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The Productivity Killer: When A Good Meeting Goes Bad

Have you ever looked at your calendar only to realize that your entire day is booked solid? It has happened to me at the firms I’ve worked at, both big (700+ people) and small (7 or less people). Often when sitting in a long meeting, I find myself wondering, “When am I actually supposed to do my work?” To make matter worse, many meetings prove to be a productivity killer in and of themselves.

Granted, meetings aren’t universally bad. A good meeting can increase team productivity, morale, as well as focus. A good meeting can help your team reach consensus on a decision and move forward effectively. Some of the best ideas have come from collaboration. But if you’re sitting through more than a couple of meetings a day, most of them are almost certainly a waste of your time and/or the time of the people you’re meeting with.

Reports¬†show that the average worker loses at much as 31 hours a month to unproductive meetings and that 1/2 of all meetings are unnecessary. Based on my own experience, that isn’t hard to believe. Nonetheless, banning all meetings also is not the answer. Instead, it’s important to make sure that the meetings we do schedule are well-planned and organized. Here are a few tips to help:

1. Make Sure The Meeting Is Necessary

Before scheduling a meeting, it’s worth considering what you hope to achieve from it and whether a meeting is really the best way to achieve that goal. If the purpose of the meeting is merely to convey information, it may be more appropriate to send an email to the relevant parties or simply to pick up the phone for a call.

2. Only Invite Necessary People

More often than not, the meeting itself isn’t a problem; the issue is with the attendees list. As a good rule of thumb, don’t invite people who aren’t critical to the meeting. There are a number of reasons for this. First, too many people can bog down a meeting as you encourage additional comments and discussion. Second, people who aren’t necessary to the success of the meeting could probably be more productive doing other work. As a result, always try to keep the list of invitees as small as possible.

3. Keep It Short

When you do schedule a meeting, in some cases it may be better to underestimate the amount of time you’ll need to cover the agenda. Rather than schedule a meeting for an hour, try scheduling it for thirty minutes. It will encourage the meeting’s participants to get to the point and stay concise. If you are leading the meeting, remind the attendees that you don’t have a lot of time, but have a lot of information to cover. Shorter meetings can encourage efficiency.

4. Keep It To The Point

Before you even schedule a meeting you should already know the agenda. Once you have created your agenda, stick to it. Avoid tangents. After all, good meetings can “break bad” quickly when people go off topic. This is especially true when new topics aren’t relevant to other attendees or when the new topics could be better addressed outside of a meeting in a one-on-one or via email. If you do find that a meeting begins to veer off topic, either excuse the people whose attendance is no longer beneficial or politely bring the discussion back on track.

While you can’t avoid all of those dreaded meetings, you can make the most of the ones you do have. What are some tricks you’ve discovered for holding better meetings?

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