You’re not burnout you’re just wasting time in meetings you shouldn’t be in

Paul Roberts
3 min readOct 23, 2018


At our recent offsite, a team I worked with got talking about burnout and the feeling of being overwhelmed and overworked in a world of too much to do and not enough resources to do it.

I sat and listened for a few minutes before deciding to share my own story. A story I hope would challenge their thinking.

Over the past several months I’ve run two large programmes of work in parallel. One was a service design transformation and the other was running a product team back in London. Many wondered how I did it and whether I had an army of staff working secretly behind the curtain. The reality is that while working long days and outside the normal Monday to Friday I was able to manage my time and wellness levels by doing one thing — I started not going to meetings.

When I said this out loud I could see my client looking aghast at the thought of paying for my time only for me to choose the meetings I attended and those I jettisoned.

In the past I have to admit I have felt burnout. I was often taking calls with Singapore at 6am only to still be speaking with San Francisco at 11pm. BUT… I was also attending meetings that on reflection I didn’t need to be in.

While being a program lead for a program involving prototyping, I joined one or two calls with those responsible for the design and build of the prototypes. It became immediately clear that everyone on the call

a) knew what they were doing

b) knew more than me about the topic and

c) didn’t quite see what value I was bringing to the table.

Like many I felt stuck on a WebEx with the fear that I needed to say something, anything to avoid being seen as a spectator rather than a contributor.

After several of these meetings I decided to cancel my attendance and just sync with the meeting leader on a regular basis to check everything was okay. And guess what?

The world didn’t cave in, the prototypes were amazing and my hours dropped back to something that’s more acceptable and healthy.

The reality is that we’re often driven by a Fear of Missing Out or FOMO as my boss would call it. We fear that in not attending we’ll miss out on crucial decisions or be left out in the cold on valuable information. In today’s corporate world information is currency and people want to hoard it as much as possible. These are the same people who eventually become cynical and then head for the door looking broken and exhausted.

The challenge is to know the difference between meetings that are critical and those that aren’t. Those hosting meetings should also be stricter about the number of attendees invited and reduce participation to those who can actively play a part. There should be no room for spectators.

Try it this week. Go on.

Go into your diary and cancel three meetings that you’re only attending due to FOMO. See what happens and I bet you’ll be glad you did. Attending every meeting is not a badge of honour.

At Strategy Activist we help clients be more productive with their time. We help them improve their operation and governance to help them move and pivot more freely in an ever demanding world. To learn more about how we can help visit us at or call us on +44 7786063053.



Paul Roberts

Work in travel tech. A fan of applying disruptive thinking to age old problems. Passions include writing, reading, ski touring and travel. Opinions are mine.