How to Decrease the Amount of Time You Spend in Meetings
There’s nothing better than an efficient meeting where goals are met in a cohesive, timely manner. So why are so many meetings painfully long and drawn out? It doesn’t have to be this way! With just a few tweaks to the overall structure of your gatherings, you (and your grateful coworkers!) can be in and out with nary an eye roll in sight.
Hand Out Work and Materials Ahead of Time
Instead of springing everything on your coworkers at the start of the meeting, then wasting time while they attempt to get up to speed, email them the information they will need going into the meeting, and conduct your discussions as if everyone has read the materials. If they have, they’ll be able to immediately engage with you and make it possible to wrap up the meeting on time. If they haven’t read the material, they’ll certainly learn to do so next time when the discussion leaves them behind (trust us, it should only take once). And if the point of your meeting is to make a final decision on something, having the information ahead of time makes for a much more thoughtful outcome.
Schedule Shorter Meetings
This is one of the most commonly made mistakes…and the easiest one to remedy. It’s common to schedule a meeting for a round amount of time—one hour, two hours—even when there isn’t that much to discuss. There’s no rule that says you have to schedule a meeting for a certain amount of time, so don’t! Only have fifteen minutes of subject matter to go over? Schedule your meeting for fifteen minutes. You might think you’ll just get out of the meeting early if you schedule an entire hour chunk, but chances are you won’t—you’ll just fill the “extra” time with inane chatter or discussing something that has no relevance to the topic at hand.
Make Sure You’re Meeting for the Right Reasons
Specifically, this means you have an issue to discuss that ultimately affects everyone currently at the meeting. Is it just an information-sharing session? Do that one-on-one. Or, if you’re really in a pinch, you can convey what needs to be shared via email, regular reports, videos, or another medium that allows the recipient to absorb the information on his or her own time. Big group meetings should be reserved for active participation among those in attendance, not lectures. Adhering to this rule will cut down, not only on the time you spend in meetings, but also the number of meetings you hold overall.
Be Mindful of the Time
This point is painfully obvious, but it bears pointing out because so many people simply don’t do it. Start and finish your meetings on time. Every time. No exceptions. How many times have you shown up to a meeting on time, only to fiddle around an extra ten or fifteen minutes, waiting on one or two people who wander in past the start time? The only thing that teaches you and your coworkers is the whole office will revolve around you if need be. But that’s not (and should never be) the case. Continue to start and end meetings on time, and your coworkers will eventually get the hint.
Try “Stand-Up Meetings”
They’re all the rage and for good reason. Instead of slumping down in uncomfortable chairs, try getting the blood flowing by holding short stand-up meetings where everyone’s doing just that—standing up. It pretty much guarantees the meetings will be nice and short, and it’s a great way to keep people more engaged and alert (no dozing off in these meetings). Additionally, if you and your coworkers know a meeting won’t be lengthy, chances are everyone will be more attentive during the time they do spend there. When it comes to meetings, as with most other undertakings, it’s important to remember it’s all about quality over quantity.
No one wants to waste time sitting in a meeting that doesn’t really accomplish anything. Some companies have taken that feeling to the extreme by eliminating them completely and only connecting with employees one-on-one. That may or may not work for your company structure, but it could be worth exploring as an option. Tweaking your current meeting structure may feel a bit odd at first, but chances are good that you and your coworkers will adjust quickly—and rejoice at the extra time you’re not wasting in meetings.