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A meeting took HOW long?!

I am sure many of us have been in a meeting which has taken more of our time than it really needed to…  Whether this is due to a delayed start with people arriving late, or the meeting dragging on longer than required as previously tackled points are being raised again, we have all been there…and probably far too often!  It is time for a review of the structure and our approach to meetings and to realise just how much time we could save in our day!

Take a moment to have a look at your calendar or diary – how many of your meetings or phone calls are scheduled for an hour?  I would guess a large proportion of them!  When you have had a meeting which has been booked in for an hour, I would also hazard a guess that the majority of the time it has taken the full hour and you have come away thinking, ‘that could have been wrapped up and concluded in a much shorter time period!’  Make a conscious effort to schedule your meetings for time periods of less than an hour; use a trial and error method to find out the perfect duration in order for you and your meeting participant to gain everything you need from the meeting and to not end up twiddling your thumbs.  Also important to take into account, is if you do end up scheduling much shorter meetings, you will have more available time slots during the day and as Brad Feld mentions in his blog post, ensure that you do not end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted if you schedule too many back-to-back short things in to your day.

Get out of the habit of giving vague requests for someone to call you ‘at some point during the day’ or ‘during the week’ and instead schedule a dedicated time for this call – of course taking into account the above advice about how long you schedule things for!  Often an unscheduled phone call will interrupt you when you are right in the middle of a task or train of thought and you will end up wasting more time having to remind yourself where you were when you revisit the task again.  Make sure you also take the flip-side of this advice and instead of telling someone you will ‘call back later’, schedule a time to do this so you do not end up forgetting and them having to chase you up.

If you have certain content that needs to be read by all participants before the meeting, then do not leave it until the start of the meeting to distribute this.  Send it out in an email earlier so valuable time is not wasted during the meeting with the reading through of this content.  Make sure you pass this advice on to your team so it becomes a habit throughout your workforce.

Have your agenda and required outcome of the meeting set in stone.  If you go into the meeting unsure of what needs to be addressed then this will give opportunity to vagueness and straying from topic.  Make sure you have all the facts and information you need so you know exactly what needs to be concentrated on.  Use the techniques of addressing promptly in the meeting ‘why this meeting is different from any other meeting‘ to ensure everyone knows why the meeting is important and what needs to be tackled.

Do not wait for late-comers and start dead on schedule else you will waste valuable time and everyone who has ensured they have arrived on time will start to get irritated.  Additionally, as this article on Forbes rightly highlights, people will very quickly modify their lateness if you build a reputation of not waiting for latecomers; no one wants to be the embarrassed one walking in halfway through a meeting and having to apologise for being late!

Although it may be too cold in parts of the world at the moment to trial this next technique, but moving a meeting to outside or taking a walk during the meeting provides many benefits.  Not only does it give us fresh air and a release of hormones such as serotonin for boosting our happiness levels, it removes office distractions and allows full focus on the meeting.  Additionally a change of scenery could help you come to a conclusion or new idea which the rigidity of an office has not enabled.

Have a go experimenting with your meetings and see how much time you could save and how your productivity levels can be increased.  Let us know how you get on with these techniques and share any of your own best practices too!