Meeting invitations are one of the easiest things to clear from your inbox.
You get up from your computer to walk to the refrigerator for more water, an email with a meeting invitation pops up on your phone, and you accept it.
Excellent! One step closer to Inbox Zero!
In reality, this practice is far from “excellent,” and is likely hurting both your productivity and your happiness at work.
When you accept meeting invitations on autopilot, you have to rely on your future self to determine whether you actually need to attend the meeting.
Three days later when a notification pops up that the meeting is about to begin, you are likely to join the meeting without thinking twice about it.
Mindless Accept Syndrome
When you accept meeting invitations without thinking about why, David Grady says that you are suffering from Mindless Accept Syndrome. Mindless Accept Syndrome can allow meetings to take over your work life.
Intentionally working against Mindless Accept Syndrome is one of the best ways to improve meeting management, and regardless of your role at your company, it is completely within your control.
At work, it is easy for us to assume that all of the meetings on our calendars are mandatory. When you stop and think about each meeting, you will quickly realize that several meetings each week are optional.
How to Decide Whether to Accept a Meeting Invitation
Before accepting a meeting invitation, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to go to this meeting? Why? (If you have a good reason – Go!)
- Was I listed on the “Optional” line for this meeting?
- Is there something more important I could be doing during this meeting time?
Sometimes you will have the power to decline an invitation right away. Other times, you may have to talk to the meeting leader to get a bit more clarification first.
Try sending a quick email or chat message to the meeting leader asking whether your attendance is mandatory, what the purpose is, and/or what they want your role to be at the meeting.
Even if the meeting leader says your attendance is mandatory, you will at least go to the meeting knowing why you are there, and will hopefully get something out of it.
Pro Tip for Meeting Leaders: Avoiding Mindless Invite Syndrome
While meeting invitees are responsible for managing their own Mindless Accept Syndrome, you can help everyone when you are the meeting leader by avoiding Mindless Invite Syndrome.
Effective meetings occur when only the people who really need to be there are present.
We often add people to meeting invitations to create a sense of inclusion, but that can backfire by creating bloated meetings that waste attendees’ time.
Avoiding Mindless Accept Syndrome and Mindless Invite Syndrome does more than save you one hour at a time. It can help create a culture at your organization of employees respecting their own time and respecting each other’s time. Simply asking “Hey, do you need me at this meeting?” a few times is contagious – and you can affect the future behavior of your entire team.