Sometimes the hardest part of getting your work done is, well, finding the time to actually do it.
If you’re like many professionals, you end up spending a significant chunk of your week away from your desk—often in meetings. There are one-on-one meetings with your direct supervisors, of course. But then there are team meetings, department meetings and perhaps even all-hands meetings involving the entire company. You may have meetings with clients, partners or mentors as well. Then there are the ad hoc meetings—the impromptu sessions you can’t always predict!
While meetings obviously play an important role in the workflow of an organization, it can quickly turn into a case of “too much of a good thing.” That is, when meetings start to pull employees away from their job duties, it’s time to take a step back and consider how taking a new approach to meetings can benefit collective productivity.
You don’t have to eliminate meetings by any means; rather, just make them shorter and sweeter. Here’s the case for more efficient meetings.
The Present State of Work Meetings
More than half of employees (59 percent) “feel their engagement is affected by the number of meetings in a day,” according to Small Business Trends. This statistic makes sense when you also consider that approximately 15 percent of any given organization’s time is spent in meetings—and this figure has been on the rise since 2008.
Long story short: Time spent in meetings translates to time not spent on other work. Given that it’s expensive and frustrating to require employees to spend hours per week, or even per day, in meetings, it’s worth exploring how you can “trim the fat,” so to speak.
Create and Disseminate an Agenda
Aimless meetings are not only unproductive but also universally annoying. This is why it’s so imperative for someone to lead the session with a firm agenda. This designated leader can help the session stay even more on track by sending the agenda to attendees before they arrive, allowing them to think of questions or comments ahead of time. Furthermore, it’s useful to allow time periods for each subsection of the agenda and move on before or after each limit.
Gather Actionable Feedback
Collecting honest feedback in a timely manner during a meeting can be very challenging. Employees may not feel comfortable speaking up until someone else breaks the ice. There may be significant back-and-forth just to reach a moderately clear consensus. Things may even get heated—prompting people to want to contribute one at a time until arguments become circular.
Collecting anonymous feedback via real-time polling helps extract the most valuable insights quickly. People respond using mobile devices or computers, meaning everyone can answer honestly without fear of retribution or debate. And, perhaps most useful of all, this technology makes feedback obvious to the entire group in one fell swoop, saving time and eliminating hassle for all involved.
Enter Meetings with an Objective
Meeting for the sake of meeting is not enough. Everyone in your organization should be able to justify why a particular meeting is happening at a particular time. If you find yourself questioning the purpose of a standing meeting, it’s time to revisit its objective.
The organizer of the meeting should establish the expectations of the meeting and its concrete objectives at the beginning of the session. A marketing manager might say something like, “We will all leave this room in 30 minutes with a strategy for our upcoming winter holiday promotion.” Now take this principle and apply it to your line of work.
Short and sweet meetings don’t mean you have to skip out on important communication. Rather, it means you make the same amount of progress—or more—within a shorter timeframe by streamlining how your company does meetings.