Meetings that don’t waste your workday
In 2012, Salary.com surveyed more than 3,200 people about wasting time at work. Respondents named “too many meetings” as the number-one time wasting culprit, up from the third spot in 2008. Unproductive meetings are a deadly drain on our time!
When you ask people about the meetings they attend at work, most professionals admit they have a tendency to miss meetings (or at least parts of them). They admit that they bring other work to meetings (and that’s so easy now, when everyone has a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone.) Sometimes they just daydream or doze!
With so much time spent in meetings, employees have less time to get their own work done; meanwhile, ineffective meetings make people think they need to meet more often to get their tasks done. The cycle of unproductive meetings costs organizations millions of dollars in employee work time.
One of the causes: Many meetings are only update sessions on topics that are better handled with an email. A truly efficient workplace meeting should have an action that comes out of it. Attendees want to resolve something during their meeting, and each one should end with a record of four items: 1. What was resolved; 2. Action items to be done; 3. Who’s going to do each action item; and 4. A due date.
As an experiment, try designating one day per week as a no-meetings day. Or, see whether you can shorten all meetings by just 15 minutes, or declare one full month when no meeting can last more than 60 minutes… and then decrease that to 45. Another idea to challenge your team to keep the meeting short and sweet is to ask everyone to stand for the duration.
Two critical tools for productive meetings are the Time Out and the Parking Lot. The Time Out allows anyone in the group to stop a discussion to check whether it’s pertinent to the agenda. The Parking Lot is the list of items that may arise, but which don’t fit the current agenda. They’re recorded to be dealt with (soon) at another time.
Meeting Dos and Don’ts
- DON’T call a meeting unless you have a good idea of what you want to accomplish in it.
- DO make sure all meetings are designed to resolve something specific.
- DO cancel the meeting if key decision makers can’t be present.
- DON’T try to fit more than three to five items on your agenda.
- DO ban electronics at meetings (except for the note-taker).
- DO distribute the agenda, minutes and any other pertinent documents well ahead of time.