How To Create a Culture With Fewer Meetings and More Time for Deep Work
On an average work week, I don’t spend more than 1 hour of my time in meetings.
Yes, you read that correctly.
97% of my 40-hour workweek is spent on, well, work. Of course, there can be exceptions—like when we have a new team member onboarding, our quarterly town halls, and 1:1 performance check-ins—but these are occasional events rather than the norm. Most weeks, my work calendar is pretty much the opposite of your typical color block of meetings.
When I share this “I don’t spend my workweek in meetings” fact with people, it’s typically met with shock, skepticism, and sometimes both! Often I hear feedback like, “I wish our organization had less meetings,” or “Our team relies on meetings for group communication.”
My favorite question is when people ask, “How do you work?”
Our 2021 Global Agency Productivity Report found that 66% of teams work overtime as a result of too many meetings, and 55% struggle to get through more than 2 hours of uninterrupted, deep work a day. Time management isn’t a new challenge. However, as more organizations move to hybrid-remote and remote-first operations, how teams actually spend their time is receiving more attention.
This blog post aims to give insight into how we work with fewer meetings at Float, as well as provide practical tips for teams who want to have less meetings and free up more time for deep work.
We’re accountable for how we spend our own work time and the time we ask of others
It starts with creating a culture of time accountability. This includes how we plan and spend our own time and the time we ask of our teammates. Whether it’s assigning or requesting tasks, sharing documentation , project status updates sent via Slack or email, and even creating the occasional meeting invitation—these all take time. Having fewer meetings doesn’t make us any less accountable for the time we ask of each other.
No agenda means no meeting, and there’s no shame in canceling a meet that’s no longer required
A simple and actionable rule of thumb for us at Float is that we don’t have meetings for the sake of meetings. This applies to our weekly status meets too. If there’s nothing to discuss that week, we cancel, and there’s no shame. In fact, we usually thank the other person for respecting our time and giving us 20 minutes of our day back!
Jeremy Mack coined this “No agenda, no meeting” catchphrase for us when he shared how they implement this rule at Postlight. “If you can’t define an agenda beforehand, then the meeting shouldn’t happen,” says Mack. He also recommends tools like Fellow App and Navigator that are designed to help build the habit of coming to meetings prepared.
Pre-work meeting notes and feedback are shared beforehand
We don’t spend meetings reading through each other’s work, and we don’t expect our teammates to digest large amounts of new information on the spot. Any notes, analysis, or pre-work relevant to the meeting is shared at least a few hours prior to when the meet starts.
Giving everyone a respectful amount of time to process any new information before we meet provides the opportunity to consolidate our thoughts independently. Where possible, we’ll even share initial feedback with each other ahead of the call to maximize meeting time for the topics at hand.
1:1 status meets are 20 minutes, and all-hands are 1 hour
By making our meetings more efficient, we’re generally able to keep our 1:1 status meetings to 20 minutes. Sometimes this might run over, but if it ever becomes a trend, we reassess the agenda and time scheduled accordingly. Being accountable for our own time and the time we ask of our teammates means that we don’t expect meetings to run over the time requested.
Every quarter we get the whole Float team together for a Town Hall meeting. With 25 team members working across 10+ time zones, it’s hard for us to find an optimal time that works for everyone. Because of this, we keep our Town Halls to one hour and have strict time slots assigned to speakers. We also record the Town Halls so anyone who can’t make it can catch up whenever suits them best.
Asynchronous communication is our default, and we utilize tools like Slack, Loom, and Notion to help
In the last year, our team has nearly doubled! We’ve all had to be disciplined and diligent in how we communicate, and we rely on a variety of productivity tools to help make things easier. Here’s a quick run down of the top 3 tools we use for async communication:
1. Slack: Each morning I pour myself a cup of coffee, and open Slack to check in on important messages and updates from the team. It’s the same feeling I used to get walking through the office doors. Between 8:30 and 9 a.m. I send my status update via Geekbot, and check in on what the rest of the team has been up to. Some of our team adjust their work hours so that they have an hour each night to log onto Slack and also prepare for the next work day.
2. Loom: Video explainers have been fantastic for our team. Our senior product managers Alan and Tony have been using Loom to explain new projects and upcoming feature specs via short videos to the rest of the team. It’s been refreshing to see and hear work in flight presented in a way that’s not simply a Google doc. We also use Loom to create video explainers for the team on any new systems and processes. It’s been faster and more efficient than writing up how-to notes and (painfully) taking lots of screenshots!
3. Notion: This is our remote team intranet and compass for who’s who and where’s what. We try to make our team resources and documentation as accessible as possible by providing them in a self-service format. Notion is awesome for this! No need to ask each other what we can’t find or Google it ourselves. If there’s something we don’t know, our team is always happy to help each other out and we might even use that feedback to identify potential gaps in our documentation.
For more, check out this blog post on the top remote tools we use at Float.
Self-service documentation means that anyone can understand what’s going on
Our internal tools and processes help us work efficiently and effectively. Self-service documentation is critical in a remote, asynchronous working environment where it’s not possible to just tap someone on the shoulder to ask a quick question, or ping a teammate on Slack at 3 a.m. and expect a reply. What I love about our documentation style at Float is that self-service means that anyone can pick it up and know what they’re reading and where it stands. It’s also a key part of our onboarding process. Check out how schmick our engineering documentation is looking in Notion for new team members!
All meetings are video meetings, and we still value the opportunity to meet up in person
As much as we love being the A-team on the async work style, we still appreciate how important facetime is with each other and the opportunity to connect in person.
Our meetings are via Zoom, which we trigger directly in Slack, and the video is always on. I’ve had friends tell me that in their video remote meetings, there’s a tendency to keep the camera off and multi-task (e.g., cooking dinner or doing other work). The obvious observation then is that their meeting must not have been necessary in the first place, or at least their attendance wasn’t! We never have meetings for the sake of meetings, and we don’t hold unnecessarily long meetings either. As a result, when we do catch up, our teammates always have our full attention, which includes the video being on and taking the opportunity to have some face time with each other.
Every year Float hosts an annual team meetup where we all get together in person and the company covers everyone’s accommodation and flights. The last one was in Athens, Greece, and yes, we are seriously ready for when we can travel again and meet! Connecting in person is an important way for us to recharge the trust battery and build up the team morale.
When I joined Float in February 2019, working remotely and with minimal meetings was quite an adjustment. It was a bit of a personal process for me to switch to full-time remote work, default to asynchronous communication, and, most of all, adjust to the void left by missing out on in-person time with my colleagues. Through that process, however, my perspective shifted on what turning up to work actually meant. Fewer meetings made me feel more accountable for how I spent my time, which was measured both by the impact and output of my work, and by asking myself a simple question: “What did I actually do today?” Believe me, when you have 97% of the workweek available to just do work, it’s pretty eye opening to ask yourself how you spent it.
Interested in joining a highly productive, fully remote team? Check out the open roles on our Careers page.
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