At Asana, we have a rule: no meetings on Wednesdays. In fact, we call Wednesdays at Asana “No Meeting Wednesdays” or “NMW” for short.
The high-level goal of NMW is to ensure that everyone gets a large block of time each week to do focused, heads-down work. The justification is well articulated in a now famous Paul Graham article: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. The gist is that makers suffer greatly from interrupts in their flow time. Managers are generally used to having a schedule-driven day, so it’s easy for them to throw a disruption into somebody else’s calendar. Makers also do this to each other. And unlike many companies, at Asana we generally want our managers to be makers some of the time as well, so they need a structure that ensures they get some flow time too.
What are appropriate exceptions to the rule?
The exceptions that comes up the most often are exogenous timing constraints of some kind. For example, a job candidate might only be able to do an interview on a Wednesday. In that case, we’re willing to let their schedule take priority over ours.
Sometimes, people on the team may also decide they want to work directly with someone else on a project (e.g. pair coding). This may still be worth avoiding somewhat to achieve the high-level goal, but not totally. Often, this is necessary to unblock someone else, which is another form of exogenous time constraint in the end. And sometimes teaming up is just what you both need to do to finish your highest priority work. That’s ok, too.
Essentially, we encourage our team to just use judgment, but please think carefully, and at least try hard to avoid meeting on Wednesdays.
What if people don’t want to participate?
This would be ok, except that by definition a meeting involves someone else, too. It’s tempting to say “well they can just push back if they want to”, but it is easy to imagine situations where it wouldn’t feel culturally acceptable to do so, or an individual wouldn’t feel confident enough (e.g. a newer asana). So basically there is a slippery slope here and thus we want to be very (but not 100%) consistent.
Fittingly, this article was written on a Wednesday.