How I spend less time in meetings

Replace your meetings with an inclusive, collaborative doc.

Kay Diaz-Ferrigno

Strategic Customer Success at Coda

How I spend less time in meetings

By Kay Diaz-Ferrigno

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Blog > Productivity · 5 min read

I work in a customer-facing role at Coda, so I spend a lot of time in meetings dreaming of ways to make them shorter and more efficient —or maybe even one day eliminating them altogether.

Does work actually get done in meetings?

Meetings are meant to be collaborative spaces.

Why do we have meetings? Meetings are an easy way to share information upstream and downstream. Other tools can't mimic the in-person “magic” that happens, right? The kind of organic, purposeful teamwork we see in heist films or sports movies where that one brilliant idea changes the team’s trajectory.
I’m not so sure. In previous roles, I have sat in meetings where a pilot for a new feature or internal process was met with cheers from some folks while the rest of the room quietly groaned. Anecdotally, I’ve found that the loudest voices in the room are amplified, and the introverts of the world are left without expressing their opinions or slyly making eye contact with one another, hoping no one notices (in a remote world, the sly eye contact is now via Slack gifs). If meetings are spaces to disseminate information and collect feedback, then the process as we know it is broken.
Don’t let my snark fool you. Here are some numbers to back that up (from Slido’s 2021 meeting trend report):
  • 4 out of 5 remote workers report an overall increase in meetings since 2020.
  • 47% of survey respondents feel like most of their meetings are not engaging.
  • 42% of survey respondents have left a meeting without saying what was on their minds.
Meetings are one of the few places where upstream and downstream communication happen synchronously. They are also the bane of seemingly every working professional’s existence. Before I started working at Coda, I'd sarcastically text my work pals, “Oh my God, this could’ve been an email/Slack thread/Billboard.” Now I’m thinking even those tools aren’t enough.
Slack, email, and note taking tools are great for conversations or broader messaging, but they don’t enable decision making or collaboration.
As much as I enjoy a well-thought-out Slack message or email, here are a few examples where they don’t seem to measure up. Information gets lost in the shuffle: Think of all the time you've lost sifting through Slack threads or DMs when trying to pull up “that one piece of info” for a report or another meeting. How are we supported to aggregate and organize the data needed for day-to-day work? It’s hard to tell what the most important updates are: There are a lot of channels, post-it notes, screenshots, heck, you name it. How are we supposed to know what’s most relevant in this moment? Slack, email, and note-taking tools are great for banter or broader messaging, but they don’t enable decision-making or collaboration — because they don't allow for true synchronous collaboration. These tools facilitate one-way monologues with emojis, and the work happens elsewhere (JIRA, Linear, Braze, etc), making them tools for conversing asynchronously, not for getting stuff done. Rather than, “Man, this meeting could have been an email,” let’s reframe our problem.
I want fewer meetings — and a space where I can easily search shared knowledge and updates.

This meeting could be a doc.

Docs are the antidote to our meeting woes.

Think about the information you share in meetings, like weekly project updates. With Coda, you can house all of it in one place, wrapping everything neatly in a little package designed for actual, real-time collaboration. Turning my meetings into docs help me: Centralize the team’s knowledge: A single work surface with every project, project idea, and your team’s best practices.
Surface the most important information: With call-outs, at-mentions, and links to specific areas of my docs, I can point folks I’m working with to what’s relevant to us right now without having to spin up a Zoom meeting or Slack huddle. With an organized work surface in Coda, folks don’t feel like they’re missing out on things because they’re OOO or in another meeting; the doc is a living meeting — a hub for all communication and collaboration without the need to send a sarcastic message to your work bestie. (Although you should, there’s always something to sassily message your work bestie about; perhaps those should take place in docs too? Next time on the blog: All the sassy things Kay’s said about working at Coda). Ensure authentic collaboration: One of Coda's core rituals, the Dory voting table enables your team to leave questions on their time in a dedicated section, feeling validated when others upvote their ideas. As an introvert, I usually don’t have much to say until after lunch, but in a Dory table, I can leave feedback whenever inspiration strikes.

Using Dory in Coda

Collect sentiment: Another Coda classic, Pulse tables help you get a sense of how your team feels about new initiatives, ongoing work, or a specific proposal. You can see who on the team is submitting their thoughts and can sidebar conversations to Slack and Zoom so only relevant or important ideas are being elevated.

Using Pulse in Coda

The next time you have to meet, don't. Build your team a collaborative and inclusive doc that keeps everyone in the loop instead.