Meetings are the bane of the modern office worker as they usually consume far more time than they’re worth and they are often not very productive at all. A good manager or meeting chair will conduct meetings efficiently and with a clear goal in mind, but just how does one accomplish that if your attendees are keen for a good old chat? Here are five quick ways to reduce time wasted in meetings.
Book Your Own Work in Your Calendar
The very first piece of advice you should take is to book your own time into your calendar. If you have important work or something that needs to be completed on a deadline, you should book time for yourself to complete it into your own calendar. That way, you won’t be invited to meetings for that time and you have uninterrupted and dedicated time to complete your deliverables on time. Just don’t, whatever you do, create fake meetings!
Not All Meetings Need to Be an Hour Long
The next piece of advice is to book the right amount of time for your meeting, even if it’s only 15 minutes. There’s a well-known effect known as the Parkinson’s Effect which states that, “if you give yourself a certain amount of time to complete something, that’s how long it will take you”. Using this idea, if you can complete a meeting in 15 minutes, then don’t be afraid to schedule it for 15 minutes. The default meeting length in some calendaring and productivity apps is an hour, and most of the time you simply don’t need that much time. Particularly when the meeting topic is more serious, like health and safety, keep your safety meetings topical.
Prepare Beforehand and Ask Others to Be Prepared as Well
If there are things that need to be presented or ideas that need discussion, ensure that the person responsible for leading that segment or agenda item is prepared and ready to go. Proper preparation means that you’ll be able to get through the agenda and each talking point or item quickly and efficiently. If there are action points to do after the discussion, note them and move on. If a discussion about something starts to creep over into other areas, gently remind those in attendance that the new discussion isn’t on the agenda and it should be discussed later or even in a different meeting or format entirely.
Have an Agenda and Stick to It
Think of the agenda like a schedule – and if you must, allocate time slots to each agenda item so that you can stick to it. If your meetings are running over the allotted time often, it’s a sign that you need to be stricter about keeping to the agenda and talking points. If new topics come up, note them as action points and move on. If you finish early, conclude the meeting and dismiss the attendees early. Don’t fill up the last few minutes with idle chatter or another topic entirely.
Invite Only Those That Need to Be There
The more people that are in attendance, the more time it will take to get through your agenda. If your meeting invite list includes people that don’t have to be there, then cut them from the invite list.
If you follow the steps outlined here, your unproductive, bloated meetings can quickly turn into concise, quick, and productive sessions where agenda points are discussed, action items are noted, and the meeting is concluded with little to no fuss. Allow some time for small talk, particularly if the group of people don’t spend a lot of time together, but ultimately, you’re there to get the job done, and that should be at the forefront of your mind.