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Home > Blog > 7 tips on how to HALVE the number of meetings you have and HALVE the time they take!

Wednesday 31st Jan 2018

7 tips on how to HALVE the number of meetings you have and HALVE the time they take!

Have you heard the old adage ‘If in doubt, have a meeting!’?

Many businesses, organisations and leaders have created a ‘meeting culture’ whereby they need a meeting to decide what they are going to be meeting about and then another meeting to prepare for the meeting itself and another to de-brief after the meeting! Wow, that’s a whole lot of meetings going on!

The scary thing is this is really happening in many organisations and businesses today, and here are some interesting stats to prove it.

According to powwownow, the average business person attends 207 meetings per year, amounting to 636 hours sitting through face-to-face meetings, in addition to 5 working days spent travelling to those meetings.

MeetingSquaredResearch reports that the average worker attends 3.7 meetings every week, spending 1hr+9mins preparing for each meeting and 1hr+22mins attending the meeting.

And just for a piece of trivia, do you know WHEN the most frequent start time of a meeting is….11.00am.

Meetings are the killer of productivity…

…and part of being a ‘productivity ninja’ is centred on valuing your time and the time of others.

Small businesses tend to understand this better than big business simply because resources are tight and time is scarce. Whilst you could argue this same principle should apply to larger businesses, it still amazes me how many meetings I attend and there could be up to half a dozen or more people in the room. Why?

Are meetings your friend or foe?

It’s time to be productive not just busy.

It’s time to take the controls. It’s time to start really thinking about what is worthy of your time.

Here’s my 7 top tips for how you can become a productivity ninja and halve the number of meetings you have and halve the time they take;

#1 Challenge whether the meeting REALLY needs to take place

I started my career as an apprentice in construction and one of the first training programmes I attended was a health and safety course about managing risk. The trainer asked the group the number 1 strategy for managing risk? The answers flew back from the group and the trainer kept digging and probing, making us think. Seriously I was getting brain ache, until he revealed the answer; eliminate the risk in the first place. WOW, such a simple principle. We were all thinking about managing the risk as oppose to questioning whether it really needed to exist in the first place.

The same principle applies to meetings.

How many times have you walked away from a meeting and said; ‘that was a complete waste of time!’ Maybe if you’d have challenged whether it was needed in the first place you could have got back a valuable hour or two.

Start questioning whether meetings actually add value and need to happen at all!

#2 Learn to say ‘NO’ to the unimportant things

OK, some meetings need to happen but do you need to attend? Can one of your team or colleagues attend and de brief you afterwards?

Sometimes in life it’s about learning to say NO to the unimportant things, so you can say YES to the important, value adding things.

Four questions I always ask myself when I’m invited to a meeting;

  1. What’s the purpose and objective of the meeting (this is linked to tip #1 and does it need to happen in the first place)
  2. Do I need to attend, what is my role / contribution?
  3. What value am I going to add?
  4. What value am I going to get from it?

Too many people fall into the trap of feeling like they are going to miss out if they don’t attend a meeting; ‘what if there is something I need to know?’.

They become a meeting junky, always present physically but mentally somewhere else thinking about all the things they could be doing which are more important and add more value.

If you don’t attend a meeting and don’t get the de-brief you would expect that is not your failing. That is a weakness in the meeting governance.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone by attending every meeting and ending up being nothing to anyone because you have no time to do the important things.

Learn to say ‘NO’.

#3 Always meet to an agenda

How many times have you turned up to a meeting and nobody is quite sure what it’s about or what you’re hoping to achieve?

63% of meetings are held WITHOUT a pre-planned purpose, objection and agenda.

How do you know if you achieved what you set out to achieve if nobody knows what the objective is from the outset?

Without an agenda, you certainly won’t be able to implement tip #1 or #2, so before you accept a meeting ask for an agenda or include in the meeting request if you’re the meeting organiser.

In addition to an agenda, a ‘chairperson’, whose role is to keep the meeting on point, and a ‘time keeper’ to keep the meeting to time, should be appointed.

#4 Get into the ‘productivity zone’ prior to the meeting

If you’re the meeting organiser always circulate the agenda prior to the meeting, and if you’re an attendee ask for one if you haven’t received one.

An agenda not only provides the meeting structure but it is a useful tool to help you and others prepare and get in the ‘productivity zone’.

How many times do you hear comments in meetings like “I didn’t know we were talking about that” Or its sister statement…”if I knew we were going to be talking about X then I would have brought Y or researched z” or “I didn’t know I needed to talk about abc.

You get my point.

Set the meeting up for success by ensuring everyone knows what is expected from them prior to the meeting taking place.

#5 Meetings should always have a fast start and a tight close

This is simply about respect.

Being respectful and valuing your own time, but also valuing and respecting the time of others! One of my clients locks the door if you’re not in on time and you miss the meeting. People soon get the message which drives the behavior of not being late!

Put the meeting in your diary 10 minutes before it is due to start. That way you turn up, have time to get in the right head space and hit the ground running on time at the start of the meeting. It is so easy to fall into the camp of being lastminute.com or running internal programmes like; ‘I’m always late!’ By adopting the 10-minute rule you take all of these ‘excuses’ out of play.

If the meeting is going to over-run, call it out early and give people the option to close on time with specific points still outstanding or agree a continuance. Just try not to make it a habit, reduce the agenda points if its occurring regularly.

#6 Always ‘Close’ the meeting

I’ve attended a number of meetings where a discussion point came to a close and that was the end of the meeting. No summary, no next steps, no agreed actions. Everyone leaves and makes their way back to their desk…or their next meeting!

Now, if you haven’t been strict with tip #5 then the ‘close’ or summary will always be the first thing to go. Don’t let this happen.

The close is one of the most important stages of a meeting.

Why?

It’s where you ensure everyone is on point in terms of what you’ve achieved, what you’ve agreed and any agenda items outstanding. It’s also the point where next steps and actions are confirmed with action owners taking responsibility to deliver.

Depending on the type of meeting Minutes and an action log may be appropriate as a follow up, but at the very least an email summarising the outcome and next steps. This removes any ambiguity as to what was discussed, what was agreed and what the next steps are, PLUS it helps the meeting junky wean themselves from attending every meeting (see tip #2!).

#7 Try ‘stand up’ meetings

If you want to introduce short, sharper meetings try standing up around a high-level coffee table, white board or flip chart.

When you stand up you tend to move around more, which gets more oxygen into the body, particularly to the brain and therefore your sensory acuity is stronger. The meeting will probably be more productive plus people will be focused on getting to the point quicker.

 

Take these top 7 meetings tips and focus on being PRODUCTIVE, not BUSY.

Get back a whole bucket load of quality time in your diary for productive, big ticket, high value activities which will catapult you forward in realising your personal and professional goals in 2018

Please share your top tips for halving the number of meetings and halving the time they take in the comments box below.

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