I spend the majority of my days in meetings. It’s the forum for how things get decided, what gets pushed ahead and what is left behind, how we sharpen our skills, and where we fight our battles. But most meetings are poorly facilitated and not much becomes of them. When I look at my calendar and major blocks of time are carved out for meetings, I know not much productive work will be done that day, and that usually means late nights accomplishing the tasks that should have been done during regular business hours.
Considering that the average worker spends 4 hours a week in meetings and since meetings can’t be banned out-right, are there some standards for making them less painful? There are a few golden rules I like to follow when it comes to meetings (largely inspired by Living Social’s ode to meetings):
- most productive meetings have fewer than 5 people.
- if there are more than 2 people from the same team in the meeting, something is amiss (unless it’s a team meeting).
- decide on what you want to decide on before the meeting (unless its a brainstorming meeting, but even then, prepare firm frameworks for how that brainstorming should happen).
- walk out of meetings if there is no agenda. You would be surprised how many meetings have no agendas!
- utilize 5-minutes stand-ups more often — have that spontaneous meeting about that thing that needs to happen next week. done and done.
- do meetings need to last 60 minutes? how about 30 minutes – those are usually the most productive anyway
- feel free to kick people out of meetings that should not be there. Really try to avoid the crutch of including everybody in a meeting – seek out the most important people and ensure their participation.
- When meetings get derailed by “meeting killers” (the ramblers and naysayers), just stop. Acknowledge the meeting killer, point out their ineffectiveness (diplomatically) and move on. Most meeting killers simply want to be noticed, so just do it and get on with it.
- If I’m going to ask someone to spend an hour or so with me on a topic, I make sure that my “ask” of them does not expand outside of the meeting — all the business of the meeting must happen within that allotted time, including any assessment/evaluation that needs to happen.
- For every hour of meeting, plan to prep for at least one hour (if you are the meeting host/facilitator).
Following these simple rules, meetings no longer need be that dreaded thing that happens that occupies the majority of your time. Are there some tips you use to make meetings more productive? Share them in the comments below.