It’s Time to Fix Meetings Once and For All

January 5, 2022

Book Review by Taylor Berrett

Meetings Matter Now More Than Ever

Just over a year ago, employees, managers, and companies all over the world had been struggling with a singular problem for decades. Meetings. Meetings are the bane of existence for many organizations and people, who decry their long droning runtimes, lack of productive information, and the way that they distract from heads-down work that’s often essential to a company’s success. However, regardless of what many people might tell you, meetings are sometimes essential. So they have persisted, with some organizations managing them relatively well while others allow them to drain hours and hours from employees’ time with little benefit to show for it.

Then, in 2021, an interesting thing happened. Suddenly, due to a global pandemic, meetings became the only time employees and managers were interacting face-to-face (albeit through Zoom and other remote channels.) 

Suddenly, the urgency to fix meetings was turned up to 11.

The Bad-Meeting Doctors Are In

Enter Graham Allcott & Hayley Watts and their excellent book, How to Fix Meetings: Meet Less, Focus on Outcomes and Get Stuff Done.

Graham Alcott is an entrepreneur, business speaker and the founder of Think Productive, an organization that runs workshops throughout the UK and has helped a range of businesses get rid of time-wasters and get back to creating real value.

Now he’s turned his attention entirely on the dreaded meeting, creating a book (along with co-author Hayley Watts) that should be required reading for any manager looking to inspire their teams and avoid burnout or frustration.

At the core of Alcott’s powerful solution to meetings that are ‘productivity drains rather than productivity gains’ is the 40-20-40 Continuum. This approach suggests that only 20% of the attention paid to a meeting should occur during the meeting itself. The rest should occur before and after the meeting, in preparation and follow-through once the meeting is complete.

This allows for meetings to be more productive, less repetitive, and most of all—shorter. After all, shorter meetings don’t just mean less bored employees. It means your organization can get back to solving problems, creating products, and doing the real work of growing the business. 

Meanwhile, Alcott also stresses the importance of emphasizing that every meeting is a choice. He believes that turning down a meeting invite shouldn’t be seen as a potential career killer, but rather a completely reasonable response. 

The Bottom Line

How to Fix Meetings is a powerful tool that’s certain to be an indispensable resource for managers and teams everywhere. Having read it, you’ll find yourself reducing your calendar of meetings, replacing many of them with simple emails or messages, and in turn putting more attention and advance planning into meetings that ultimately result in greater results and increased follow-through.  It’s not just about making meetings less frequent. It’s about making them work for us, rather than the other way around. That’s an idea that anyone can get behind.


Taylor Berrett

Taylor Berrett is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and host of the podcast Alone in a Room. His other book reviews can be found here.