Have you worked in a company where you spend (or feel like you spend) much more time in meetings than you should? Do you feel like nothing is really accomplished in the majority of the meetings you attend? You’re not alone.
Sometimes meetings aren’t productive because there’s no agenda, no schedule, documents aren’t prepared, no action items, or no follow-up by the leader of the meeting. And sometimes meetings have all of these things, but are specifically to update the team on progress, or maybe it’s just to review some information. These aren’t going to be very productive meetings.
Here are a few ways to decrease the time you’re in meetings and increase the effectiveness of meetings:
- Required attendance. Do I need to be there? Ask yourself this for every meeting you are invited to. If you have no direct responsibilities for the project, or it’s specifically for informational purposes, your time may be best served by not attending.
- Actionable items. Is the meeting actionable? Ensure that there are actionable items in the agenda to ensure things are moving forward on the project. Are there specific objectives to be met in the meeting, are there actionable items for everyone attending the meeting, and is the leader of the meeting addressing those specific items?
- Documents. Are all documents ready? If you are hosting the meeting, ensure that you have all documentation ready, enough copies printed for all attendees if necessary, and any presentations complete and reviewed prior to the meeting time. This will help ensure promptness and a smooth flow of the meeting.
- Sidebars. Many times, while in a meeting, other concerns, issues, or questions may come up that need to be addresses. This may not be the appropriate venue to address these items. If it is not, then take note of it and who brought it up and let the attendees that it will be addressed after the meeting. Don’t get off topic or you may not get much done.
- Start and stop on time. I have a rule that my meetings start and end as close to the designated time as possible. Everyone is busy, you’ve asked for their time, and their time (as well as yours) is valuable. Don’t keep them in a meeting any longer than necessary so they can continue on with their other meetings for the day. If someone comes to the meeting late, I usually start without them and catch them up very briefly when they do arrive if necessary. And don’t feel like you absolutely have to use the entire time you’ve blocked off for the meeting. If you finish early I’m sure you’re attendees will be grateful for the extra time.
- Decision makers. Ensure the decision makers are in the meeting to make critical decisions about objectives being covered. If the decision makers aren’t involved, then what’s the point of holding the meeting?
There are tons of other things you can do to reduce the time you’re sitting in meetings. Use common sense, say no when appropriate, and don’t waste anyone’s time with frivolous meetings. Use change management and set an example for the rest of your company.