Should this Meeting Be an Email?

Did you know that 2:30 pm on a Tuesday is the single best time for a meeting? It’s early enough in the week that folks aren’t too tired, late enough but not too late in the day, and past the Monday catch up that I’m pretty sure everyone deals with, no matter what your job looks like.

Did you also know that we’ve all wasted a lot of time being in meetings that should have been emails? Picture this: you’re in a great workflow, working on all of your tasks and PING – a meeting request comes in. You internally groan – and maybe even externally grown – about the drain on your work time. The last time you met, it seemed more like a show and tell than anything else with no schedule, and nothing new has changed since the last meeting, so why is this even happening?!


Let’s make a point in 2020 to stop wasting time on meetings that should be an email. While sometimes other people are responsible for scheduling these time wasters, sometimes, it’s us. And when it IS our doing, we need to stop, take a moment and step back. Here’s a quick rubric to make the most of your meetings:

Are you giving information that needs to be known, word for word? This should be an email. If you’re getting people together to tell them a new policy or information they need to know, then you are better off writing an email and asking to meet if folks have any questions. If you’re only meeting to tell them the information, you’re going to end up wasting time. People need time to process information, and time is better served with an email and a follow-up meeting if necessary.

Has there been little to no action from last time? This should be an email. If the content will be people saying over and over again that they have nothing to report, or everything is the same as last time, then you should keep it in the email zone. Nothing to update? No reason to meet.  

Is there no clear agenda? Then this should be an email, and maybe not even that. If you have no schedule or focus, there is no reason to call everyone together. You might think it builds a team or connects people, and here’s the deal with adult learners – they have to opt into the learning in order for it to stick. If you are hoping “teambuilding” and bonding happens just because you got people together for a meeting with no schedule, action items, or purpose, think again.  You’re going to end up with folks that are resentful that you’re taking their time to get their work done, not employee closeness.

Well, we’ve always met for updates on Wednesdays! Repeat after me; we don’t have to keep doing this. If you’re meeting because you always meet on Wednesdays, but it keeps getting longer and longer because everyone is just venting, then pull it back. This happens with weekly staff meetings that turn into event meetings that turn into initiative meetings. One of my clients spends almost an entire day a week in back to back meetings, and her staff is only 12, including her. A lot of those meetings need to be converted to a document or email.

Are things getting emotional? This should be a meeting! Tone and cadence are next to impossible to negotiate in an email. Meet when things get loaded, because it’s hard to assume positive intent if people are feeling attacked or stuck.

Before you hit send on that meeting request, take a moment to run your meeting through these points to see if you really need to meet, or if you’re all better served with an email. Trust me – the others will thank you.



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