It is no secret that meetings can be one of the biggest distractions and time-wasters in the workplace. Most of the time, you discover mid-meeting that it wasn’t actually necessary for you to be in the meeting or you were needed only for a fraction of the meeting duration.
Sometimes, avoiding meetings is impossible depending on who called the meeting, the organisational culture or the nature of your role. Sometimes you will also find that you are spending your entire day jumping from one meeting to another and hardly have time o sit down and tackle your to-do-list.
So how do you remain productive in days where meetings take a huge chunk of your time?
Are you Needed?
Establish your reason for attending meetings immediately you get an invite. Ask the person inviting you to a meeting what is expected of you and what the intended outcome of the meeting is. If the agenda is not relevant to you or your department or there is no clear connection to your role, simply and politely point that out.
2. How Long Will You be Needed in the Meeting?
Based on the agenda, you might discover that the areas touching on your role will be discussed at a certain time. If this is the case, ask to be signaled to join the meeting at that particular point rather than staying the entire period listening to details that you don’t contribute to or have no contribution to what you do. This will only work, of course, on very specific occasions and projects. You cannot expect to sit halfway through departmental or company-wide progress meetings. These ones usually cover a bigger picture-discussion that requires all members present.
3. Is the Meeting Necessary At All?
The reason why 99% of meetings are a waste of time in organisations is because most of them are irrelevant and encourage time wasting. If meeting to discuss the way forward is the only thing that shows teamwork the meeting is a fail already. Unless introducing an absolutely new concept to the company, information, recaps, reviews etc can be done on emails or other collaboration tools. The time aspect of a meeting is also key. If people are allowed to be late, waiting or a recap becomes top in the agenda for the benefit of late comers. This results in wastage of precious time.
Speaking of agenda, what’s in the list? Does it warrant spending 30 minutes to an hour talking about it? Also, the agenda should be sent early in advance so that everyone attending knows what to discuss and prepare themselves adequately with information they think is important. Ambushing people for thoughts after tabling an idea is a recipe for time wasting as people pretend to think of something to say. Digression from the agenda during the meeting is a big no-no. Anyone who gets a eureka moment during the meeting should see the organizer later and have a meeting on the new-found information.
4. Can Attendance Responsibility Be Shared?
Most of the time, you will find that any member of your department can actually represent the department in a certain meeting. This presents an opportunity for an arrangement where different people get to represent the department at different times. It not only helps everyone develop presentation skills, but also relieves the burden of one person always attending meetings.
5. Plan Ahead
As you grow in your role, you realize that your meetings happen on certain days of the week and at certain times. This gives you an opportunity to plan ahead and salvage ‘lost’ time. If you cannot avoid meetings because your role demands it, sitting around and complaining how you ‘never have time to do anything’ will not offer any solution. Work ahead of the meetings and cover urgent tasks or remain behind for a little strategic overtime to clear pending tasks. This way, you develop a routine on days that are swamped with meetings that allows you to remain productive and get your personal tasks out of the way.
6. Focus on Actionable Points From Meetings
All good meetings must result in decisive actionable points specifically given to individuals for accountability. Note your action points and incorporate them into your ongoing tasks keeping an eye on set deadlines. This way, the meetings you attend give you a challenge and an angle for productivity.