Last week I had six meetings over a nine hour work day. I also attended one single meeting that consumed the better part of my day. I spent more time meeting and less time actually doing. This is my plea for the “meeters” of the world to break from the pack and start becoming “doers.” Many studies find that 70% or better surveyed said their meetings are very often time-wasters and could be more productive. Others have referred to the workplace meeting as the “black hole.”
For most, it’s one to eight hours, but a hardy 11 percent of men (men are far more meeting-prone than women) somehow survive 13 or more hours of meetings a week. I have learned over the years to make meetings meaningful and productive, but it has become a developed skill over time. Almost everyone has suffered through too many meetings that take up too much time and accomplish too little.
Why do people call meetings that aren’t prepared? Why do people call meetings that never needed to take place? Because for so many, meetings are a good way to either look busy or sound important. But because we are busy women with our eye on the prize (which is usually fewer hours in meetings, less time at the office, more time with our families and all at a higher profit margin) we can be part of the solution. Meetings can be very powerful tools, but you have to plan them out long before they happen.
If you learn to plan, structure, and participate in meetings effectively, you will be able improve your own time management and productivity as well as that of other participants. You first have to determine the purpose of the meeting. The best way to do this is by writing down the purpose of the meeting in one clear sentence, and the expected outcome in another. For example, ‘To decide on a marketing plan and determine the next steps for everyone in the group. To be completed by March 31st.’ This is just the beginning, but if you follow my “Six Under Sixty Rule,” you can plan and keep a meeting productive and under an hour:
- Articulate and justify the reason for the meeting
- Present an agenda by key topics to be addressed and estimated duration.
- Stick to your agenda and time schedule if at all possible.
- Establish a follow-up time and date to meet again.
- Assign tasks and ask if there are questions.
- Wrap up the meeting with a summary of accomplishments and next steps action items.
It’s not rocket science, but it is surprising how many CFO’s and managers don’t stop to evaluate the effectiveness of their meetings. You can be a positive influence on your next meeting whether you called it or not. Here are a few ideas:
- If invited to a meeting, request an agenda if one is not provided
- When attending the meeting, help to keep it on task by politely asking, “where are we in the agenda?”
- If a point is being belabored, help to paraphrase and move the meeting along
- Be willing to announce a time-check at ten minutes before the scheduled meeting end
- Ask for clear, concise next steps
- Make sure there is ample time between meetings to accomplish goals
If you continually find yourself in the never-ending cycle of never-ending meetings, be prepared to hold your meeting planner’s feet to the fire of efficiency and productivity. Everyone will thank you for your efforts and you may even effect positive change on meeting frequency, length or content. Be the change you see in your meetings!