Business Time Management July 29, 2014

Simple Steps That Will Stop Meetings from Taking Over Your Working Day


Ask any business owner or CEO and they will probably tell you their working life is extremely busy. But ask them if a typical working day means getting everything on their to-do list done, and the answer may be slightly different. Even when we feel our day has been non-stop, we can still find ourselves at the end of it having done less than we hoped.

So why is this? According to Atlassian, 31 hours a month are spent in unproductive meetings, with 47% of people thinking that meetings are the biggest time waster at work. When it comes to those stuck in the most meetings, the C-Suite is easily at the top of the list, with an average of 18 hours in a 55 hour workweek spent in meetings [Source: Wall Street Journal].

But, the truth of the matter is not all meetings are made equal. While it’s not practical or possible to cancel all meetings, having a plan in place to limit the amount of time you waste or spend in meetings will help you free up time to work on that to-do list. Here are some tactics to help you limit the amount of time you spend in meeting:

Always issue agendas before the meeting

The advantage of this approach is that it makes it clear to everyone what is going to be discussed at the meeting. If it’s not on the agenda, then it shouldn’t be discussed. If it looks like more topics need to be covered, set a separate meeting with a separate agenda so that everyone knows the purpose of each meeting and can prepare accordingly.

Cut meeting times in half

If you allow an hour for a meeting, then the meeting will take an hour. Try setting your meeting for just half an hour and be strict with the timing. If it looks like the meeting is going to overrun, then stop it 5 minutes before the end to agree what else left has to be discussed and what can be scheduled for a different time.

Try standing up at meetings

Typically meetings happen sat down, in nice chairs, with refreshments available. While this setup can help you feel more comfortable, it can make you a bit too comfortable.

With a standing meeting, there are fewer reasons for people to want to stick around. The theory is that people will get tired of standing for too long, so this leads to shorter meetings.

This format works particularly well for project catch-ups, with everyone summarising what they’re working on and flagging up any problems they are facing.

Anything that comes up as needing more discussion in the stand up can be scheduled as a separate meeting, with only the people who need to be involved.

This means the people who don’t need to be there don’t have their time wasted.

Agree before the meeting ends what the action points are

Understanding what everyone will be working on as a result of the meeting can prevent a lot of confusion. This isn’t about micromanaging your team.

It’s about making sure they are clear on the next steps, so that you’re not covering the same ground at your next meeting. It also provides an opportunity for anyone to flag up potential problems that might prevent them from completing their action points.

This can save a lot of time from being wasted at future meetings, where tasks haven’t been completed, so projects can’t progress.

So, don't let those hours slip away from your working day, use these tips and you will get you those precious minutes back. If you want more tips about time management read this blog from leadership expert Chris Croft:

Go forth, take control and enjoy!

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