Anyone who has ever had a job knows the irony of just how difficult it can be to actually get work done while at work. People stop by your desk/office with questions, problems, or fires you need to put out, the phone rings, emails require attention, and, often worst of all, you have to go to meetings — at which, it seems, nothing ever happens. Still, most companies aren’t going to go for a totally meeting-free culture. Here’s what you can do to make meetings more productive.
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The illusion that workers’ productive hours match up with the hours they put in “at work” was permanently shattered alongside the invention of the internet. However, efficiency is not the only concern for most of us when we prepare to run a meeting. We want the meeting to be productive, yes, but we also want it to be positive, we want it to boost morale rather than lower it. In short, we want our meetings to be less awful than most.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Ask for Agenda Items
Out of respect for your colleagues, email the group that will attend the meeting in advance with an outline of the agenda. Tell them that if anyone would like to add an item, they should let you know. Put this item on the agenda, and allow the person that made the suggestion to take the lead during that part of the meeting.
2. Be Surprisingly Brief
Popular research suggests that a meeting should never run longer than 60 minutes, and generally that amount of time, or more, is blocked off in schedules for your meeting. So get through the meeting faster than that. Announce a 45-minute meeting at the beginning of one that is scheduled for 60, and then stick to it.
3. Be Ready to Table Agenda Items
It’s important to supply attendees with a comprehensive agenda, but it’s not necessary to get through every item, every time. The most important items should be settled first, and be open and ready to table ones further down the list until the next time you meet.
4. Have Perspective on the Meeting
Your actions should demonstrate to participants that while this meeting is important, you know how much they have going on and you will be brief, are willing to table agenda items, etc., in an effort to get them back to their own to-do lists as quickly as possible. But, be sure to tell them this, too. Demonstrate through words and actions that while your meeting is crucial, you’re not going to take a second more of their time and attention than you need.
5. Do the Grunt Work Yourself
Although it can be challenging to run a meeting and take notes at the same time, don’t put this task on someone else. You should work harder than anyone else when you’re the one running a meeting. If you lead with this example, others will follow suit and give their all to you and to the meeting.
Tell Us What You Think
What makes a meeting less awful than most? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.