We are working to find ways to invent the 34hr day. . . but we also know that its’ never going to happen. Despite our lack of available time, we still find ways to cram our schedule full of meetings. Some of them great and some of them, we could honestly do without. But here are some quick tips on how you can ensure to keep meetings short and hopefully, give your day extra time to get other tasks checked off of your list.
1. Set a specific and detailed agenda
Typically a meeting topic is general and everyone hopes that the conversation will take the meeting on a direct course. This leads to meetings that run forever and often, have no ‘call to actions’ at the end.
- Before a meeting, create a one-page agenda with simple bullet points of the items to be discussed. The best practice is to create a meeting-agenda template for the company or department. This way, anyone scheduling a meeting can create the agenda in a quick and uniform manner.
- At the beginning of the meeting, the agenda should be quickly discussed and approved. People should be a bit flexible in modifying the agenda, as the needs of the group outweigh the need for strict adherence to the original agenda.
- Establish time limits for each discussion. You’ll be surprised that the discussion almost always fits the time frame, simply because people will tailor their conversation to fit the time allowed.
- Give a warning when you are a minute or two from the prescribed end.
2. Invite only the people that need to be there.
When you think of it, a meeting with 6 executives is costing the company hundreds of dollars per hour. Especially if only two people are carrying a majority of the conversation. This also leaves the other 4 individuals feeling frustrated for their time being wasted.
- When you build your agenda for the meeting, list only the people absolutely required for each of the agenda items.
- If not everyone is required for all the agenda items, schedule the discussions so they start with the most people and allow people to leave as their names drop off the list. That way they’ll be motivated to keep their own conversations short and to the point so they can get back to work.
3. Create a structured close
One of my friends is a therapist and when talking to her about clients that ‘drag’ along meetings, she suggested creating a structured close. She schedules a 50 minute agenda for a 1 hour meeting, to give the her some ‘wiggle room’ towards the end. At the 10 minute mark, she concludes the meeting with these questions three questions:
- In one sentence, what was your single biggest takeaway from this meeting?
- In one sentence, what is one topic that should be discussed in our next meeting?
- Give one word or phrase describing how you feel about this meeting?
By establishing this closing structure, she has set expectations in her client’s mind for closure of the meeting, and wrap up is simple. In a group setting, whoever is in charge of the meeting can direct the same process around the table and take notes for future agenda items. People who leave earlier can take two minutes and share before they leave.