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5 successful ways to stop your meetings from killing your productivity

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Meetings are essential in every type of organisation. They ensure everyone involved in a project gets on the same page, creating consistent and clear communication as the project moves forward.

However, meetings can also be immense time-wasters. In fact, according to a 2018 workplace productivity study, 60 per cent of employees feel that meetings distract them from their regular work. The average employee spends more than 30 hours per month in meetings they consider unproductive.

How can we ensure the former does not come at the cost of the latter? A strategy is key. Recognising the essential nature of meetings, you have to make sure that they add to rather than take away from your workflow. Consider these five ways to hold meetings in a way that prevents them from killing your productivity.

1) Manage Your Invite List Strategically

The worst person to have in a meeting is one that doesn’t belong. They’ll be either bored, wasting their productivity, or be distracting without being able to stay on topic, wasting yours. That’s why running a successful meeting, especially when it comes to technology-related issues, has to start with your invite list.

One way to accomplish that feat: build your agenda first. Start with the overarching goal or takeaway you need from the meeting. Then, create the supporting points and steps you need to get there. Next, make sure that you invite someone into the room that has valuable input for each point or the overarching goal.

This list might get large. That’s why your final step is cutting it back down to only those who have to be there. Multiple individuals with the same expertise or even from the same department may not be necessary. If you build your invite list this strategically, you minimise the waste or distracting conversation before it ever pops up.

2) Build a Clear Agenda With Strict Time Slots

The best meetings are tightly managed. In the above steps, you already have built a rough agenda that guides you through to your main intended accomplishment of the get-together. In this step, it’s time to get more specific.

You need to know your meeting objective first. The biggest reason your employees probably don’t like meetings is that they likely consider them to be an ‘all talk, no show’ endeavour. If you know an intended outcome, you can build your agenda toward achieving that outcome.

From there, breaking it up into a prioritised list makes the most sense. Everything you need to cover should be assigned a specific timeframe. Start with the most critical items, so that you can cut some off the end if you run over.

The more defined your agenda is in both topic and time, the more likely you are to reach your objectives. As an added benefit, you also eliminate the number one reason employees hate meetings according to a recent survey: the fact that they tend to run too late.

3) Develop a Parking Lot System

Make no mistake: no matter how well you plan your meeting, distractions will come up. A general discussion about the potential of digital transformation may devolve into talks about a WiFi problem in your Singapore office. Don’t fall victim to letting these unplanned topics get your meeting off the rails.

Instead, develop a parking lot system. Set up a whiteboard, note taker, or computer to write down anything that’s important to discuss, but not on the agenda or closely connected to the meeting’s stated objective. Then, at the end of the meeting, allow 5 minutes to review all parking lot items and rank them according to priority.

Now, you can spend your time on the actual topic. However, you also communicate (and put in action) a plan to not ignore other important issues that may have come up in the meantime. A prioritised ranking at the end of the meeting helps you develop natural next steps to ensure they will be discussed further down the road.

4) Assign Post-Meeting Responsibilities

Meetings are generally considered time-wasters because they don’t immediately add to productivity. You cannot accomplish specific individual objectives while sitting together in a room and away from your computer. That’s why a crucial part of the process has to be making sure that everyone knows what he or she needs to do as a follow-up.

That means assigning responsibilities for each member of the meeting after it is over. Make sure that no one leaves without a clear idea of not just what happens next, but what his or her part will be in it. This step should be similar to the role definition process within project management.

Not all actions can be immediate. A strategic plan tends to include various stages that all have to be considered at differing times. Still, the responsibilities should be clear the moment participants hang up or walk out the door. Whether that’s taking specific actions that are necessary to move a project forward or monitoring for a follow-up (see below), this knowledge is essential.

5) Follow Up Immediately

Don’t assume that the official end time of the meeting is the end of the work. The most productive meetings, in fact, only are the beginning of or a checkpoint to a more extensive process that requires much more work. Moreover, they also keep everyone involved in their daily tasks. For both of these reasons, post-meeting follow-up is crucial.

As the discussion is still fresh in your mind, start to prepare a follow-up. Summarise everything discussed, including the next steps and responsibilities for these steps. Be sure to include any parking lot items, as well.

This information will act as a crucial reminder to everyone involved that the conversation remains ongoing. It also serves as the natural starting point and thread for future discussions related to the objective. The more quickly you follow up after the meeting, the more active the topic will still be on everyone’s mind as they get back to work.

Actioning Your Meetings to Transform Your Organisation

Running meetings is essential for your organisation, but it can also become problematic quickly. You have to make sure that each get-together remains productive and results in tangible outcomes. Well prepared, these meetings can not only help you implement new technology but transform your organisation.

Contact us to learn more about the ways you can implement automation tools and run meetings to get there as you move toward digital transformation within your company.

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