people at a business meeting

Email or Meeting: Here’s How Not to Waste Everybody’s Time

It’s another working day—with hours full of meetings that should’ve been an email. Those meetings aren’t only a waste of time but also affect deep work, causing employees to lose more productive hours. But there are also instances when an email backfires and creates more work with too much back-and-forth.

One solution to this misuse of time is knowing when an email is a suitable medium, and when a Zoom call is necessary. To instill that discipline in your organization, here are some simple rules to live by.

A long FYI should be an email

If you need to share information without requiring any immediate action, send an email. This includes giving overarching direction, clarifying mission, and sharing a simple update on operational matters like business insurance and office maintenance schedule. There’s no use setting a thirty-minute call if people can leave the meeting without action steps.

If a topic becomes “loaded,” email is no longer effective

We’ve seen this before—email threads full of passive-aggressive remarks. The minute a topic becomes emotional, end the thread and set a meeting. People tend to misread tone and overreact. They also become oppositional rather than collaborative; no matter how long, the discussion would go nowhere.

People often speed-read emails

If the issue is complex or nuanced, it is less likely to get resolved via email. People often speed-read emails. They tend to miss essential details and respond in a way that further complicates the issue. If you find yourself specifying details in the sixth paragraph, scrap the draft and create slides for a meeting, instead.

It’s faster to explain stats, discuss solutions, and agree on strategies in a meeting. You can also address questions quickly, reducing the unnecessary back-and-forth in email threads. Keep in mind, though, that long and complex meetings should end with you or another member sending an email of the meeting minutes. This reminds people of their action plans and gives proper documentation of the important decisions made.


Consider which medium would best strengthen relationships

Undoubtedly, strong relationships lead to effective collaboration and make everyday work more fulfilling. When you need to decide between sending an email or scheduling a meeting, think of the relationship you have with your colleagues. Sometimes, a clever and charming FYI email can make their day. Other times, a virtual meeting complete with fun, engaging activities can encourage stronger teamwork.

Specify the purpose of the meeting

Before calling a meeting, specify its purpose. Again, if it’s just to share a bit of information, stick with email. But if you want to solve a problem right then and there, align to map out interdependencies, or boost teamwork, a meeting should be in order. Being clear about the purpose can save everyone time and energy.

We’ve all been in a Zoom call that could have been an email—and on an email thread that should have been a conference meeting. Practice matching the medium to the situation and purpose to avoid wasting time and energy, especially now that almost everybody is on edge working from home amid a pandemic. ;

About the Author

Scroll to Top