It’s no secret that most developers despise meetings.
For the most part, coding is solitary, independent work, and developers work on their own.
Meetings, for obvious reasons, impede this mode of working. Not only do they interrupt a developer’s focus, but they also break up the periods of deep work.
Therefore, fewer meetings equate to greater productivity. In this article, we’ll show you some tips and tricks for reducing the number of meetings and keeping your developers happy.
Table of Contents
Have a clear meeting agenda
These are the hallmarks of an unproductive, unclear, and agenda-less meeting.
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The meeting’s goal should be printed in block letters, the agenda should include an indexed outline covering the entire duration of the meeting.
In other words, agendas ensure a productive meeting.
Just look at this graph:
The numbers speak for themselves—the longer you prepare the agenda, the higher the productivity.
First of all, let’s look at an example to get a clearer idea of what a quality agenda looks like:
To begin with, there are the obvious details—the date and time.
With such a structure, conversations will be more streamlined, and you’ll avoid unnecessary long pauses when deciding whose turn it is to speak.
Instead, everyone will take ownership of the task at hand.
For example, if you’re starting the meeting with a general weekly overview, assign 5 minutes to that discussion.
Decide on a set amount of time beforehand per that topic’s priority, and you’ll ensure you’re not spending too much (or too little) time on specific subjects.
Assess the value of meetings
When scheduling meetings, take a moment to step back and assess their value. It’s frighteningly easy to revert to meetings as the default project activity when that might not always be the case.
Weekly or daily meetings are often attended out of habit more than anything else, a sense of “that’s how we’ve always done it.”
Most teams have a Friday recap and a Monday check-in. Think about it—is there a need for both?
It’s also essential to think about the topic of the meeting.
In other words, even if you and your peers have to attend mandatory meetings, do your best to protect your team from having to sit in on them too.
These meetings are invaluable for your team, as they build trust, present an opportunity to give honest feedback, and can boost team performance.
The atmosphere of discretion inherent to these meetings provides the perfect opportunity to connect with your developers.
Use communication tools
Meetings are, thankfully, no longer the only form of business communication.
With this resource, you’ll be able to communicate updates, information, and briefings without interrupting your developers’ workflow. Instead, they can simply read the message whenever it is most convenient.
Similarly, in the image below, you can see a #product-feedback channel:
With this channel, there’s no need to organize a meeting to ask for feedback—just use Slack instead.
However, even in those unavoidable circumstances where a meeting is necessary, there are communication tools that still prevent it from dragging on.
The notification looks like this:
Nonetheless, there are tools that can make this mandatory meeting significantly shorter.
One of its features is clear markers of WIP and To-Do tasks, shown below:
These components save time in the stand-up and make for a more efficient, shorter meeting.
Don’t hold meetings during peak periods
Some developers are morning people, and some are night owls. Some feel energized after a noon meal, and some put off taking their lunch if their coding is going well.
This is easier done in smaller teams, but it’s also worth a shot with larger units.
It wouldn’t hurt to insert meetings then, since their coding capabilities are diving regardless.
You’re not introducing any new interruptions but simply prolonging the original one (lunch) they had likely already incorporated into their day.
Take this manager’s approach as inspiration, and pinpoint moments in the day when your employees are already not at their desks, such as lunchtime or the morning stand-up.
Then, take advantage of these instances to hold meetings around the same time.
This was discussed in a Quora thread:
As this user outlined, all relevant meetings should be held at the beginning of a project – that’s when all decisions should be made and priorities agreed upon.
Make meetings voluntary
Therefore, consider making your meetings voluntary.
Keep only the one meeting mandatory, and make all others voluntary.
Although walking out of a meeting is considered rude, remaining in an unhelpful meeting remains a waste of time.
Simply communicate to your developers that getting out of unnecessary meetings isn’t an offense.
As per Tesla CEO’s advice, what is ruder? Staying in an unhelpful meeting or making someone stay in an unhelpful meeting?
This informal, relaxed meeting is used to take a break and discuss all things non-work-related.
People can pop in and out whenever they like and will always be able to find someone willing to chat with when they want a break.
The concept is explained in more detail in this video:
Introduce “no meeting” days
Although easily implemented within your own team, your developers might have issues when colleagues from other departments try to book a meeting with them.
Of course, ideally, the policy would be company-wide, but this won’t always be possible depending on the size of the organization.
Most smart calendars allow for this feature, so your developers can be transparent about the policy.
With this method, the no meeting strategy is well-protected, and no one can schedule a meeting with your developers.
That way, four ‘no meeting’ days are automatically created!
The approach is a tad radical, but there’s no harm in trying—encourage your developers to cram their week’s worth of meetings into one day, back-to-back.
The tactic allows for multiple no meeting days. Your developers will have a prolonged period to enjoy uninterrupted working.
The formula is simple—fewer meetings mean more time to focus on coding.
To begin with, when you have to host a meeting, ensure you have a clear agenda and don’t hold it during your team members’ peak periods.
When scheduling a meeting, assess its value to determine if it’s indispensable. Could you use a different communication tool to convey the same information instead?
Last but not least, try making meetings voluntary and commit to upholding a no meeting day.
Follow these tips, and the number of meetings is sure to decrease. With it, your developer’s productivity will increase.