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How to Stay Productive When there are Too Many Meetings

Let’s face it, meetings are a necessary evil. It’s that part of business that actually incites forward motion and gets things really going, but when there are too many meetings, your productivity can (surprise!) come to a complete standstill. As industries evolve and corporations grow and diversify, meetings have a tendency to grow with them—both in frequency and scope.

So how can you stay organized enough to cope with the trend in a growing business? And seriously, can you actually regain productivity from an overly-communicative world? Here are four steps you should start taking right now.

Create and Share an Agenda

Nothing wastes time more than a pointless meeting, and nothing makes for a pointless meeting more than a missing agenda. Writing for Entrepreneur, adaptability coach Jeff Boss emphasizes not only the need for an agenda, but also how to properly use one:

“Ideally, this is done earlier than five minutes before the meeting begins. Attendees need to know what the meeting is about so they can properly prepare for it. It’s when people don’t know what to bring to the meeting that those meetings become unproductive, because now another meeting will have to be established to backfill the agenda that was never served from the first one.

Have a preset agenda at least 72 hours ahead of time. Of course, last minute details will always arise, so just highlight and then repurpose them for the following week’s agenda.”

Properly Manage Your Time

Closely related to establishing an agenda is making sure the allocated time is properly used. One of the most important steps in managing this resource is ensuring the meeting begins and ends on time.

“Time is a precious resource, and no one wants their time wasted,” writes Ruth Hill, for MindTools. “With the amount of time we all spend in meetings, you owe it to yourself and your team to streamline the meeting as much as possible. What’s more, time wasted in a meeting is time wasted for everybody attending. For example, if a critical person is 15 minutes late in an eight person meeting, that person has cost the organization two hours of lost activity.”

Once the meeting is underway, keep it moving. Don’t allow any one point to bog the entire meeting down and run overtime.

Take Notes

Another area where many individuals fall short is not properly documenting meetings. Every time a meeting occurs, someone should be assigned the task of keeping notes of what was discussed, what goals were set, tasks delegated and who will be handling them.

Keeping notes serves two purposes. First, it subtly emphasizes the importance of the matters being discussed in the minds of the attendees. Second, it makes it easy to follow-up after the fact with the correct individuals.

According to Audra Bianca writing for Chron.com, a simple rule of thumb would be to, “separate notes into categories, such as items to complete for the boss, issues or projects to follow up on with co-workers, information related to your work assignments and information on training and professional development.”

Additionally, “If you don’t follow up by moving information from notes to their appropriate destinations, such as client files, project documents, calendars, to-do lists or emails, it will be easy to miss an important deadline or omit a salient detail from a project,” says Bianca.

Review Before Adjourning

Another important step that is often overlooked is reviewing the information that was discussed and the assignments that were made before ending the discussion. Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local, describes the process he uses:

“During every call or meeting, no matter how short it is, I won’t end the discussion until everyone clearly understands their next steps, and until I’ve actually begun any next steps of my own.

A good rule of thumb is to reserve 20% of every minute to review next steps. If it’s a five-minute meeting, take one minute; a 30-minute meeting, take six minutes; or an hour-long meeting, 12 minutes. During that time, make sure everyone understands what they need to do next, and if there’s time, begin the next steps in earnest.”

By setting aside that time to review the next steps, everyone walks away with a clear understanding of not only what needs to be done, but also how to start working on it.

Meetings are a fact of life and–for some–a part of their job that is likely increasing in frequency and scope. By using agendas, keeping close track of your time, taking notes and setting aside time to review what happens next, you can go a long way toward making sure your meetings are productive.

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About Curt Finch

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Journyx is not your average software company. We strive to be relentlessly creative and to build tools that help you spend your time on things that matter. After all, time is all we have. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to reach the highest levels of…