Tips for Cutting Down on Wasted Time in Meetings

How much time are you and your employees spending in meetings? Meetings are a necessary evil, but they can waste a large portion of your day. If you have more than one meeting in a day, or even more than one or two a week, you could be reducing your productivity substantially. Of course, it is important to have occasional meetings to impart important information to the team. Some might argue that it’s possible to do all of this through email, but there is always the chance that someone could claim he or she did not get the email. Having a meeting and having people sign into the meeting is a way to avoid this.

Let’s look at some tips that you should use whenever you are considering holding a meeting, and to determine whether it really is necessary or if it can wait.

Have a Goal

First, every single meeting needs to have some type of end goal. Simply put, you need to know the purpose of the meeting, and it has to have an objective. Know this before you even schedule the meeting, and make sure those who attend know the objective before they arrive. This ensures that everyone is on the same page when the meeting starts and it will usually result in fewer questions later.

Reduce the Time of the Meeting

How long do your meetings usually run? If you have hour long or even half hour meetings, look at what’s actually happening during that time. How much of it is irrelevant? How much should you cut? Ideally, you will be able to shave 50% off your meeting time. Set a time limit and reduce the chatter in the first part of the meeting, and get down to business quickly. When you have a goal everyone knows, as we mentioned earlier, you will find that it’s far easier to cut down on meeting time since you don’t have to go over your objective at the start.

Start the Meeting on Time

Everyone should be at the meeting on time. If the meeting starts at 11AM, then everyone, including the person holding the meeting, needs to be there no later than that time. Waiting for those who come late will simply reinforce that they can continue with the behavior. Do not let them derail the meeting and inconvenience others. They are not only wasting their time coming late, they are wasting the time of everyone else at the meeting, as well as the company overall.

Don’t Get Distracted

One issue some have with business meetings is going off on wild tangents for no particular reason. Someone might mention something that makes you lose focus, and before you know it, you could be telling everyone in the group about your vacation to Cancun. Always stay on target. This is true even when other business matters might come up in the meeting. If it doesn’t relate to the goal of this particular meeting, it has to wait until later. Implementing this rule helps to reduce overly long meetings.

Keep the Numbers Low

Instead of having a massive meeting with everyone in the company, consider limiting the people in the meeting to only those it directly affects. When you have too many people, the chance for distraction, more questions, and more wasted times increases. Have the right people at the meeting. If the information needs to go out to others, you could meet with the department heads, and then have them meet with their employees to impart the same information.

Have Time for Questions and Responses

At the end of the meeting, those who attend may have questions and need clarification on certain points. Allow time for this, and time for gathering information and feedback if needed. However, you should not allow the question and answer period to go on indefinitely. There always seems to be someone in a group that will keep the questions going for far longer than necessary, sometimes just to push the meeting closer to break time or lunch time.

Consider When You Hold the Meetings

If you hold your meetings right before a break or lunch, the results are not always what you want. People are antsy about getting out of the meeting to they can eat, and they might not focus on what’s happening and being said. If you hold it right after lunch or at a later point in the day, then it could provide better results. Holding a meeting right after a break or lunch is a good way to make sure that everyone is only taking their allotted time off and not pushing their breaks further than they should, for example.

Of course, all companies are different. Experiment with the meeting time and find the solution that works the best for you. If you have a very small group, for example, then you might actually want to have a lunch meeting where everyone can eat while at the meeting.

The Hidden Time Cost of Meetings

Meetings have been a part of business forever, and they will not go away. However, to understand just how much of a waste many of these meetings can be, it’s important to think about the hidden time cost. Everyone realizes that the employees at the meeting aren’t working at the time, and that the company is not productive then. However, they don’t always consider the time gearing up for and winding down from the meeting.

Employees will typically start getting ready for a meeting ten minutes or so before it begins. After the meeting, it will often take another fifteen to twenty minutes to get back to work and focus on their task rather than the meeting they just had. If you have a half hour meeting, you can expect another fifteen minutes to half hour of “downtime” associated with it. This is simply more wasted time, and that alone should be a wakeup call for businesses to rethink the way they hold their meetings.


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