Last week I had 40 work hours and about 25 of it were spent in various meetings, talks, and so on. This has become commonplace and I think it is time to fight back. I think the company needs think a little bit about whether they hired programmers or meeting-listeners.

Note, these meetings are about things which are mostly irrelevant for me. It is also a very typical that a meeting written out as 15 min or a half hour will be elongated to 1.5 or 2 hours.

Sometimes there are meetings which are not written out, but we still need to be there.

Note, it is paid work time, so if the Company wants to pay me for sitting in on irrelevant meetings, it is up to them, and I will do it. However, I still see a grave danger. And this danger is, while I am at a meeting, I can not work. And a boss/lead will once ask, what the heck did I do?

And, I want to show him, what I did.

I want to show my calendar. On that, it is very well visible, what I did. Note, my calendar is public (anybody can see the content in it with the details).

My idea is this:

What is in the shared calendar, I extend it in my private calendar with the reality.

On this way, I use my calendar effectively as a log, where I note, how much and on which meetings did I take part. I give them a different color. I do this with 2 goals:

  1. As a precautionary maneuver, if someone (likely one of those who create the meetings) questions us about the cause of our work being slow. Then I will be able to quickly and reliably show him why.

  2. Others who open my calendar, will see the amount of the really wasted time, and not only the planned ones.

However, I think this is at least a little bit threatening to our wonderful meeting-generator co-workers. But I am not sure, exactly how. They had the authority to create the meetings, and they did. Then they should not "break the mirror".

This is a small company in Germany.

So, how good idea is it? Did other do the same, and what were the results?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 3:17
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    Out of curiosity - you say it's a small company. How small? How can there be so many issues? Do you have coworkers besides the boss to discuss this? Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 23:04
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    Who is inviting you to all of these meetings? Are these meeting-planners all management/boss types to you? Is there a stated obligation for you to take every single meeting sent your way? Have you ever tried just declining?
    – Beau
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 3:26
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    I also work in Germany. If I am in a meeting and I feel I can be more productive elsewhere, I stand up and say, "I don't think you need me here for the remaining points on the agenda. I have to do xyz..." and then I go.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 6:53
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    Are these meetings that you must attend physically, or are they video-meetings? For the latter it is quite common for people to attend, but to multi-task during them.
    – MikeB
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 9:23

14 Answers 14


Just log it in your timesheet and carry on.

This answer is based on two assumptions:

  • Your company uses some method to record time spent working on various activities.
  • Your management routinely uses the data from such timesheets to monitor employee and company productivity.

First of all, note that there are potentially two orthogonal issues here:

  • Non-productive meetings: If you feel that your presence at a particular meeting is utterly pointless yet you're getting invited repeatedly, just bring it up with the organizer to find out if you really have to attend and why.
  • Too much time spent meetings:

If the situation that you describe happened in any of the companies I worked for, I would have just entered "Wednesday, 2 hrs development on Project A, 5 hrs meetings, 1 hr preparing slides for a meeting" into the web app/Excel sheet/paper form by the door and that'd be it. Management would then notice that overall time the company spends in meetings is up 1400% in a year and take action (or not, but that's purely up to them).

As the management already has a dedicated tool to track how much time is spent where, it doesn't make much sense to side-step such system. It's much easier to aggregate data and get a company-wide overview of the situation using a dedicated reporting tool instead of extracting peoples' impressions from a bunch of e-mails.

Additionally, numbers in an Excel sheet don't carry any implied feelings with them. Sending an e-mail that you spent 30 hours in meetings this week signals annoyance and unhappiness, writing "30" into a box does not. It's the best way to avoid coming across as trying to say "I don't like the way you run this place".

It also sounds like the organizational structure in your company is somewhat convoluted, so just e-mailing your boss might also not be the most efficient approach if your boss doesn't have any direct authority over the other people calling you into meetings. In contrast to that, the timesheet data might be reported to someone who actually has the authority to decide how much time is the company as a whole supposed to spend in meetings.

In contrast to this, the plan with the calendar doesn't sound like a good one. First, it does not make it any easier for the management to notice what is going on, so it sounds like just you trying to cover your behind. Second, it might be perceived as an attempt to publicly shame your coworkers for wasting your precious time. Whatever method you choose to communicate this to the management, keep it private.

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    Like I argued in my own answer I think the OP should take a little more initiative than just filling in the timesheets and hope someone higher-up notices and takes action. Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 14:56
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    I think you are right, exactly this should be done. We have a very detailed work log. I just log and go on. The calendar trick is unneeded, it is already logged, from that point it is up to them, how do they calculate (and optimize) the work effectivity of the team.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 15:08
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    @GraySheep Actually, this is part of the reason for being an employee: to spend a lot of time in meetings. Your job is not just to be a programmer, it is also to be a meeting listener. So, make sure that your boss knows how much time you are in meetings and let your boss decide if that is what helps the company the most.
    – David R
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 16:11
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    This is only the accepted answer because it's basically what you suggested @GraySheep just in other words. Don't ask questions if all you want is confirmation.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 20:22
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    We have a very detailed work log. I just log and go on. @GraySheep If this is something you're already doing then why were you concerned that someone might complain about you not getting work done? I don't think this is a bad idea on its own but it's unclear how it solves your problem if the situation hasn't changed.
    – BSMP
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 3:07

This would seem to be a language-issue, so essentially "How do I tell my boss we are spending, in my opinion, too much time in meetings?"

What I would say is this: On a Friday, email Boss:

Hey Boss, you know I just checked and this week I spent 27 hours in meetings. I have a concern that that is too much time for a programmer to spend in meetings. What do you think?"

The key points are

  1. FACTUAL only. NO theories, NO anger, NO passion, NO suggestions, NO plans, NO overview. Just STATE THE FACT.

  2. Keep it brief, brief, brief, and then edit it shorter, then cut out any unnecessary poarts, then edit it shorter.

  3. Always end with a question.

So that's it.

ALSO: totally forget your calendar idea, never do that. Never do anything that is even slightly tricky, smart-ass, "clever". Totally set aside that idea; don't do it, forget it.

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    Following point #2, you might as well dispense with "you know I just checked and". Also possibly better to mention how much time you spent in meetings in the previous week(s) as well, to show that this is a persistent issue.
    – TooTea
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 13:47
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    When advising not to do something, especially categorically, always explain why. Without a compelling reason given, the only idea I get is you're afraid to do that -- well, I'm not, so what now? Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 20:00
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    Care to elaborate why editing the calendar is so unthinkably horrible? If I were a boss, I wouldn't mind my subordinates doing that one bit.
    – MaxD
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 23:37
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    This presumes the boss somehow doesn't already know about the meeting schedule, which seems unlikely to me. I'm not sure why you suggest "always end it with a question". The question "what do you think?" is not one that I would receive well as a manager because it's pretty obviously meant to challenge and not inform or sincerely request information. IMHO presenting a fact as if the boss doesn't know it and then asking "what do you think?" comes across as more than slightly "tricky, smart-ass, clever". Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 7:25
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    If the reason for doing things your suggested way was obvious then this question wouldn't have even been posted. Please explain why you're suggesting to do this.
    – Kat
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 13:46

Keeping a track of the amount of time you spend in meetings isn't a bad idea - especially if you are finding that the meetings are frequently running over the length of time alloted in the calendar. It's covering yourself against potential questions regarding your progress on non-meeting aspects of the job and if nothing else it can be used to have the way meeting lengths are estimated reassessed.

Doing it in a way that anyone, especially those calling meetings, can see at-will is risky. It potentially comes off as super passive-agressive and frankly it's not going to gain anything. A purely private log you can produce in 1-1 meetings as and when appropriate is going to cover your behind just as well and give you more control how that information is delivered and to whom.

If you're concerned that the amount of time you're spending in meetings is compromising your ability to meet deadlines and generally get your tasks done then the appropriate response is to proactively raise that issue with your boss/manager. Don't wait for them to raise it to you first - that only puts you on the back foot.

Don't complain about the meetings, Don't complain about the people calling them, instead treat it like you would any other task you've been given that's creating time pressure and ask about ways to alleviate that pressure. Whether that's by cutting down on the number of meetings you attend or tightening them up so the length is reduced or even making it that you only attend for the parts that the business wants you to be in.

If, after you've made them aware of how much of your time this is using they still choose to have you spending as much time in meetings then that's their call - and that is you working in that company. Some company cultures are very meeting-heavy and it can be irritating if that's not your way of doing things (having worked somewhere where I averaged 30+ hours a week in meetings I can sympathize) and others are less so - and you might need to move on to find somewhere more in tune with your preferred way of working. It's at least worth having a reasonable conversation or two first though.

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    "Don't complain about the meetings" - Generally yes. But it's more than appropriate to mention it in a 1v1, in a factual way. "Meetings take away almost half of my worktime, and I believe I could be more effective without attending some - could we review if I really add anything valuable to these and these ones?" is perfectly fine. (Calling the meetings outright useless is less so.)
    – Neinstein
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 18:42

I think this calendar trick will not reflect well on you. You identified a problem, not getting enough work done due to an excessive amount of meetings you have to attend, but did not really anything to solve it.

You just added all meeting-hours in your calendar to use as an excuse in case you don't get enough work done or in the hope that the meeting-organizers will see those totals and think twice about inviting you to another meeting (prediction they probably won't notice). I think it just shows lack of initiative.

I think you should do a combination of the following things.

  • just don't go to some meetings which seem obviously unimportant to you.
  • when someone invites you to a meeting ask him/her if it's really necessary you attend it.
  • ask your manager if he/she can do something about the excessive amount of meetings you are invited to.
  • If on a meeting all points relevant to you have been discussed but it still drags on and on, ask if you can leave.
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    Right on all points. As previous C-level execute at our company used to say: "If you are in a meeting, and you feel you cannot contribute, leave".
    – Abigail
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 11:47
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    You are right, I won't do that.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 15:09
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    I would dream to work in a company whose culture accepted people deciding to leave meetings on their own
    – Bwmat
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 17:31
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    The culture won't change if no one has the backbone to do it.
    – kedavle
    Commented Jul 9, 2023 at 9:04

This is a common problem. The best solution I've read on a local forum is this: Ask the meeting's organizer to email you what you're expected to speak about, because you don't want to go to the meeting unprepared. The organizer in his case thought about it, and decided he didn't have any such topic, and wasn't that important to be there anyway.


Do you have to attend all these meetings? I used to spend a tremendous amount of time in meetings that weren't very relevant for me. Over time I've learned that people often send out meeting invitations to a much wider audience than necessary.

Now, if a meeting isn't directly relevant to my work I might decline it. If it's vital that I be there the meeting organizer can reach out to me directly.

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    Agreed, but would still be a good idea talk about this with the manager.
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 6:19
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    "the meeting organizer can reach out to me directly" - this also shows the importance of having a sufficiently detailed agenda by which people can judge whether to accept an offer of attendance or not in the first place.
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 2:39

Here's the critical thing about employment that many question-askers on this site do not understand, and it leads to a lot less friction in employment if you do understand it, so I'll give you the magic answer that you need to know:

When you are employed, it is a common misconception that you are paid for your work. That is not the case. If you look at any employment contract, you will clearly see that nowhere in the contract are you actually paid for your work, there is no such claim or distinction made. Rather, in every employment contract, it says that you are paid to work a set number of hours per week, and you are paid a salary for those hours. To be more specific, you are paid for your time, not for your work.

Work often correlates with time, in that you should, in theory, be using that time to contribute value to the company, which is work, but that is not actually spelled out anywhere in your contract, if you actually read it carefully. Certainly, you can be fired if you do not use a sufficient amount of time to produce a certain amount of value to the company by doing work, but there is no recognized standard of how much work is "enough" or what kind of "value" you are expected to provide.

So here's where this helps you: You are collecting a salary. Based on the amount of time you are spending in meetings, and the fact that your boss isn't asking questions, and the fact that your calendar is public and your boss can see you being in meetings, it seems that the value you are to provide to the company is not as a programmer, but rather as a so-called "meeting-listener", to borrow your term. That role, apparently, has value to the company, and they are prepared to pay you to do it. Now, whether you or I agree that a meeting-listener role has value to the company, I agree with you that it's probably dumb, but nevertheless, someone in management at the company decided this was a good idea, and so that's the way it is, you're a meeting-listener. And that's ok. You're collecting a salary to sit in meetings and listen, and that's fine, so long as you're ok with it.

Now, to address a few things that may come up in the future (or may not! And that's important!):

  1. You may want to have a chat with your boss, not a long one, not a deep one, but make your boss aware of what you have written here: You are working 40 hours per week, but spending 25 of those hours in meetings. Your boss should be aware that you are only able to provide 15 hours per week of programming work, and the other 25 hours are meeting-listening work. Do not push the issue, do not force the issue; simply make your boss aware of the issue. It then becomes your boss's responsibility to determine is 15 hours per week of programming from you is good enough, or if not, then it is his responsibility (not yours!) to make you not be in meetings for 25 hours per week. This is what it means to be a manager, you have to manage things. If your boss is not happy with you only providing 15 hours per week of programming work, but he won't do anything to free up your schedule to get you to do less meeting-listening work and more programming work despite you notifying him of the issue, and you find yourself terminated from the company, this would be grounds under which I would seriously consider speaking to a lawyer (and by that I mean, you definitely should speak to a lawyer if this were to happen to you). However, one of the first questions I would ask if I was a judge in such a case (I am not a legal professional of any sort) would be: "Did you make your boss aware that this was even an issue in the first place, or were you negligent in that you allowed this to happen and tried to "skate by" without anyone noticing?" You do not want to give the wrong answer to this question, so cover your ass by alerting your boss to the situation now.

  2. If you feel like being a meeting-listener is not conducive to your own goals, then you may want to find a job where your role is programming, not meeting-listening. You may want to mention this to your boss, that you are unhappy as a meeting-listener and you would like to be a programmer. It then becomes your boss's responsibility to make you happy, because if you are not happy at this company, then you can (and should!) find a company where you are happy. Which is a long way of saying: Make your boss aware that you are not happy as a meeting-listener, and if he doesn't do anything about it, then find another job.

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    Bingo. That's a great point to make with regards to time vs work. 20 years ago a mate worked in a maintenance workshop. The hours were 8-4.30pm, It was incredibly rare for any jobs to be handed out before 10:30am - 2.5+ hours of each day were spent making crude jokes in the lunch-room, reading the newspaper or looking out the window. This was a public transport scenario, in which the wrong delays are terrifyingly expensive - a year's salary is less than many mistakes there cost. The Romanians have a saying. "Is your goat. If you want me tie goat near lion, I tie goat near lion. Is your goat"
    – enhzflep
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 6:00
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    "That role, apparently, has value to the company." Does it, though? Do you think the company would really be happy if they knew OP could be producing twice as much? Just because the company pays you for your time and that's what you happen to be doing doesn't mean it's valuable. When it comes time to give out raises, who do you think they will go to? Not the person spending all day in meetings, that's for sure.
    – Kat
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 13:52
  • @Kat Certainly. Hence, why I said, "apparently". If the company did not find value in OP meeting-listening, then OP would not be assigned to be meeting-listening. Because OP is assigned to meeting-listening, then either OP's boss does not realize that OP is assigned to so much meeting-listening, or OP's boss is aware, and OP's company finds value in OP meeting-listening. My answer addresses the first case; in the second case, it makes no sense to you, nor to me, but apparently it makes sense to management in OP's company, and who are we to judge?
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 19:00
  • @Kat It's possible that the company thinks that the OP is contributing more as a meeting-listener than as a programmer. Depending on what the company is doing, it may be more valuable to spend 25 hours deciding how to push buttons and 15 hours pushing buttons, rather than just 40 hours pushing buttons. The idea of 40 hours spent pushing buttons is...just not accurate, at all. It's also well documented that developers spend even less time pushing buttons and more time on decision making processes as their career progresses. techhq.com/2019/05/coding-is-only-half-the-developers-job Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 15:11
  • No, you are not just paid for your work or your time. You are also paid for your expertise. Which you don't utilize, if you are doing things which are harmful for the company with no push back. If someone asks you to steal from a co-worker or the company would you do it? If someone asks you to ignore security standards, would you do it? This is similar, just not extreme as the other examples. (I am not talking legally, I am talking ethically and self-preservation). What is in the best interest of your career and your company? Being in pointless meetings is damaging your career and the company.
    – kedavle
    Commented Jul 9, 2023 at 9:09

In many jobs timekeeping across various projects is important. I gather that at your current job this isn't a priority but the situation as you describe it could provide the perfect excuse to start.

Talk to your manager about your worries, outline the solution you had in mind. The timekeeping doesn't need to be public but it might be a good idea to go over them with your manager after a month or so. I'd recommend a Excel (or similar) sheet as then you can more easily add up the hours and sort by things like the type of activity (meetings, "real" work)

Start dividing meetings across various projects, if unclear ask the meeting-caller which project the meeting falls under. This might clue them in that you are being a bit stricter about this without being overly aggressive.

This way you are doing something that's pretty much an industry standard and provides a clear yardstick for both your manager and you.


You've already gotten some good advice on why you shouldn't document all your wasted time, so I won't repeat that. All that recording your wasted time in your calendar would say is that you aren't very good at managing your time because you let other people waste too much of it.

Here are some suggestions for how you can manage time spent at meetings, and also help keep other people from having their time wasted by 25 hours of meetings a week.

  1. Talk with your team about the issue. You probably aren't the only person feeling frustrated with the amount of time these meetings are taking. It is much easier to change things as a group of employees proposing a solution with one voice than as a bunch of individuals grumbling. Brainstorm some ideas to fix the problem, and then present them to management.

  2. You should not attend meetings without understanding what it is that you are intended to contribute or take away from it. Your goal might be very open-ended (hear from Alice what the customer had to say about the new project) or very task-oriented (find out who knows how to fix the broken server), but you should have at least one before going into a meeting so that you can make sure it is at least somewhat productive.

  3. Keep people accountable for the time they have allocated for the meeting. If a meeting is going over the time allocated for it, politely interrupt and ask for a longer meeting to be scheduled at a different time. You should rarely accept a meeting going long by more than 15 minutes unless it involves people from out of town or there is some other factor that prevents it from being easily rescheduled. If the meeting keeps going, politely excuse yourself if possible. It's unreasonable for someone to get upset if someone has a scheduling conflict when a meeting goes 30+ minutes past the scheduled time.

  4. Help the organizer keep the meeting on track. If the meeting is starting to stray from why it was called originally, or if the discussion isn't productive, politely point it out and offer a suggestion for handling the situation. The discussion might need to happen after some other investigation or task is done, or it might be more appropriate for the people involved to discuss it without involving the entire group at the meeting. Try keep your own discussion focused on the goal for the meeting; talk about topics that are out of scope after the meeting instead of trying to resolve them during the meeting.

  5. Block time on your calendar for your work. Calendars don't have to be used just for meetings. You can schedule your own time and block people from scheduling over it and it may help you become an "optional" attendee at some meetings. I'm not suggesting you refuse to attend any meetings that need to be scheduled during that time. Scheduling your time has two purposes: it's a small obstacle that will make people think twice about whether they really need to at their meeting and it keeps your daily working time from getting chopped up into 20 minute blocks that are too short to accomplish anything.


Note: I am using Scrum terminology here, but the idea applies to any kind of workflow; adapt the names of the artifacts and roles accordingly if you're doing something else.

The immediate solution to your conundrum (what to do now) is very simple indeed:

During the Sprint Plannings, factor in the actual*time you have available for coding. That means, if you have net 10 hours per week for coding, then you figure out how many stories you can implement in 10 hours per week. Then you commit to that workload.

At this point, two things can happen:

  • If your product owner or stakeholders are happy with the velocity, then so be it. You get to sit in 30 hours of meetings and 10 hours of coding.
  • If they are not happy, then you simply tell them that that is the capacity you have available for coding, and that the rest of your time is taken up by the meetings. At this point (in that Planning Meeting) there isn't that much you can or should do. Certainly do not argue with your shared calendar or anything like that. If your product owner gives you a hard time there and then, ask him to discuss it in private after the meeting.

This way, you are objective and transparent.

Now. If it turns out that your product owner is not happy, what happens next depends on your company culture. At the end of the day, you need to be freed from some meetings. How that happens is impossible to tell without knowing exactly which kind of meetings (with which stakeholders/inviters) they are. But this is a great spot to involve your manager as well - things like this, i.e. the time capacity of their employees, is exactly what management is about.

Instead of just refusing the invitations, clear it up with your boss, work on a common plan (at this point, in private with them, you can show your calendar if you so wish, but purely as a work tool, not to show your frustration).

Ideally, the two of you identify some meetings which it would be best for you not to take part in. After you have consensus, cancel those meetings, with a very short, factual reason to the inviter ("to increase my coding capacity" or whatever sounds good to you - do not tell them that their meeting is unimportant for you).

The rest is just common meeting courtesy:

  • If meetings exceed their time slots - excuse yourself shortly ("I'm sorry, I have to go to my next time slot now...") and leave.
  • If meetings stray off the agenda, you can neutrally suggest that the 2-3 involved people discuss it afterwards after everyone else has left.
  • If you get invitations for meetings without an agenda, ask politely that they add one. This alone often focusses the meeting itself to go a bit quicker.
  • In daily standup-style meetings, in your own timeslot, be very quick about it (what have you done; what will you do; what are your impediments). 30-45 seconds. If people start discussing your topics with you, ask them to discuss it afterwards. This may rub off on the others.

This is your life, fix it

Do you want to spend your life in meetings? I mean, I suspect you want to be paid money, and being paid money for being in meetings is better than not being paid money.

But that isn't the alternative.

It is possible that these meetings are useful, and that your attendance is beneficial to both you and your company. You don't seem to actually think that right now, and I suspect you are probably right.

The alternative you should aim for is doing more useful stuff, and less useless stuff. Without, you know, saying anyone else is useless.

The easy path

Passively going to every meeting you are invited to, not rocking the boat, and being bored in meetings where you listen to things is probably the easiest short term path.

Document that you are being told to go to meetings, don't hide it, and collect your salary.

Best for the company

Contact your management and raise concerns about there being too many meetings. Include the fact of how many meetings you are being invited to, state that you think you should be going to fewer, and ask about what you should do to reduce this amount; be open to your management thinking that you going to that amount of meetings is actually best for the company.

In some organizations, they do need a skilled developer to listen in to what is decided, pay attention, and understand what is going on. While it might be not very fun, it could have value.

But it is far more likely that it is easier for someone to invite too many people and waste their time than it is for someone to value the time of invitees to the company properly, and only invite the right subset.

So gently raise the issue with your management chain about your meeting problem. Scrum often has retrospectives where you can raise problems that have blocked productivity in the last time period, that is a good spot to raise it, and maybe ask for a meeting with your immediately management "out of band" to deal with it one on one.

For your own benefit

Most people want to feel a sense of accomplishment in their lives, and sitting listening in meetings doesn't seem to be providing you with one.

For a career, if you want to change jobs, your accomplishments of sitting in meetings for 30+ hours/week while not developing software might not lead to a good result in your next job search.

On the other hand, if your goal is management, such meetings might be a way to raise your own profile and manage your career upwards. In this case, you shouldn't be spending your time just listening; any time spent listening should be gathering information to later speak up in another context. Learning enough to be able to contribute.

This is not a rare problem

Meta-work swallowing work is something that happens very naturally. Meta-work is time spent on not doing something productive, but on talking about doing something productive, preparing to do something productive, and arranging to do something productive.

Meta-work has high value, but its value is in multiplying the usefulness of work. When you have two factors -- A and B -- limited by A+B being capped (say, by hours in a week), their product -- A*B -- is when A and B are of similar magnitude.

When one grows much larger than the other, their product falls.

In reality, the return on investment on meta-work tends to fall as you put more time into it, so the ideal ratio is often meta-work being 5%-25% of the time you put into work.

Management is a kind of meta-work, but it is meta-work for someone else's work. Here, you get meta-work specialists -- people who are "better" at it than others -- doing the meta-work, freeing up more work time for the people working.

The return on investment on management meta-work can often be quite high. It includes things like "ensure people are actually working on something useful".

But when everyone is consumed in meta-work, the boost to work productivity stops mattering enough to make up for the time spent.

For a developer, meetings are just one kind of meta-work.

Produce value, reduce friction

Get useful stuff done. Find a way to do that while not causing too much friction with coworkers. Here, this probably involves starting to push back at meeting invites in a diplomatic way.

Start having regular 1 one on one meetings with your direct manager, and talk about your concerns. "Last week I ended up attending X hours of meetings, and I think some of them might not be productive uses of time for the company." Talk about when you can and should decline a meeting invite. Talk about what meetings are most useful to your boss and to the company for you to attend. Talk about how your meeting attendance can be useful to your boss and to the company.

Be open to the possibility that your being at the meeting might be cover for your boss not being there. Ie, some stakeholder with political power wants your boss there, and they are using you as a proxy.

Talk to your boss about this problem being more wide spread, and how you could work help your boss push back against too many people at too many meetings. Coop your boss as a co-conspirator. Instead of attacking the company or your boss, softly imply/assume that this is obviously something your boss would want to fix, and that you can help them with that.

Be a source of solutions, not problems. You have identified a problem; bringing it up makes you the messenger. If you instead bring up a solution, and work to make your boss's life easier while solving it with their approval, you are going to come out looking much better.

  • Yeah, of course I want to work and not listening meetings. But my primary concern is to fulfill what my job wants from me. I think, daily 1 hours of meeting is already more than needed.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 15:44
  • @GraySheep Yes, keeping your job has value. Producing value for your employer has value. Supporting what your manager needs has value. Positioning yourself for a better job has value. "I did what people asked me to do" is easy, and can CYA in some cases, but doesn't really handle any of that.
    – Yakk
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 16:01

Using your calendar like the way you've suggested is passive aggressive and may not reflect well on you. I would just talk to your manager about this - tell them you have too many meetings and you are unable to get your own work done.

However, something more to think about:

Meetings - as boring as they may be - are part of your job. You are actively geting paid for them, and they are part of your job description, even if not explicit. Even as a software engineer, meetings about business dealings and finances affect your job directly and indirectly.

I understand they can be boring, but I find it hard to believe that you are not getting anything from any of these meetings at all.

If this is truly the case, then you should ask your meeting creator why you are being invited, and if it's ok if you skip it.

However, in most meetings - even for other teams, and may be especially for other teams - you can learn from their mistakes, their engineering practices, their project management practices, time management, other software/tools being used, etc.


You’re a developer. If you are doing Scrum or Kanban or whatever AND doing pointing of stories, simply include pointed stories for these meetings. At sprint reviews you can demonstrate you’ve kept up your velocity while showing clearly where your time is spent.

At the places that expect sixty-hour work weeks from devs, this might not be particularly effective, but it might help.

  • 6
    Believe it or not, there are many development teams out there that aren't using the Agile philosophy or Agile inspired processes. Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 7:34

Before attempting this strategy, or in concurrent to it as you show the time you're concerned about, you may want to triage your meetings with your manager, multitask during a meeting*, or have your team divide and conquer certain meetings as appropriate

First, I feel there's a need to evaluate what each meeting is and which ones are important, and which ones you may want to reduce the frequency that you're in

Take, for example, an Agile Sprint Meeting and standups - these are meetings that are important to you and your team, especially Product Owners, Scrum Managers, and Project Managers as they help identify how the project is going, and what changes might need to be made. These meetings are likely to be required barring an odd conflict with a higher priority meeting, where you give the information to the Scrum Manager ahead of time to be able to discuss it on your behalf.

But if you have a presentation meeting where someone within the department is cycling in presentations about a new technology in the company? If the technology in question isn't always something you need to be aware of in the moment, you may wish to reduce the number of times you show up to those meetings. That is, unless you have a specific interest in a given version of these meetings, one less person might not be a dealbreaker. Or if there's an even smaller priority meeting, you might choose to drop them. You will likely want to communicate these changes to your team lead.

Secondly, if you're having issues meeting deadlines because of these meetings, and there are meetings you're not expected to respond in, or relatively rarely, you may wish to multi-task the meeting and do work during it anyways *

If you have a meeting where you're listening to a pre-recorded message, say, in a company-wide meeting discussing prospects for the company, or a Town Hall style meeting, with large periods of recorded information, you may wish to have it on one screen, and work on some aspects during it.

Unless you're presenting something during the meeting, or expected to respond to a question, this can work in some cases. If you are expected to respond to occasional questions, you may wish to save your work and perhaps compile it while responding.

This does mean that you're diverting your attention from the meeting itself, which can be an issue if you are expected to keep track of everything, which is where you might want to discuss with your team the final suggestion here.

Consider why people need to attend a meeting and if you need a full set of your team there, or if a subset is enough.

This can be difficult to parse at times, but if your team has a meeting with another team to talk about the collaborating features of products your teams are working on, you may be able to reduce the number of people attending the meetings by recognizing that, along with your team lead and/or project manager, the people who are likely required to be there are the specific team members who are developing the related features.

If, instead, there's meeting notes that the team members who aren't developing the feature can refer to when performing code review later on, or attempting to learn what the feature is doing or how to verify it's working as intended, that can reduce how many people are in a specific meeting.

This is something you'd have to discuss with your team lead and the rest of the team members, and it may not absolve you of a lot of meetings, but if you divide and conquer your meetings, that gives you the possibility that your team members can have concurrent meetings at the same timeframe, with different groups, or for different purposes. Or even if not scheduling concurrent meetings, allowing other people on the team to achieve goals that might be useful to get done during the meeting timeframe. For example, setting up an IT ticket for a specific item that takes some time for them to resolve - it may otherwise be a blocking task at a later time, but you can get the process rolling during the 15 minutes timeframe by using that time to describe what is needing in the ticket itself. It may not seem like much, but it can add up, and allow someone to also monitor maintenance or support channels. Or another person could be doing code review while the person who wrote the code for review is in a meeting.

*In the consideration of remote working environments, where you can have the meeting information on one screen while having work related information on another screen.

If your concern is that you may be taking too much time up in meetings, it would be preferable to evaluate which and what meetings you're taking; listing that you spent an extra 30 minutes in "Long running meetings that I didn't need to be in." is likely to look less positively than "Here are some long running meetings, but I managed to adapt by focusing on specific meetings I felt were important enough to justify staying in them as they ran long.".

As a side note, if you are planning to log time like this, you may wish to also log time that you're planning to dedicate to the working tasks, to show where a task might get delayed as a result of a meeting running long - that, ultimately, is what it sounds like you're actually worried about, and is more important than "This person hosted a meeting they said would only be 15 minutes, but they underestimated by 30 minutes."

  • 10
    Bold is sufficient. NO need for huge letters.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 14:38
  • Reduced a lot of the headers to just bold text - thanks for the feedback. Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 22:13
  • Thanks for the change!
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 22:30

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