Stop Wasting Precious Time in Meetings

Do you ever feel like you spend forever and a day on the same project, and you still aren’t finished? Even when you expected and planned to be done days before you’ve reached this point? Well, I have to be honest, this has happened to me. It has happened more times than I’d like to admit in my life, actually. I could spend hours in meetings, trying to move forward on one or two tasks, and not seem to accomplish anything worthwhile even though I was “working.”

Truth: most meetings are a waste of time.

But they don’t have to be. And thankfully, this doesn’t happen nearly as often anymore. I’ve come up with a few simple steps that help me get the most out of meetings, making them them more productive and giving me more time.

Before we jump into those steps, I want to first cover some of what happens when we’re unproductive. This may seem obvious, but you could be losing more than you think and that’s a serious problem for the function of any business.

Being unproductive wastes a lot of time, this is probably what most of us think of and realize when our projects are not completed on time. However, the old cliche “time is money” stands true in this instance as well and unproductive hours results in revenue lost. Un-productivity also causes a lot of frustration, talking in circles, and additional meetings that end up serving no purpose, with nothing new being accomplished.

So how do you become a more productive meeting host? Here are the eight simple steps that help me keep my meetings on task:

1. Check if the Meeting is Necessary

Is there a faster and/or easier way to get your questions answered? If so, that’s the best option. Don’t waste many people’s time in a meeting when there are many different ways to get the job done. For example, draft a document and request feedback by a certain date and time. This will allow the other parties to work on that document in their own time and get it back to you by the specified deadline. Easy, right?

2. Establish a Meeting Host

This person is in charge of the agenda, scheduling, timing, etc. They don’t necessarily have to present anything, but they are in charge of creating an effective meeting. This is crucial to staying on task.

3. Create the Agenda Prior to the Meeting & Distribute to the Attendees

This agenda should include the purpose of the meeting, who needs to attend, the duration of the meeting, and any topics/questions that need to be addressed. This is a great way to avoid any confusion on what the meeting will cover and will help ensure each attendee is prepared with their contribution.

Bonus: check out the downloadable form at the end of this post for a handy template you can use to prepare for your next meeting.

4. State Your Purpose & Make it Clear

Open your meeting by stating the purpose of why you’ve gathered. Yes, it’s already written in the agenda. But you would be surprised how something as simple as stating the purpose of the meeting upfront can help keep everyone on task as the conversation gets started.

5. Go Through Each Topic on the Agenda

This allows you to ask for updates and get answers to questions for everything you planned to cover at the meeting. If you know there needs to be some time to brainstorm, add that time into your agenda from the start.

Don't be afraid to call time checks, or ask someone to "pin" a topic for later if it strays from the task at hand. It may seem rude at first – but everyone's time is valuable. Your meeting attendees will appreciate you safeguarding their time for them, and they'll notice the results in their focus.

6. Assign Ownership

Assign tasks that arise through the conversations, record them, and set deadlines with expectations for completion. This is easy to do as you go through each topic, but keep in mind, if the conversation to assign goes too long, schedule a follow up and move on.

7. End the Meeting with Follow Up Topics

Start to wind down the meeting by asking for new business or anything pertinent to that meeting’s topics that must be shared.

8. Immediately Following the Meeting, Be Sure To:

  • Share the minutes from the meeting with all attendees and any additional parties that need to be updated.
  • Inform the project managers of tasks that were assigned.
  • Follow up and schedule any conversations and/or questions that were brought up and “pinned” for another conversation.

No matter how large or small of an organization you work in, productivity matters a lot. Focus and organize yourself by using these steps and you will see productivity flourish before your eyes. Don’t forget to download the template and check out our Facebook page to share your tips for keeping meetings on task.