By: Ilya Pozin
You don’t mean to do it, but in most offices it’s hard to avoid. Bosses, don’t give in to this time-suck.
Here’s my nightmare scenario: I pull out my phone to call up my calendar for the next day, only to find that the entire day–we’re talking 8 a.m. to 6p.m. (or later)–is booked solid with meetings. What happened to, um, actual work?
It’s safe to say most people are addicted to meetings. It doesn’t quite make sense, especially from a boss’s perspective. Meetings are expensive. The hours your employees spend in meetings are hours when they’re not working.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research reported that office workers spend an average of four hours per week in meetings. These same workers reported feeling like half of that time is wasted. Additionally, a Salary.com survey reported 47 percent of workers say meetings are the No. 1 time-waster at the office.
Obviously, not all meetings are unnecessary and unproductive. I spoke with project management and productivity expert Tony Wong to find out how to transform meetings and increase productivity. Here are his tips:
1. Timing matters.
Before you schedule your next meeting, ask yourself this: Do you really need 60 minutes to address the topic at hand? If you allot an entire hour for a meeting, your attendees will likely lengthen the meeting just for the sake of it.
Try reducing the length of your meetings to 30 minutes or less–10- and 15-minute meetings may even be all you need. To stay on schedule, always begin at the stated time, regardless of whether everyone has arrived, and end the meeting on time, even if you haven’t completed your agenda.
2. Keep an eye on the size.
Inviting 10 people is similar to copying 10 people on an email. It’s a sign of laziness. The more people you invite to your meeting, the more you sap productivity. Consider meetings VIP events–limit your invitations only to those whom are vital to the topic. As a rule, try for five people or less.
3. Choose a direction and stick with it.
There’s nothing more annoying than meeting just to meet. Business meetings aren’t effective when a decision needs to be made or for informational purposes. You can take care of that with a simple phone call or a company-wide email with a plea for no reply.
Unless it’s a brainstorming session, a meeting should be called only to support and convey a previously made decision. A productive business meeting produces a committed plan of action. To stay on track, curb any irrelevant discussions, interruptions, and repeated points.
4. Define whether you’re having a meeting or a work session.
The definition of a traditional business meeting has gotten lost over the years. This is likely how the long-winded meeting with unnecessary tasks came about. People easily confuse business meetings with group work sessions and brainstorming sessions. These two types of work settings require far more time than a standard meeting.
5. Ask attendees to come prepared.
This goes beyond putting together a brief agenda. Be sure all people are prepared in advance to work toward a concise plan of action–and have their materials and questions ready prior to entering the door.
6. Break bad habits.
Your bad habits are likely getting in the way of a quick and effective meeting. Be militant about accomplishing more at your meetings–break notoriously unproductive habits like long introductions and repetitive rambling. Even more challenging: Come to terms with the idea of turning down meetings that aren’t vital to you or interrupt your deadlines. If you can’t avoid the meeting altogether, set a time limit and leave accordingly.
The traditional business meeting just isn’t working. Keep it short, concise, and when possible, eliminate it altogether.