Why Now’s a Perfect Time to Declare ‘Meeting Bankruptcy’ and Rethink Your Schedule


The worst of the pandemic may (hopefully) be behind us, but the effects of two years of crazy disruptions are still very much with us. Companies and teams continue to fight over remote or in-person work, individuals are rethinking their priorities and looking for better options en masse, and job burnout is reaching historic highs.

Also, since Memorial Day, summer is (unofficially) upon us and with it the desire to spend less time at work and more time outside in front of a barbecue or at the beach.

All this leads to one conclusion. Many entrepreneurs are renegotiating their relationship with their work and thinking deeply about how many hours they put in, where, and with what goals in mind. I’ve covered a bunch of suggestions and exercises to help you use the end of the pandemic as a springboard to reconsider your life, but I just came across another good idea in the MIT Sloan Management Review: This may be the perfect time to declare “reunion bankrupt”.

Like email or social media bust, but for meetings

You may have heard of “e-mail bankruptcy” before. The idea is that when you’re hopelessly overwhelmed by your out-of-control inbox, you simply delete everything and wait to see what problems arise and who writes to you again. It’s a simple but brutal way to free up space for a fresh start and find out which of your 6,587 unread messages really matters.

computer teacher and author Cal Newport also applied the concept of bankruptcy to social media, calling it a “digital detox”. On his blog, he suggested quitting all your platforms for a month to see not just how you feel (science suggests the answer is probably better), but what social media uses and activities you actually miss.

Writing in the MIT Sloan Management Review, a trio of executives from the Slack-sponsored Future Forum suggest a similar idea from their new book, How the future works. Just like you might file for bankruptcy via email or social media, why not try filing for bankruptcy for a meeting and see what happens?

“At Slack, our leaders have set an example on this by declaring a ‘civilian bankruptcy.’ add only what was really necessary,” write Brian Elliott, Sheela Subramanian and Helen Kupp.

The idea isn’t to eliminate meetings altogether, though research suggests you’d do a lot more if you banned meetings at least two days a week. Instead, the goal of declaring a meeting bankrupt is to take meetings off autopilot and force you to actively justify each one you add to your calendar.

However, the authors suggest that an email bankruptcy done correctly will likely result in more free time for focused work.

“We’ve found that many meetings can be eliminated or split into multiple parts. For example, your monthly sales meeting might start with a status update. Why not send it ahead of time? Presentations can be shared as presentations or asynchronous videos so people can review them at their own pace.Tactics like these can dramatically reduce your meeting time, and the time spent together can then be spent more meaningfully to meaty discussions or team building,” they report.

Why now?

It’s an idea that could work just about any day, but it seems particularly well suited to our current moment. The pandemic has already left most of us wondering if our careers are healthy, sustainable and aligned with our values. Declaring a meeting bankrupt seems like a natural extension of this reconsideration process.

Plus, it’s daylight saving time, traditionally a slower time for many industries. This can make meeting bankruptcy filing now a little more logistically manageable. And as a bonus, you may gain a few extra hours to enjoy the sun with family and friends. So why not try deleting all meetings from your calendar and see which ones you actually miss?

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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