Meetings, meetings, and more meetings…if you feel like you spend your entire workweek in meetings, you aren’t alone. It’s a common problem – and one that’s made worse by the fact that most of them are unproductive.
If you’re in charge of calling and facilitating meetings, you can do your part in making sure these gatherings are more efficient, valuable, and productive for all parties involved.
The Problem With Meetings
In theory, meetings are valuable. They provide an opportunity for multiple people to gather and discuss challenges, opportunities, and tasks related to specific projects or responsibilities. But in reality, the vast majority of meetings tend to be a big waste of time. And we’re having more of them than ever before!
In the 1960s, the average executive spent less than 10 hours per week in meetings. Fast-forward to 2020 and executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours per week in meetings. That’s more than four hours per day!
The negative impact of frequent and inefficient meetings can be felt on multiple levels. For one, it’s a zero-sum game. For every minute someone spends in a meeting, that’s one less minute they have to perform important solo work – the kind of work that actually adds value to the business.
Secondly, badly run meetings suppress morale, fuel employee cynicism of corporate leadership, and prevent staff from having the flexibility they need to innovate.
5 Tips for More Productive Meetings
If you want real change to occur, begin by eliminating as many unnecessary meetings as possible. Set an initial goal of eliminating one hour’s worth of meetings per day. At the very least, this saves you 20 hours of meetings per month (240 hours per year).
The next step is to make the remaining meetings more productive. And here are a few specific ways you can do just that:
- Invite the Bare Minimum
Inviting someone to join a meeting in which they add no value or receive no value is actually disrespectful. You’re basically monopolizing that individual’s schedule at the expense of their productivity and output.
When scheduling a meeting, only invite the bare minimum number of people. If you’re debating whether or not someone should attend, they’re probably not essential. And as long as you take effective meeting minutes, you can clue them in on the takeaways later.
- Avoid Scheduling Pockets
If you have multiple meetings in a day, you should schedule them back-to-back. This serves two purposes:
- It forces you to end meetings on time. (Nobody wants to show up to a meeting late.)
- It avoids dead scheduling pockets in between meetings. (The worst scheduling pocket is the 30-minute cushion. This occurs when you have a meeting ending at 10:30 and another one starting at 11:00. That half-hour window isn’t enough time to do anything substantial, so you end up wasting it browsing social media or procrastinating.)
- Prepare an Agenda
Always prepare a meeting agenda. It doesn’t matter if it’s a casual 30-minute huddle or a two-hour marathon meeting to wrap up the quarter. Simple bullet points will do. Just make sure you have something written down. This helps keep the meeting on track and ensures important information isn’t forgotten.
- Start on Time
We’ve all been in meetings where a few people show up on time, then a couple more people trickle in, followed by two or three late shows. In most cases, people carry on small talk until the final person shows up. But unfortunately, this is a huge waste of time. (It also sets the precedent that you’ll wait to start the meeting until everyone is there).
Make a habit of starting meetings on time. You’ll cover more content and, ironically enough, get more people to show up when they’re supposed to.
- End With Clear Takeaways
It’s easy for meetings to be theoretical. Look for ways to make them more practical and applicable. This means every person in attendance should leave with one very clear and specific takeaway. (Record these in the meeting notes so there’s some added weight to them.)
Where Can You Improve?
You don’t have to revolutionize your approach to meetings overnight. You should however, look for two or three specific areas where you can improve. By eliminating unnecessary meetings and making necessary meetings more efficient, you can reclaim time, amplify output, and build a better business. Good luck!