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Thursday 4th Apr 2024

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

Meetings are the killer of productivity, and today’s workers attend more meetings than ever, which is taking a toll on effectiveness and productivity. Here are 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.

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

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

Improve productivity: meetings

Meeting statistics show a trend of hundreds of thousands of hours lost in meetings.

The average employee spends up to 33% of their working week in meetings, and the organisation spends around 15% of their time in meetings. Nearly 50% of executives attend between 6 and 15 weekly meetings, while managers attend more than 16. The most common types are weekly team meetings and project meetings. AND….47% of employees view meetings as the number one time waster at the workplace. (Stats Source)

Improve productivity: meetings

It’s time to take control and start thinking about what is worthy of your time. It’s time to turn into a productivity ninja! Part of being a ‘productivity ninja’ is valuing your time and the time of others. It’s time to be productive, not just busy.

Improve productivity: Halve your number of meetings and halve the time they take. Here are 7 top tips.

#1 Challenge meeting requests 

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. I was getting a 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 instead of questioning whether it needed to exist in the first place.

The same principle applies to meetings.

How often have you walked away from a meeting and said,’ That was a complete waste of time!‘ Maybe if you had challenged whether it was needed in the first place, you could have gotten back a valuable hour or two.

Challenge whether the meeting adds value and whether it needs to happen at all.

#2 Say NO to the unimportant meetings

Some meetings need to happen, but do you need to attend? Can one of your team or colleagues attend and debrief you afterwards?

Sometimes, it’s about saying no to the unimportant things so that you can say yes to the important, value-adding things.

There are four questions I always ask myself when I’m invited to a meeting;

Improve productivity: meetings

Too many people feel like they will miss out if they don’t attend; ‘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 relevant and add more value.

If you don’t attend and don’t get the debrief you would expect, it is not your failing. That is a weakness in the meeting governance.

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

Learn to say ‘NO’.

#3 Always meet for a pre-planned purpose or objective

How often have you attended a meeting and been left wondering what it was about or what you were hoping to achieve?

63% of meetings are held without a pre-planned purpose, objective, or agenda. How do you know if you achieved what you set out to accomplish 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 one in the request if you’re the organiser.

In addition to an agenda, appoint a ‘Chairperson’ whose role is to keep the meeting on point and a ‘Timekeeper’ to keep the meeting on time. If you’re the organiser, always circulate the agenda before; if you’re an attendee, ask for one if you haven’t received one.

#4 Ensure meeting expectations are known

Set the meeting up for success by ensuring everyone knows what is expected from them before it occurs. Having a meeting purpose, objective, or agenda provides structure and is a valuable tool for helping you and others prepare and get into the ‘productivity zone’.

How many times do you hear comments 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.”

Improve productivity: meetings

Clarifying meeting expectations—topic, duration, required inputs, expected outputs—helps the meeting run smoothly and, more importantly, lets everyone know the contribution they are expected to make.

#5 Have a fast start and a tight close to your meetings

This is simply about respect.

Improve productivity: meetings

Respect and value your own time and the time of others! One of my clients locks the door if you’re late and miss the meeting. People soon get the message, which drives the behaviour of not being late!

Put the meeting in your diary 10 minutes before it starts. That way, you turn up, have time to get in the right headspace, and hit the ground running on time. It is so easy to fall into the camp of being lastminute.com or running internal programmes of ‘I’m always late!’ Adopting the 10-minute rule removes all of these ‘excuses’ from 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 on a continuance. Just try not to make it a habit; reduce the agenda points if it’s regularly occurring.

#6 Always ‘Close’ the meeting

I’ve attended several meetings where a discussion point ended, which was the end of the meeting. There was no summary, no next steps, and no agreed-upon actions. Everyone left and returned to their desk…or their next meeting!

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. A meeting close is one of the most critical stages.


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

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

Try standing around a high-level coffee table, whiteboard or flip chart to introduce short, sharper meetings.

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

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

Improve productivity: meetings

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. 

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