Everyone’s attention seems to drift in meetings, but few seem willing to do anything about it. If the estimated 31 hours you spend in meetings every month are draining your productivity but improving your score on Candy Crush, it’s time to take action. Here’s how.
Stick to Your Agenda. No, Seriously.
Yes, we know you’ve made an agenda – that’s the easy part. The challenge is actually sticking to it. GiveMore.com surveyed 1,600 professionals about their meeting pet peeves, and the two most common frustrations were, “Allowing attendees to ramble and repeat the same comments and thoughts” and “Doesn’t start on time, stay on track, or finish on time.” Both of these are symptoms of a poorly executed agenda.
To avoid falling into this trap, consider using tools like SuiteOne’s SuiteAgenda and Matchware’s Mindview to plan and drive your next meeting. You can also appoint a timekeeper to make sure things move along as planned. Or if you’d rather do it yourself, consider making your own “Wrap It Up” box.
Start on time. Period. You’ll set expectations with your colleagues that meetings begin when they are supposed to, rather than losing ¼ of the meeting waiting for people to filter in.
Skip the Status Update
How much time would you get back if you didn’t have to update your colleagues on the status of various projects? If it’s anything other than “none,” it’s time to look into a project management tool like Trello or Basecamp. These mobile-friendly tools allow users to view the status of their projects at any time. They also enable quick and easy collaboration among stakeholders. And unlike your colleagues’ time, they’re both free to use.
Trim Your Invite List
Before planning your next meeting, ask yourself how many of your invitees really need to be there. How many are necessary for providing critical information or making decisions? Have you added people to the list simply to keep them in the loop – or just because they’re always on the list? If any of your invitees fall into the latter camps, don’t invite them. Their time is better spent doing valuable work, and anyone who needs to be informed can be updated by a simple post-meeting email. Plus, with fewer participants, your meetings will often be shorter, livelier, and substantially more productive.
Microsoft’s venerable old workhouse still has plenty of uses, but there’s more to life than bullet points and pie charts. Take your visuals to the next level by using a PowerPoint alternative like Prezi or emaze. Their intuitive, attractive templates will breathe life back into your meetings. They might even get (a few) people to put their phones away.
Give Yourself a Challenging Deadline
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” That adage is known as Parkinson’s Law, and unfortunately, it’s also at the core of far too many meetings. Your calendar may be divided into half hour blocks, but that shouldn’t dictate the length of your meetings. Instead of planning for an hour, give yourself 45 minutes. Instead of half an hour, try 15 minutes. Imposing a challenging deadline creates a sense of urgency that encourages participants to be more engaged and stick to the agenda.
Use these tips and tools to break the status quo. Holding better, more productive meetings will help you and your colleagues reclaim valuable time. And let it start with you. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’m sure he would have said more, but he probably had to dash to a meeting.