Effective Communication

How To Keep Meetings From Becoming Unproductive Time Sucks

time management

You see the 2-hour meeting invitation pop into your inbox and immediately, a sense of dread washes over you. There’s no doubt what this will entail. Much will be discussed, analyzed, debated and considered. Voices will be heard, ideas shared, opinions brought to the table. Good intentions will abound. And, when all is said and done, nothing will actually happen.

You might as well take those two hours (well, really it’ll probably be closer to four…) and add them to the already overflowing bucket of wasted time your team is rapidly accumulating.

If you’re like the vast majority of professionals, you’ve certainly experienced the dreaded “never-ending-meeting-that-accomplishes-nothing”.

In fact, poor meeting practices are so prevalent in today’s business world, many people have no idea how to make meetings productive. Instead of fixing the problem, they simply find creative excuses to avoid them. But, believe it or not, meetings can be a productive use of time, and regular, action-oriented meetings are a great way of creating a dynamic team environment.

So, instead of faking a critical deadline to get out of the next one, try suggesting a few of these meeting best practices instead.

  • Set an agenda and send it out to everyone attending the meeting ahead of time. This ensures you’re all on the same page regarding the meeting’s purpose and intended outcome. It also allows people to gather their thoughts and prepare talking points ahead of time so the meeting itself isn’t wasted on “first stage” thinking.
  • Keep your meeting agenda focused. Don’t try to discuss too much at one time. A good rule of thumb is 3 topics or less. If something is not on the agenda, table it.
  • Only invite the necessary individuals. Those who don’t truly need to be there will only be a distraction.
  • Start and end on time without exception. Not doing so will encourage bad habits (arriving late, allowing off-topic discussions to hijack the meeting, etc.).
  • Keep meetings as short as possible. That way, people will actually attend and engage since they won’t be overly distracted by the work that’s piling up in their absence.
  • Set action items at the end of the meeting, assign them to specific people and set deadlines or follow up dates. This is the only way to ensure something real is accomplished as a result of the meeting.

Have best meeting practices of your own? Share them with the community in the comments below….

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.