Are your meetings productive?
I’m sure you find yourself asking “Are all of these appointments in my calendar actually productive meetings?” Do you have one of those full calendars, with little breathing space? Or do you have to block out a few hours each day to make sure you have time at your desk uninterrupted? Maybe instead you come in early or stay late, so you have the office to yourself.
Some organisations have a culture where you end up having meetings to prepare for meetings.
I often used to feel like I spent more time talking about what I was doing rather than actually doing it.
There are so many different styles of meetings out there, and every culture has a different slant on meetings as well. There are agile meetings called scrums, there are board meetings, there are design meetings, there are client meetings, team meetings, brainstorming meetings, public consultation meetings, safety meetings… the list goes on, and I won’t bore you with them.
The fact remains, not all meetings are productive.
Sometimes we get to the end of the day and find ourselves saying “I didn’t get any of my work done today”.[blockquote id=”” class=”” style=”” align=”right” author=”Jonah Goldberg” affiliation=”National Review Online” affiliation_url=””]I think there needs to be a meeting to set an agenda for more meetings about meetings.[/blockquote]
Here are some basic hacks that will reduce how long you spend in unproductive meetings.
Hack #1 Ask for an agenda
Yes, even if it’s a brainstorming meeting.
Formal meetings such as board meetings always have agendas.
That’s because the attendees are busy and their time is valuable, so they have an agenda to keep them on track and efficient. This ensures productive meetings.
Don’t underestimate the value of your time.
You may not be paid the same hourly rate as a board member or your client, but your work is important for the organisation as well. The board member or client won’t have many decisions to make if there is no analysis or design from the teams!
Before you accept a meeting invite, ask the meeting creator for an agenda.
If they can’t put on paper what the meeting will look like, they probably haven’t thought about it. If the convenor hasn’t thought about what the meeting will look like, you can be sure the meeting will meander its way through all your valuable time… and not have much to show for it.
The meeting will not be productive when you don’t even know what you are there to do.
Hack #2 Make sure the overall purpose is clear and worthwhile
Now here is where you may become unpopular.
If the person calling the meeting can’t articulate the purpose of the meeting and show how it aligns with the organisation’s work or direction, then… don’t go.
Unless the meeting will result in you or your organisation getting closer to meeting your goals, there is no point in going.
Obviously, you can’t just not turn up – you need to give the person the courtesy of a reason why you do not want to attend. It is possible to politely decline a meeting invite and let them know you cannot see how you can contribute to the meeting (or what you would get out of it).
What you will find is, the more you give people reasons why it is not worthwhile to attend their meetings, the more quickly they will start giving you a clear purpose for the meeting.
You never know, maybe that 4-hour brainstorming meeting will turn into a 30-minute session and some ‘homework’ afterwards.
Next time another team asks you attend their “scoping” meeting for their new project – ask them what they think your attendance will provide. If they say, lessons learnt from previous projects, give them dot points in an email that take you 15 minutes to write (instead of the 2-hour meeting). If they say, just so you know what is happening over the next six months, ask them to send you the minutes of the meeting instead.
Hack #3 Prepare for the meeting[blockquote id=”” class=”” style=”” align=”left” author=”Dave Barry” affiliation=”” affiliation_url=””]If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.[/blockquote]
I know. It sounds obvious. But be clear what you want to get out of the meeting before you walk in there. Also, think about what you can contribute and what others may want from the meeting, more specifically from you. The meeting will be more productive for you if you turn up prepared.
Even just a few dot points on a scrap piece of paper can help you focus during the meeting and make sure it is not a waste of time for anyone there.
Need more hacks? Check out these useful links: