Sick of unfocused, unproductive meetings? The average office meeting is a modern-day implement of torture, dragging on forever while everyone talks in circles and your annoying coworker (yeah, there’s one in every crowd) hijacks the meeting with his ramblings.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. A well-run meeting will last a bearable amount of time, get everyone aligned and on the same page, and develop clear next steps for what you’re trying to achieve together.
So if you’re ready to stop wasting time and start using your meetings to their full potential, here are four tips for how to save time in meetings and maximize your productivity:
1 Always Have an Agenda
Save time in your meetings and get everyone on the same page (literally) by creating a meeting agenda in advance.
Be sure your agenda clearly states the goal or goals you want to accomplish by the end of the meeting—whether that’s making a key decision, brainstorming ideas, or organizing a plan of action.
Send the agenda out in advance so your meeting attendees have time to ask questions, get any materials prepped, and start thinking through solutions.
During the meeting, use your agenda as a roadmap to keep the conversation on topic so you can make productive use of your time and achieve your goals.
2 Appoint a Moderator
Put an end to pointless, rambling speeches, unnecessary debates, and momentum-stealing bunny trails. Have an attendee act as a moderator responsible for keeping the group on task with the agenda and curtailing unproductive behavior.
A good moderator will kindly but firmly cut off Jorge-from-Marketing’s long-winded tirade and encourage Latifa-from-Design to share her thoughts.The loudest voice in the room isn’t necessarily the one with the best ideas, so it’s important to make space for the shy and introverted among us who feel less confident about sharing.
Having a moderator is useful for guiding the group in brainstorming or getting back on track if the conversation has stalled. And best of all, a moderator will not only save time during the meeting but can also use their power to make sure the meeting ends on time!
3 End the Meeting on Time
Right now you may be thinking this isn’t possible. “Oh yes,” you say, “meetings will end on time—when unicorns prance once again through the wooded glades!”
Have faith—it is possible.
First, think critically about how long the meeting needs to be. The standard on many scheduling calendars is one hour, but you may need only thirty or forty-five minutes to get everything done. A shorter meeting can create a sense of urgency and focus that encourages efficiency.
Take a shot at beginning the meeting on time. Send a reminder message thirty minutes before go-time and encourage people to arrive five minutes early so they can grab coffee and settle in.
Clearly state the meeting’s end time in the original invite, the reminder, and at the beginning of the meeting. Make it clear that the meeting will be over at the appointed time, and conversations can be continued afterward via Slack or email if needed.
Set up a countdown clock so everyone can see how much time is left and be mindful of using it efficiently. (This can also make it obvious if someone is wasting time.)
On your agenda, set aside the last five to ten minutes for discussing everyone’s next steps after the meeting. Make sure you leave the meeting with action steps. Otherwise, what was the point of getting in the room in the first place? The moderator can proactively wrap the meeting up and make sure each person knows which action items they’re responsible for.
And if the meeting miraculously finishes early, don’t keep the people waiting, let everyone go on their merry way!
4 Include Only Essential People
Do you love crowded meetings where everyone has an opinion and nothing can get decided? No, you don’t. No one does.
Turns out a great way to promote productivity and efficient time use is to keep your meetings small. Invite only the people who are playing a critical role in the meeting’s purpose and have a truly important reason to be there.
It may be tempting to invite anyone who is vaguely connected (“Sure, it would be good for you to be there!”), but if they’re not key players or decision-makers, they probably can’t contribute much to the meeting. In fact, they might even derail it.
So keep your guest list exclusive. The fewer people in the room, the more responsibility everyone feels. Try keeping it between five and ten people for decision making and planning, and expand that number to include additional voices if you need a brainstorming session.