Yes. It’s a real thing. Meetings can kill… your productivity, that is.
Meetings can be absolutely necessary. I’m willing to be optimistic and say that almost all meetings are scheduled with the best intentions. BUT, somewhere between the beginning of a meeting and adjourning one, an abyss can form where the transfer of valuable information and expected deliverables disappear. The good news is there are conscious practices we can all implement to stop this workday crime of robbing each other’s time.
First, define the objective of the meeting.
Do you need a group discussion to make a decision? Are you addressing a topic that is better discussed in person so points are not lost in translation over email? Are you just trying to give someone face time so they don’t feel neglected? Whatever the purpose, clearly define an objective before calling a meeting.
Come prepared with a meeting outline.
Whether you are the meeting organizer or only an attendee, come with a written list of topics you want to cover during the meeting. This will not only ensure you hit all of your priority items, but it will also give your meeting notes (yes, you should take those, too) more context when you refer back to them. Also, this is a great way to gauge the amount of necessary time spent on a subject. Say you have a list of five topics to cover. If half way through your meeting you haven’t moved past the second topic, you can redirect the meeting, citing time and the outline, and get back on track.
When adjourning the meeting, repeat the main points that were covered or resolved.
No matter how long or short your meeting, always repeat the main points that were covered to make sure everyone exits on the same page. This allows time to answer lingering questions or clarify points that were not wrapped up earlier in the conversation.
Lastly, follow up with a written document of items covered and next steps.
While everyone should be taking notes in a meeting, not everyone does. Sending a written follow-up ensures that everyone has record of what was decided and what is still to be determined. This correspondence should also include any tasks to be completed and the assigned person for those tasks. Putting a name next to a task is crucial in giving it ownership and moving it forward toward completion.
Boiled down, efficient meetings require planning, effective execution and follow up. As simple as that recipe sounds, the demands of a busy schedule can throw it off in the blink of an eye. Conscious effort to implement each of these steps will lead to good use of time during the meetings, so fewer (or none) need to be scheduled in the future, opening your schedule for more productivity.