A lot of people spend double digit hours sitting in meetings. Some think it is a mark of ‘being busy’, others say this is how they function and can’t do without it. Now, pause. Look around you and now focus on yourself and how you spend time at work? Are you one of these people too or are you a victim of those meeting requests you would love to decline or hate to accept? Sadly, there are many like you who wish they could run miles away from meeting rooms. If you are wondering how you can be a part (or not) of the meeting look no further. Here are a few dos and don’ts that will help you save time and clock more productive work hours.
Focus on the agenda
Save people the horror of not knowing why they are in the meeting. Send an agenda beforehand so that each is aware of what the discussion and debate is going to be about. Mention the topics, goals/objectives and required attendees in it and of course when the meeting starts and ends. Without an agenda people would stare at your face in confusion and you wouldn’t like it at all, just as they don’t like being held hostage for no reason.
If you receive an invitation with unclear agenda, call your colleague who sent it to you to ask for more clarity. Till the time you aren’t clear whether you are required to attend or what role you are to play, mark attendance as “tentative”.
Don’t send/accept meeting invitation unthinkingly
Think at least five times before you send a meeting request because you don’t want more on your plate than you can handle. Often times, the more the people you invite, the more confusing it becomes because there will as many opinions in the room. So, it is best to invite team representatives instead of the entire team. Makes sense, right?
Now, as far as deciding to accept an invitation is concerned, it is relevant to mention David Grady who in one of his TedTalks says, we all suffer from an epidemic called, “MAS”. He says that it is “an involuntary reflex in which a person accepts a meeting invitation without even thinking why. Everyone in the room roars in laughter because it is true to a great extent! Is it not? Not every task requires a meeting and blocking calendar for an hour’s slot. It probably is a five-minute discussion which can happen over coffee.
Say no to status update meetings
These meetings are a sheer waste of time. Whenever you are invited to one or you are thinking of convening one, please think of project management tools as a solution. They give everyone an opportunity to mark updates which you or other can get notified about. Meetings should be about grave matters and challenges and give room for brainstorming sessions.
Stick to the schedule
Never be late for a meeting whether you are an attendee or chair. This applies to both in-person as well as virtual meetings. This shows you respect people’s time and aren’t interested in keeping them beyond what was mentioned in the agenda. Besides, everyone’s got work to finish and they can’t put their priorities on hold just because your meeting is of importance to you. In fact, vet the meeting room and equipment before people start coming in so that if there is something to be fixed it can done be in advance instead of the meeting hour.
No snakes and ladders
It is true that when discussions happen, other unimportant or irrelevant issues get raised. But, if you see this happening, regardless of you being a participant or the chair, politely ask colleagues to discuss their concerns or raise questions separately since it is not on the agenda. They should be intelligent enough to understand to stop right away and continue with what’s important for the moment.
Who doesn’t like meetings to conclude well ahead of time?! Well, all of us do! There is absolutely no need to come under pressure of exhausting those 30 minutes because you want to show you estimated right. In fact, it is good you could wrap up early and have time for other work you and your colleagues can concentrate on. Most importantly, you also learn to estimate correctly the amount of time you should ask colleagues to block for meetings. Everything requires practice and experience. Wouldn’t you agree?
Pick the unconventional
Walk the talk! Yes! Nilofer Merchant on TedTalk she tells people to go a different route i.e. opt for walking meetings. This tends to work better when it’s between two or three people max, but worth a try? Not only does it create a change in scenery, but you also get to exercise your mind and body which you would otherwise not have done. So, the next time you have someone asking you to book a conference room for a one-on-one meeting, propose walking the talk?
Implementing these can help you modify your attitude towards meetings and save your company time and money, both.