Picture this: it’s a Friday afternoon and instead of getting everything finished before the weekend begins, your schedule is booked with meetings. As you listen to a colleague discuss something completely unrelated to the meeting’s topic, your eyes focus on the passing minute hand of the clock—a physical reminder of all the time being wasted—while you wish you had declined the meeting invitation.
If you’ve been trapped in a meeting like this, you’re not alone. According to a white paper published in 1998, the typical American professional attends over 60 meetings each month. At an hour per meeting, that’s 60 hours a month that could be spent focusing on more productive tasks.
Imagine how much more time you could have to focus on things that are actually bringing profit into your company if the meetings you attended were more efficient. What would that do for your business?
If you’re struggling with meetings that don’t bring value to your business, here are 5 tips to make your meetings more efficient.
Ask yourself if you really need to have those meetings
If you could replace those meetings with a few emails or a quick stop by a colleague’s desk, do you really need to have them? A meeting should not be your go-to strategy for every question or concern that you may have.
Create a written agenda
List everything that you would like to discuss at the meeting and create some sort of order to them. If possible, try to order items so that people can arrive late or leave early if they do not want to sit around for parts of a meeting that are not useful for them.
When you’re sending a calendar invite, add the written agenda. This will give the invitees more context on the meeting before they decide to accept or decline the invitation. Agendas allow people to know why they are being gathered and what needs to be accomplished during the meeting time.
Shorten the invite list
Does everyone on your invite list really need to be at the meeting? If you’re inviting people that have nothing to do with the meeting’s agenda, you should reconsider your guest list. According to the Harvard Business Review, bigger meetings are less effective because when meeting sizes are increased, people are less likely to contribute. Aim to limit your meetings to 4-5 key people that will benefit from attending or can contribute to the meeting.
If you’re not sure how to shorten your invite list, apply the ⅔ rule. Take a look at your meeting’s agenda. Can everyone on the invite list contribute to at least two out of three things on your agenda? If not, don’t invite them.
Stick to the agenda
You took the time to create and distribute an agenda so you might as well use it. Following an agenda during your meeting allows you to use the time more efficiently and stay on task. Sticking to the agenda allows you to respect the time of everyone involved. Avoid going off on tangents or adding things to the meeting agenda at the last minute.
End the meeting with a list of action items
At the end of every meeting, everyone present should be aware of what the next steps are. Everyone should leave the meeting knowing what they need to accomplish. Take the time to write down every action item discussed at the meeting. After the meeting, send a follow-up email that includes any meeting notes and the list of action items.