How to Bow Out of Meetings That Are a Total Time-Suck

Jul 26, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

By Wanda Sealy

Time is the most valuable asset you have, and you have a limited amount of it. Attending meetings that don’t contribute to achieving your goals isn’t the best use of your time or talent. Use these tips to determine when you should avoid a meeting and how to do it while still being a team player.

Step 1: Know your schedule

Take 10 to 15 minutes at the start or end of every day to prioritize your schedule. Review the projects you’re working on to prioritize those that are time-sensitive and critical to your mission. If you have a team meeting every morning, that's the perfect opportunity to discuss priorities with your team and boss.

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Step 2: Determine the purpose for the meeting

Your first challenge is to determine which meetings you can avoid. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid meetings altogether. If you’re asked to attend a meeting and it’s not clear what your role is, contact the meeting organizer and ask the following types of questions:

  • Can you provide additional information on the agenda?
  • What is the expected outcome of the meeting?
  • How do you need me to contribute?

If your boss is scheduling the meeting, you can have an open discussion to review your schedule and get the boss’ support in determining where you should best spend your time.

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Step 3: Bow out of meetings the right way

You have several options for bowing out of a meeting politely depending on the circumstances:

Can you reschedule the meeting?

If, for instance, you know that not all departments are prepared for the meeting, try to work with the organizer to reschedule to a time when the meeting will be the most productive.

Can you suggest an alternate?

Let’s assume that the meeting is important, but you’re not the right person to attend. Contact the organizer to suggest the person most qualified to participate.

Can you provide information ahead of time?

If the objective of the meeting is information exchange, determine if you could provide notes on the topic to the organizer or one of the other attendees in advance of the meeting. Your input can still be included in the discussion.

Can you attend a portion of the meeting?

If your input is only required for a part of the agenda, contact the organizer to let them know you want to participate, but you’ll be leaving after your topic is discussed. Alternatively, ask the organizer to address your topic first to allow you to get back to work.

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Can you get notes from the meeting?

If you need to know what occurred at the meeting but don’t have a specific role, explain your schedule to the organizer and ask that person to send you the meeting notes.

Your objective in bowing out of meetings isn’t to avoid work; it’s to make the best use of your time. Done right, avoiding meetings will let you focus on your main objectives while still being a team player.

Originally published on Fairygodboss.