How many times have you received an invitation to a meeting and thought, “Oh geez, do we have to do this right now?” As we all know, there are plenty of times when getting together in person is downright silly, especially when it involves a large group of people whose input is simply not needed. But as easy as it is to assume that you’ll never have a good reason to attend one ever again, there are times when it really is the best way to get important tasks accomplished.
So, before you decline that invitation to the quarterly team update, here are a few times when attending’s your best option for staying on course and meeting your goals.
1. When You’re Getting Together to Crank Out a Time-Sensitive Project
Some of the most frustrating meetings are the ones where you get a big group of people together to discuss, well, not much of anything at all. Sometimes you talk about things that would be nice to do, but don’t create action plans. Other times, you simply get together to get together.
However, there are also situations when you or your teammates have something urgent that needs to be completed ASAP—and a lot of people are required to make sure it gets done well. And sure, you could send out a Google document and agree to work on it “together.” Or you could up meet in person for 30 minutes, come up with a plan, delegate tasks, and get started.
At the end of the day, some deliverables are best completed as a team—so if you or anyone else you work with asks for a helping hand, don't make too much of a scene about adding another meeting to your calendar.
2. When Your Team’s Butting Heads Over Email
In an ideal world, you and your teammates would never disagree and would work together in perfect harmony every single day. The reality of most teams, however, is that most groups butt heads at some point or another. While it would be easier to ignore it when things are a little icy among your co-workers and just carry on, you know that’s only going to create more problems down the road.
It’s almost always far more productive to just openly air all your grievances with the project (or a colleague’s approach to the project) and figure out how to resolve the conflict so you can hit your deadlines.
And the best way to do that? Find a conference room and look directly at each other when you’re giving feedback. You might be tempted to do this over email or chat, but be honest—you know you’ll only make progress if you do this in person, in an actual meeting.
Because nine times out of 10, constructive criticism feels a lot less harsh when it’s said to your face, then when it comes to your inbox. Plus, an offhand comment about your presentation font choice feels far less personal when it’s part of an ongoing conversation aloud, and not the only line in an email chain response.
3. When You Need Feedback On Something
Again, you might be tempted to say, “Let’s not meet. Feel free to send me your thoughts on this in an email.” But let’s be real—sometimes it’s helpful to hear your colleagues’ thoughts on something in person.
These don’t have to be long meetings, and in a lot of cases you probably don’t even need an official agenda. But some of the ideas that come from just talking it out face to face can often be incredible. And if you avoid setting these up for yourself when you truly do need feedback or feel stuck on a project, you’re only putting off your own success.
4. When There’s an Important Decision to Make
This is the most obvious reason to call a meeting, but also the most important. It’s so easy to drag your feet when your group needs to make a decision. If you’re feeling unsure about something or want an honest opinion on the choice you think you’re about to make, don’t be afraid to ask your team to get together with the goal of deciding before the group leaves the room.
And if someone on your team makes a similar request, don't huff and puff all the way into a conference room. Making choices is hard, and unless you work on a team of mind-readers, the best way to find out if everyone is on the same page is to sit around the same table and talk it out.
I get it. Meetings aren’t always fun, especially when you have a list of things you want to get done. And when they’re frivolous, unproductive, or some combination of both, it’s understandable for you to look for ways to get out of them as quickly as possible.
On the flipside, it’s unfair to assume that they’re all a waste of your time. Evaluate each one on a case-by-case basis before defaulting to saying “No thanks.” You’ll find that in plenty of cases, getting together is the best way to get something done faster.
Photo of meeting courtesy of Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images.