works reactively or independently of each other, they may not need to meet as often.  

You should also reduce unnecessary meetings by avoiding scheduling them when there’s nothing new to say. The worst thing you can do, says Hirsch, “is have the same meeting you had last week, just because it's a week later.” 

Instead, think about how often to run your status meeting by evaluating the need at each project stage: “There's going to be phases when people need to get into a certain issue: ‘The deadline moved and we're not going to hit it. What are we going to tell the client? What do we prioritize? Which feature needs to move up? What's not going to get done? What does that mean for these other things?’ Group discussion stuff?” Then, there'll be other weeks when you do a quick check in and let everyone get back to work. 

Finally, shift the focus from statuses to solutions when you do meet. Gather and share updates using async communication, so you can focus on group discussion during meeting time.  

7. There’s no post-meeting progress  

There’s nothing worse, affirms Hirsch, than turning up to a meeting to find nothing got done about last week’s action items. When this happens, it both wastes time spent surfacing issues in the last meeting and takes up valuable time revisiting them again in the next one. Worse, it’s a missed opportunity for progress between meetings.  

To stay on track and productive: 

  • Assign an owner and deadline to every action item during the meeting. If it’s not clear who the owner should be, ask the group to help you decide.  
  • End every meeting with a recap of decisions, action items, and next steps. This fosters accountability and ensures everyone knows what they have to do and what everyone else is doing.
  • Share meeting notes. Do this asap after the call, including with any stakeholders who couldn't attend. Post the minutes in your Switchboard room so everyone can always find them.
  • Follow up. Schedule some quick check-ins to review progress on action items to keep everyone on track.

8. It feels like micromanaging

Status meetings are valuable for managers to get visibility into what everyone’s doing but they can feel like micromanagement if not handled carefully. For example, if a project manager uses status meetings to scrutinize every detail of team members' work and question every decision it can erode trust and hurt morale.  

To avoid this, focus on outcomes rather than task statuses and encourage team members to suggest solutions when sharing their updates. This fosters autonomy and engagement with the results. Switching to asynchronous communication where possible also shows your team you trust them and value their time. 

9. People have too many meetings 

When people have too many meetings, it can lead to meeting fatigue and impact productivity overall as team members struggle to balance their workload with endless meetings. 

It can even, says Hirsch, "lead to burnout. Like, ‘I've got one more thing I have to do that’s taking me away from my work.’ People begin to see all meetings as wasted time, even effective meetings. It's like you're hurting the overall reputation of meetings.”

To give people more control over their days:

  • Follow asynchronous work best practices. Whenever possible, gather statuses and let people absorb information on their own schedule so they have fewer distractions and more time for focus work.
  • Try “meeting doomsday.” Pioneered by Asana, this involves deleting all meetings from your calendar and waiting before repopulating it. This encourages people to be brutally honest about whether each one is necessary.  

Status meetings: Think differently to make better use of your time 

Holding status meetings that lack focus or are irrelevant for some team members can lead to meeting fatigue and burnout, especially if they run long, get sidetracked, fail to show progress, or feel like micromanaging. 

To avoid this, think about how to make the best use of everyone’s time before, during, and after meetings. For example, by creating a prioritized agenda, setting expectations, and moderating the meeting to keep it on track. You should also be on top of follow up and flexible enough to vary meeting frequency with the needs of your team and project. 

Try doing more outside of meetings too. Share statuses and information beforehand and save meeting time for group discussions. Use your dedicated Switchboard room to save and share information related to your project, so you can save meeting time for what really matters. Who knows, you may even be able to cancel the meeting altogether and give people back more time to get work done. 

Do more in less time. 
Switchboard saves and organizes your work, so you can get more done together or on your own time. 
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Frequently asked questions about when status meetings are a waste of time

Are status meetings necessary? 

Status meetings are necessary when you have complex or sensitive information to share or topics that require group input. However, if you’re just gathering statuses and reviewing tasks, you may be able to do that async. 

Are meetings the killer of productivity? 

Meetings can harm productivity if not managed efficiently. Excessive or poorly organized and run meetings take up valuable time, which impacts people’s ability to get into a flow state or make progress. However, well-planned, purposeful meetings that focus on decision making, strategizing, planning, etc. can enhance collaboration and productivity by aligning teams. 

What are the four main reasons for ineffective status meetings? 

There are a lot of reasons for ineffective status meetings. For example:

  • No agenda or focus 
  • The meeting runs long or gets sidetracked 
  • People come unprepared 
  • The meeting or some discussions aren’t relevant for everyone
  • Lack of follow up and progress on action items after the meeting 
  • Meeting fatigue causes people to disengage 

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