Ever sit in a meeting and wonder to yourself, “Why are we talking about this?” “When is he going to shut up so I can get back to my real work?” or “Is this really the best use of my time?”

Often the workday is filled with back-to-back meetings. You go from conference room to conference room listening to colleagues, getting updates, sitting through PowerPoints, and often rehashing discussions that have taken place before. At the end of the day, the amount of truly productive meeting time is generally pretty low. Critical actions such as making decisions, collaborating on an issue, solving problems, or planning often do not take place. So, how do you make sure that the time you are spending in meetings is really worth it?

Before you even get to the question of meeting value, ask yourself: Does this really require a face-to-face meeting? If so, why? Is there another way to accomplish the purpose of the meeting? Do I need to be in this meeting? Is my specific expertise, knowledge, or authority needed? If your answer to one or all of these questions is “No,” then gracefully decline the invite and remove the meeting from your calendar. Or delegate attendance to someone else who can answer “yes” to those questions.

If you conclude that you do need to attend, then be sure to follow these tips for an effective meeting that makes good use of everyone’s time:

  • Have an agenda and share it before the meeting
  • Assign times to each agenda item and stick to them – assigning a timekeeper can help
  • Set a time limit on the amount of discussion on any topic
  • Stay on task and be willing to call someone out when they go off-topic
  • Provide non-essential information such as status updates, background material, etc. before the meeting (with enough time for participants to review the info) or after as follow-up information
  • Be clear about and state upfront the few takeaways/outcomes that participants can expect from the meeting
  • Keep a “parking lot” of tangential issues and assign people to follow–up on those items
  • It will not be easy, but ask meeting participants to put away laptops unless they are absolutely essential to the meeting content and silence mobile devices

Your time is valuable. Time spent in endless meetings is time taken from focusing on those important, non-urgent tasks such as long-term planning, coaching and developing employees, and your own personal and professional development.

What techniques do you employ to reduce the number of meetings and make the most of your meeting time?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For help in better managing your time, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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