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Scheduling Effective Meetings: How to Bare Your Teeth at Time Wasters

Lars-Thorsten Sudmann
Mar 4, 2020 5:30:00 PM

After analysing the daily routines of 27 top managers, two Harvard Business School researchers have come to a startling, yet not entirely surprising finding: On average, each manager participated in 37 meetings per week, of which one in three lasted more than one hour each. Efficiency is something else entirely.

This meant that these managers spent more than 70 per cent (of 62.5 hours on average) of their working hours in meetings. Top executives are not the only ones to be fed up with wasting time in meetings. Employees of all ranks lose significant portions of their days on pointless discussions. Often, meetings do not yield much in the way of tangible results and greater clarity among participants.

8 Expert Tips Against Wasting Time

Organisational experts have long identified time-wasting meetings as a challenge and have developed solutions that are already used successfully in many companies:

1. Is This Meeting Really Necessary?

Sometimes no meeting is the best meeting. In many companies, everyone is invited to attend every meeting. It saves time to invite only those who the meeting is relevant to and merely if serious results are to be expected. Unproductive, recurring meetings with no apparent purpose should simply be scratched.

2. Only Discuss What Is Relevant to Everyone!

Far too often, participants must listen to topics of not relevance to themselves. Meetings should be split up to avoid wasting time – one part for everyone and one or several parts attended only by those to whom it is relevant.

3. Prepare Meetings on the Social Intranet

These days, many companies offer project teams the opportunity to collaborate virtually. In this space, meetings can be prepared in advance through collating participants’ points, and they can vote on the agenda. Ideally, resolving the issue at hand virtually will eliminate the need for a meeting.

4. Stick to a Clearly Defined Agenda

Participants need to know about all topics to discuss and ideally vote on them. Additional, spontaneous agenda items should not be allowed. The collective item point “Miscellaneous” or "Any Other Business (AOB)" should be avoided from the outset. In this context, social intranet solutions provide an excellent platform to match and prioritise all the content of all meetings in advance.

5. Set Goals but Do Not Discuss or Moderate into the Finest Minutiae

Meetings should always have a clear goal. Gathering to touch base invites time-wasting conversations. Therefore, the chair has the crucial jobs of ensuring that everyone stays on topic. Moreover, it is usually enough to achieve an intermediate result at a meeting. Details can be discussed in smaller groups later.

6. The Clock Is Always Ticking

That meetings take up their allocated time is a truism. Tight schedules help participants to restrain themselves and to only talk about what is essential. This often results in better outcomes compared to endless discussion.

7. Do It Standing Rather Than Sitting Down

The Ancient Greeks already knew that walking or standing generates better ideas than sitting. Uncomfortable seating arrangements often cut down meetings dramatically. It is easier to participate actively and more difficult to nod off while standing. High tables are definitely suitable to take notes.

8. Document and Inform

After the meeting is just before the next meeting. To get the most out of meeting expensive experts, the minutes of the meeting need to be edited and made visually appealing, as well as accessible in due course. Ideally, this is done on a dedicated space on the businesses' social intranet. If all participants understand the course of action that has been agreed upon, there may no longer be a need for follow-up.

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