Hey, fellow CTOs, founders, PMs, and other product builders! 

It's Alex Odin here, and I'm excited to share some insights on a topic I'm quite passionate about: the impact of meetings on engineers' productivity. 

Before founding Skipp, I was a CTO and co-founder at one of the world's most popular apps for learning foreign languages, and I've experienced firsthand how meetings can kill an engineer's productivity.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that meetings are essential for communication and collaboration, and I have plenty of them, but there's a fine line between productive discussions and endless, soul-draining chatter. So, let's dive into the dark side of meetings and explore why they can be detrimental to an engineer's productivity.

1 - Context Switching is a Killer

As engineers, we know that context switching is expensive. 

We spend a significant amount of time diving deep into a problem, visualizing its many layers, and developing solutions. 

However, a meeting (especially an unexpected one) can pull us out of that focused state, forcing us to switch contexts, which takes a considerable amount of time and energy.

Imagine you're in the zone, working on optimizing a piece of code. Suddenly, you're summoned to a meeting. When you return to your desk, it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to infinity to regain that same level of concentration. That's valuable time wasted, my friends.

2 - The Illusion of Progress

Meetings can create a false sense of progress. 

You know, those meetings where everyone talks about the same issue over and over, making it seem like a lot has been accomplished when in reality, nothing has changed? Yep, we've all been there. This illusion of progress can be particularly harmful to engineers, who need uninterrupted time to solve complex problems.

3 - One Size Does Not Fit All

Not everyone works at the same pace or has the same thought process. In a meeting, this can be problematic. Discussions can either be too slow or too fast for some participants, leaving them feeling frustrated, disengaged, or just plain bored. Engineers, in particular, may find meetings a significant drain on their productivity if they're not tailored to their preferred working style.

4 - Quantity Over Quality

Meetings often lead to a focus on the number of tasks completed rather than their quality. This can be especially detrimental to engineers, who are trained to pay attention to detail and optimize for efficiency. Emphasizing quantity, meetings can push engineers to rush through their work, which can result in subpar outcomes. That’s a common consequence, 

5 - Death by Recurring Meetings

Recurring meetings are notorious for becoming stale and unproductive. When scheduled without a clear agenda, these gatherings turn into routine check-ins that seldom yield any meaningful results. For engineers, this is a double whammy: not only are they losing precious time in unproductive meetings, but they're also forced to endure the monotony of the same discussions week after week.

So, What Can We Do?

It's important to strike a balance between necessary meetings and uninterrupted work time. Especially when it comes to Engineers. 

Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your meetings without sacrificing productivity:

  1. Establish clear agendas and objectives for each meeting.
  2. Set time limits and stick to them.
  3. Be mindful of attendees and only invite those who are truly necessary.
  4. Encourage asynchronous communication, like email or team messaging, for less urgent matters.
  5. Periodically reevaluate the need for recurring meetings and their frequency.