Crit Groups: Godsend or Time Suck?

A few weeks ago, my crit partner Lynnette did a post about advice a published author gave her.  I encourage you to read her post, but in a nutshell, this author friend asked her what was holding her back from finishing her book.  And she said time.  Like all of us, she has a lot on her plate.  Here's what her friend told her:
My author friend advised me to quit the crit group and focus on finishing my novel. He felt writers only need critique groups for validation or they get stuck in the land of perfectionism and never get anywhere with their writing.
Now, lucky for me, Lynnette didn't heed this advice and is sticking with the group because she feels the time put in is worth the gain.  But it is an interesting debate to ponder.

Personally, joining a crit group was one of the best things I did for my writing.  I definitely don't have a group of lemmings.  Sure they dole out smiley faces and lols, but they aren't afraid to give me an ass-kicking either.  IMO, it's impossible to see your own work objectively after being in it so long, so other eyes have been invaluable.  I think it's no coincidence that after I joined my group, my writing started finaling in contests.

However, I won't pretend that it doesn't take away time from my own writing.  When I'm in the drafting phase, it's really hard for me to put my story on the side to jump into someone else's with a critical eye.

If I could create a perfect scenario, I would set it up so that while I was drafting I stepped out of the group and concentrated on my story.  Then , when I had a complete draft, step back in and start exchanging crits.  (Unlike some, I work best with receiving crits after the story is done then getting them along the way.  Getting crits while I'm still writing the story muddies my thoughts a bit and can seize up my pantsing brain.)  But it's not fair to do the step in/step out thing because we're not all drafting at the same time.

So I make time for it because I think it's important and value those ladies' opinions tremendously.

But I'm really curious to hear your opinions.  Are you in a crit group or have beta readers?  Do you think what you get from it is worth the amount of time and energy you put into it?  And what do you think of Lynnette's friend's opinion--that crit groups are just there for validation and to make you obsessive about your work?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Somebody Told Me" - The Killers
(player in sidebar, take a listen)