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Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban and Elon Musk avoid this productivity killer—and you should too

Ruth Umoh

Meetings are a standard event in any workplace, much to the chagrin of Mark Cuban and Elon Musk . Cuban, in particular, considers meetings to be a complete waste of time. "The only way you're going to get me for a meeting is if you're writing me a check," he told Inc. in 2014.

Two years later, his views remained the same. "No meetings or phone calls unless I'm picking up a check," he reiterated in a 2016 Thrive Global Q&A. Musk recently urged Tesla employees to forego excessive meetings in a company-wide email, calling them the "blight" on large companies.

And for good reason. Research has shown that most meetings are a major productivity killer. Though they can provide some benefits, like opportunities for collaboration and face-to-face interactions, they also take a toll on job performance.

Researchers from Harvard Business School and Boston University surveyed 182 senior managers across industries and their results were telling: 65 percent of senior managers said that meetings keep them from completing their own work, 71 percent found them to be unproductive and inefficient and 62 percent stated that meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

Demanding that employees attend ineffective meetings is perhaps why critical business tasks are taking longer to complete, according to organizational expert Michael Manish. In his book "Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team's Productive Power," Manish writes that employees of all levels continuously gripe that they're unable to get work done, which is partly due to endless meetings.

He points to studies from the advisory research firm CEB, which found that hiring a new employee took 63 days in 2015, up from 42 days just five years prior. The time it takes to deliver an IT office project increased from nine months in 2010 to 10 months in 2015 and entering a B2B sales contract took 22 percent longer during that same time span.

Even with statistics like these, meetings are still a necessary evil in the workplace. But before you book that conference room, take some pointers from these billionaires to ensure that you're not wasting precious time in pointless meetings:


Jeff Bezos

The Amazon founder and CEO avoids early morning meetings and convenes with investors for just six hours a year. He also refuses to set up or attend a meeting if two pizzas won't feed the entire group.

When he does set up meetings with Amazon execs, he has them read through a six-page memo at the start. "[The memo is] supposed to create the context for what will then be a good discussion," the CEO said at a recent Forum on Leadership.

Mark Cuban

The serial investor prefers email over in-person meetings or even phone calls, according to Thrive Global. "Love it. Live on it. Saves me hours and hours every day," he said. "No meetings. No phone calls. All because of email. I set my schedule."

Even urgent matters can't persuade the billionaire to call a meeting together. "If there's a problem and we need to solve it, I'll do a call," he told Entrepreneur, noting that meetings are a "productivity hit."

"Other than that, I keep communication limited to email. It's more efficient," said Cuban.


Ray Dalio

Like Cuban, the investor and self-made billionaire is also a fan of email communication. However, he believes that meetings can be effective if they're run well.

In his book "Principles: Life and Work," Dalio offers numerous tips on how to do just that. He advises that you emphasize the meeting's purpose, stay on topic throughout and remain calm and analytical at all times.

Elon Musk

Musk is reportedly fond of saying that meetings are what happens when people aren't working, according to a GQ profile of the tech billionaire. Still, he's open to brief gatherings as long as they're highly productive and fruitful for everyone involved. Otherwise, Musk recommends making a speedy exit.

"Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value," he told Tesla employees. "It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time."

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