How to avoid unproductive meetings

Sure, there are some meetings that are super productive, but let’s face it, there are probably more that aren’t. And it leads to much frustration, which is basically energy that could be spent on actually being productive.

So here are a few super easy tips to get you out of meetings that you don’t really need to be in…

  • No agenda = no meeting: Yes that goes for regular one on ones and team meetings. Oh, and actually stick to the agenda – if it looks like discussion is going off track then bring it back to relevance or agree to follow up on the new issue at another time if required.
  • Who should really be there: Do you really have to be at the meeting or can someone else attend for you and catch you up? Ask yourself if you really had to free up 3 hours a day by not attending meetings, which meetings really would survive without you being there? Chances are more meetings than your ego would like to believe.

Or at least make the ones you are in more productive…

  • Can the length of the meeting be shorter: Outlook has a lot to answer for. Our calendars seem to set meetings to a default of 1 hour and it’s far more of an effort to schedule meetings on the quarter past or quarter to the hour. Basically if you schedule 1 hour it will take one hour and guess what, if you schedule it for 45 or even 30 minutes it might only take that long instead. So try scheduling the meeting for a shorter length of time.
  • Ensure meetings start on time: This one is a massive time waster. If you have 5 people in a meeting and one person is 5 minutes late that is effectively 25 minutes of collective productive time that is wasted. I have some clients who now actually have a lockout so that if you aren’t in you aren’t in, and it’s your responsibility to get someone to catch you up.
  • And finish on time: Assume that everyone else needs to leave straight after unless everyone is in agreement at the start of the meeting that going overtime is ok. People really aren’t being productive in the last 5-10 minutes of a meeting if they are worried about not finishing on time.
  • Schedule meetings with say a 15 minute break: Again, Outlook has a lot to answer for here by making it more cumbersome to set up a meeting which starts on the quarter past or quarter to the hour. By giving yourself 15 minutes between meetings you have time to round off the previous meeting and regroup before moving into being fully present in the next meeting. But too often people don’t want to wait another 30 minutes before the next one as it’s not enough time to get into some of their own work, or worse still another meeting gets scheduled in that “spare” 30 minutes which means the attendee is now racing.
  • Schedule the meeting at the time of day that works for most of the attendees: If you have a whole bunch of morning people in your team, well don’t schedule the team meeting at 4pm! Conversely if you have people who really having trouble coming to terms with mornings, don’t schedule anything with them that is too early or you may find their levels of enthusiasm are a little lacklustre.
  • Ensure everyone comes prepared: Enough of the meetings to prepare to for a meeting to prepare for a meeting! If there is preparation that can be done by individuals before the meeting to keep the meeting shorter and get to a decision more quickly, then this should all be done prior to the meeting.

So I dare you…… go ahead and think about what you have to do to attend 3 hours less of meetings a day. I promise you, you can do it.

Of course if that feels like a really dumb suggestion and that it’s impossible, best give us a call for the sake of your productivity and your sanity. We’d love to hear from you.