Online success is not all it’s cracked up to be. With it comes the biggest burden of all: requests for your time.
“You can have my freaking money; you know what, you can have my art; you can have my advice for free (I don’t care) but what I realized is you can’t have my time”
When I had this epiphany, I made the decision to start saying no to meetings. Meetings come disguised like the Big Bad Wolf out of Red Riding Hood as the following:
· Podcast interviews
· Coffee Catch ups
· Phone calls
· Product demonstrations
· Joining Slack/Messenger/WhatsApp groups
· I’m in town and don’t know you, but we should catch up”
All of these demands of my time started to add up. Five minutes here. Ten minutes there. Before I knew it, my dream to inspire the world through entrepreneurship and personal development looked dead as a dodo.
The 4-hour meeting request.
Okay, this is not the name of Tim Ferriss’s upcoming book — it’s a coincidence. The other day, this dude at work sent me a 4-hour meeting request with 24-hour’s notice.
When I saw the invitation, I instantly declined. Meetings that don’t respect my time or my colleagues’ time are declined — always.
This meeting request was the trigger for the title of this article. It made me take a forced “Meeting Vacation” for one month.
I said no to meetings for an entire month.
It wasn’t easy and I thought it was going to be almost impossible to deliver on this promise I made to myself. Meetings have become a part of everyday life. Many meetings happen without us realizing through realtime message apps.
None the less, I tried this meeting detox experiment.
Before I tell you the result, here’s some thoughts to begin with:
Thought 1: Just because everyone else is doing meetings, doesn’t mean you need to.
Meetings are hip and cool. People say yes to meetings all day long without thinking why.
When you challenge people to explain why they need a meeting, you figure out that often they don’t know.
This means they scratch their own itch and talk themselves out of their own meeting. The meeting gets cancelled, I celebrate and fist punch the air, and everyone wins.
Asking why messes up every unconscious thought.
It’s the one question that can kill any preconceived idea or habit. ‘Why’ requires the meeting requester to go deep down inside their own skull and answer the question “What’s the meeting for and is it important?”
Thought 2: When faced with the need to make a decision, many of us want to have a meeting instead.
This problem occurs because we’re not trained to make decisions. We spend all of our decision-making energy on dumb stuff like “What am I going to have for lunch?” or “What should I wear today?”
Meetings are a way to defer a decision to some point in the future when maybe we’ll all think differently, drive a Ferrari and have enough money that this problem won’t freaking matter anymore.
I challenge everyone to make more decisions instead of having more meetings that don’t lead to decisions (okay calm down Tim, breathe).
Thought 3: Meetings always take longer.
· You’ve got the commute to the meeting.
· The setup to the meeting.
· The niceties like “How was your weekend?” at the start of the meeting.
· Preparation for the meeting.
I could go on for ages, but you get my point. Meetings are like a giant build-up that often leads to disappointment. If you think about the real time it takes to have a meeting, you realize why they are a productivity killer.
The work that needs to be done to achieve a goal or set of goals requires time.
“The time you need is in the meetings you say no to”
Count the real cost of time that a meeting entails, and you too may decide to do a meeting detox for a month.
Here’s what happened when I said no to meetings for a month:
I expected people to be pissed.
I thought that the biggest challenge of no meetings for a month would be how pissed off I’d make people. I realized this was a nightmare that wasn’t true in reality.
When you explain in detail why you’re saying no to a meeting, and you do it with respect, people understand.
I even started saying things like:
“Hey thanks for the invite, I’m trialing a month of no meetings to achieve some pretty audacious goals. Appreciate the invite but I’ll have to respectfully decline at this stage. Hope the meeting goes well.”
So many meetings get declined for various reasons that the meeting organizer almost never takes it to heart. It’s standard practice that if you invite 30 people to a meeting, not all of them will show up.
I decided to become a no-show statistic for a month where I was permanently on the didn’t attend list which was one person longer because I wasn’t attending — no biggie.
The big moment for me was when I realized people don’t really care that much if you show up to a meeting. I thought they did care. I was wrong and so are you. Sorry.
Blank space feels so good.
Ever had a nice warm latte first thing in the morning? That’s what it feels like to start the day with no meetings in your calendar. All I saw for a month was my Outlook Calendar full of white space.
The feeling was so freeing and I didn’t realize how good it felt until I did it.
There’s nothing worse than waking up at 5 am (Australian time) to jump on a podcast at 6 am (USA time) when all you want to do is sit down and write or edit another blog post.
Have a meeting with blank space instead and you’ll feel a whole lot better.
You get to do things that really matter.
Because I had less of other people’s meetings, it gave me time to tick off tasks that I had been putting off. I did the following:
- Sold a bunch of junk on eBay
- Wrote twice the number of blog posts
- Spent more time with my girlfriend
- Spent time sitting on the couch and thinking about the future
These types of activities add meaning to my life and make me happy. Without the giant boulder covering the road that led to my goals, I was able to do things that matter.
Executing on meaningful tasks is so much better than any meeting ever will be.
The blocker to all business became apparent.
When I divorced meetings for a month, I sat back and thought about business. I thought about all the meetings I attended in my career to date.
During this wild west thought exploration I discovered that the cliché of “Meetings cost business so much” started to sink in.
Most of the problems in business that need solving don’t ever seem to get resolved in meetings.
Meetings from this point on started to appear as a blocker to creativity. Creativity, I’ve learned, is one of the best ways to solve a problem and unblock the flow of business.
There was time to nap.
I know what you’re thinking: “Tim, you lazy son of a gun. As if you have time to nap.”
I normally wouldn’t have time to nap, but after taking a meeting detox, I was able to squeeze in a 15-minute nap.
Doesn’t sound like much but it gave me an energy increase in the afternoon, when most people’s energy levels fall off a cliff (rescuing yourself with sugar doesn’t work either, tried that).
The research on napping has been around for a while, so I’m not going to throw that dirt in your face again and expect you to swallow it.
My only advice would be to trial it and then write me a nasty comment saying “Tim you A-HOLE you’re wrong again.” P.S — I probably won’t reply
There was less gossip and office politics.
Meetings can easily turn into a whinge session or a “Let’s complain about someone because they’re not here and can’t hear us.”
By doing fewer meetings, there was less gossip. I didn’t have to fight the temptation to talk nice (we all face this) because I wasn’t there.
I was politely declining and aiming for goals and outcomes instead. And other times I was doing things that really matter (like I said before).
Meetings are a breeding ground for toxicity if you overdose on them. Somewhere along the way, that meeting you know you should have opted out of but didn’t, comes back to bite you on your well-toned gym ass and fill you with regret.
Meetings often involve tea or coffee also known as caffeine. Many of us overdose on this addiction because it feels good (even me the Mr 4 am Habits Guy that’s supposed to be super disciplined).
By doing no meetings, the decision to ingest caffeine became my choice. It was far easier to be disciplined because I didn’t have to fall into society’s standard of rolling up to a meeting and drinking what everyone else is drinking because “that’s just how we do things in Australia, mate.”
I may be a descendant of Captain Cook and I may have worked next to Kangaroos (lots of them) for two years, but I’ll be damned, this no meeting thing certainly helped with the coffee/tea obsession that we have in this great country.
Stress levels reduced.
I’m very aware of my stress levels and no matter how hard I try, more meetings equal greater stress.
Stress gives me brain fog (according to my doctor) and only makes the already huge problem I have with stress even worse.
See, I have twice the amount of cortisol in my body than you’re supposed to have. I’m doing the best I can to reduce it and it’s working, but I found an overdose of meetings was definitely not helping the situation.
Removing meetings for a month made me feel good.
Published twice the number of blog posts.
I mentioned this one already, but it was such a big win that I want to mention it again in more detail.
By saying no to meetings for a month, I did more of the one thing that makes me endlessly happy: inspiring the world through personal development and entrepreneurship.
In its physical, non-mystical, touchable form (if consumed on a ‘not so smartphone’) this looks like blog posts.
I went on a freaking frenzy and wrote as much inspiration and life/career lessons as I could. Upping the number of blog posts allowed me to help more people and I got more messages of thanks and gratitude for doing it.
This small feat may seem like total BS, but to me, it matters. You too have that one thing that has the same meaning in your life. It may not be blogging, but you have it — trust me.
By quitting meetings, throwing them out the window, punching the air and charging forward without them, you too can do the work you were born to do.
I’m not saying you should never attend another meeting again; what I’m saying is a meeting detox will help you see what time is being wasted and you’ll get better at saying no to the unimportant ones in the future.