Tips for making meetings more efficient

1013

We all spent time in meetings. Depending on our roles, this time may be significant. Meetings can be very productive, but if they are not organized well, they can easily turn into time wasters. If you value your time (and the time of your colleagues), consider the tips below when you schedule your next meeting.

Do you really need this meeting?

Before you schedule a meeting, check if it is really necessary

  • Can you solve the problem yourself?
  • Can you clarify the topic or inform people per email?
  • Is this meeting going to solve a problem or add some value?

If you don’t need a meeting or it does not bring value, then better to cancel it, that to waste everyone’s time.

Invite the right people

Less is more when it comes to meetings. Time is money and meetings are expensive. Meetings with too many attendees often are not productive.

Too many people mean more time needed and less efficiency of the discussion. If discussion is not so relevant for some people, they will multitask instead of focusing on the meeting.

Invite only people that are really required. For each person, ask yourself following questions:

  • Why is this person there?
  • What is their role?
  • Do you already have somebody in the meeting that serves the same role?

Don’t invite people, if they don’t have a role or their role is served better by somebody else.

Also make sure that all essential stakeholders can make it to the meeting. If this is not the case, reschedule it.

In case you are invited to a meeting that is not relevant for you, ask the organizer why you are invited and do you really need to participate in it. This may save you time for more important tasks.

Set clear goals and agenda

State clearly the goals of the meeting so the people are informed what is going to be discussed and what needs to be achieved in this meeting.

Prepare agenda in advance and include it in the meeting invitation. This will allow people to prepare and will also keep the discussion more focused.

Keep meetings short

Keep meetings between 15 and 30 minutes whenever possible. Plan maximum 1 hour for bigger topics (only if you really need 1 hour). Schedule meetings longer than 1 hour in rare exceptional cases.

The longer is the meeting, the less efficient it is. There are valid cases where you need longer meetings, but they are not so frequent. If you regularly have meetings that are 1 hour or more, then you should evaluate their efficiency and see if some of them can be shortened and improved.

Keep the timing

Start and end the meeting on time.

Delayed meetings can have cascading effect on people schedules. Keep the focus and avoid off topic or pointless discussions.

In case you need to discuss additional topics that cannot fit in the planned time, schedule a separate meeting for them.

Make sure you leave some time at the end for defining action items and people responsible for them.

Send meeting minutes

During the meeting, take notes to document the agreements and decisions taken during the meeting. If any actions should be taken after the meeting, make sure that both the action and responsible for it are clearly documented.

After the meeting, send meeting minutes to all people invited, including the ones that were not able to join. This way everybody is informed about the outcome and people can use the minutes as a reference when planning their tasks.

Block time without meetings

This advice may sound strange for some of you, but for others will be very valuable.

If your role requires frequent participation in meetings, you end up having several meetings a day. In such cases they are usually spread through the day, which leads to considerable fragmentation of your time.

This results in frequent task switching which is in general quite inefficient. If you are in such situation, no matter how efficient are the meetings themselves, you won’t be able to efficiently utilize the rest of your time to handle tasks for which you are responsible.

A solution of the problem is to block part of your day (or even complete days of the week if your role allows it) for handling your own tasks. You should not schedule meetings during this blocked time and should avoid accepting meeting invitations form others, unless the meeting is really required and cannot be rescheduled.

Often it is enough to simply add blockers in your calendar. In addition, you may consider setting your status in messenger applications to busy (or even offline) to avoid add-hock calls that may distract you. It is up to you how much of your time to block this way. If you are not sure, you can start with 50% and then adjust it accordingly.

By following these rules, your meetings will be scheduled closer in time and you will have bigger chunks of time for handling other tasks.

Summary

Less is more when it comes to meetings. Keep the number of participants and meeting duration to the possible minimum. Set clear agenda and goals. Ensure you fit in the timing and reserve some time at the end for action items.

Send meeting minutes after that to ensure that everybody is informed about the outcomes. Last but not least, block some meetings free time in your agenda to decrease time fragmentation and secure larger blocks of time for handling your tasks.