So I'm reading more and more about people complaining about useless meetings. Nothing new, Dilbert (ok, Scott Adams) has made a fortune on this topic. But for some reason I feel people are feeling more and more helpless about it.
You control how useful meetings are. Yes, you. Even as an attendee.
There are four types of meetings:
1. All-hands. Ok, I admit I don't have any secret recipe to make this one more effective. Which is why I usually skip them. Worked for Amazon for three years, Whirlpool for three years, and I attended exactly one at Whirlpool. Once I found out how useless they were, I used my time more wisely.
2. Your meetings you call. Clearly this is up to you how useful they area.
3. Meetings that request your presense, and you're integral to the meeting. Meaning you are providing input. Here, you can keep this on track by asking up front for the goal and agenda of the meeting. And making sure the meeting organizer keeps on track. Or you punt for those organizers that have a track record of wasting your time.
4. Meetings that request your presense, and you're not integral to the meeting, at least on the surface. These tend to be the meetings that fill up your calendar, at least in larger companies. Whether they be reviews, status meetings, whatever. These can be easily solved by talking to the organizer. Why are you there? In a previous life I went to my boss basically asking to have an hour of my week back by skipping out on one of his weekly metrics meetings. He told me why he wanted me there, that I provided value by helping his techie managers think through business problems and offer a customer perspective to issues. This was a perspective I didn't realize, and it made me realize why my boss valued me on his team. All of a sudden those meetings weren't a waste of time after all - they were opportunities for me to reinforce my value prop to the team and strengthen my performance.
In short, you control whether meetings are useful. Take control of your calendar - you own it, your time is a precious resource, use it wisely.
And I recommend anything by Tom Peters to shake yourself from the "I'm a trapped employee" mentality to "I'm a free agent" mentality.