I was at a customer’s office today, watching him give a demo of how his company is using JIRA and Confluence. He shared a brilliant idea: he had created a JIRA issue type called “Meeting”. And every time any of his co-workers went to a meeting, they each created an issue with a one-line description of the meeting and logged how much time the meeting took — every participant, every minute.
With that information, one could calculate exactly how many person-hours are spent in meetings vs. how many person-hours were spent on actual work. As Paul Graham says:
I remember well the strange, cozy feeling that comes over one during meetings. I was very aware, because of the novelty, that I was being paid for programming. It seemed just amazing, as if there was a machine on my desk that spat out a dollar bill every two minutes no matter what I did. Even while I was in the bathroom! But because the imaginary machine was always running, I felt I always ought to be working. And so meetings felt wonderfully relaxing. They counted as work, just like programming, but they were so much easier. All you had to do was sit and look attentive.
Making sure that sit-and-look-attentive time doesn’t expand too far could be a pretty valuable exercise, I think. And forcing people to make that explicit by logging the issue might naturally keep meeting-time in check.