Pose the question of where most people believe their precious time at work is lost and you are likely to hear the response, "in meetings." In our time management courses, we ask people to think about how their typical day is spent and create an activity log. When analyzing their logs, many people are astounded by the sheer number of hours they spend in meetings each week. One participant recently said that his workday is spent mostly rushing from one meeting to another. He then begins his own work later in the day, which inevitably ends up spilling into his family time. Several of his colleagues agreed that this was becoming their new normal. While conceding that we sometimes have no choice in whether we should attend others' meetings or how they are conducted, we discuss how we can manage the meetings we initiate. Some of the ideas that people report working best for them are:
- First: determine whether a meeting is actually necessary. Can the same objective be accomplished by other means?
- Next: determine a meeting objective (is it to generate ideas, get input on a problem, make a decision?) Actually write out a "purpose" statement describing the tangible result you expect by the end of the meeting.
- Then: provide an agenda ahead of the meeting time, including time limits on each item. Invite only those whose input or expertise you need to accomplish the objective. Keep the number of people under ten for best group process dynamics.
- Also: agree on guidelines for meeting behavior such as limiting interruptions, respecting confidentiality, and getting people back on track when they wander off topic.
- Finally: clarify how to create accountability for action items and follow-up.
Meetings may always be part of the business landscape, but with a bit of planning and discipline, we can minimize the pain associated with them. We'll close now because we know you likely have a meeting to attend. Good luck!