It’s a new year, a great time for change and resolutions. Many people are keen to start the new year with personal resolutions and improvements, such as losing weight and starting a healthier lifestyle, but what about your professional wellbeing.
This year, we propose a new year's resolution for your professional self, to move towards a more efficient and effective self in the workplace.
The Universal Dilemma
It’s the new year and many people are coming back to the office after the break. Perhaps you also just came back to the office and are just trying to catch a breath. Undoubtedly, though, invites to meetings will start rolling in in the next day or two and, before long, you will have a calendar packed left, right and centre.
Meetings, the universal dilemma in businesses around the world. Aside from the many other distractions we encounter in the workplace, meetings are one of the more problematic distractions that take us away from our work routine. They are problematic because they create the false impression that they are absolutely necessary and a productive use of your time.
The reality is, however, a lot of our meetings, be they in-person, through call or video conference, are like the one depicted in the video above, where there are a great deal of distractions and time wasted.
Let's face it, for the most part, meetings are conducted very poorly. Grouping a room of distracted people together in order to come to some sort of consensus for actions to follow. In the words of Jason Fried, “Meetings aren’t work. Meetings are places to go to talk about things you’re supposed to be doing later.”
While some meetings are necessary, not all deliver the same value. We’ve all been in a meeting where we find ourselves looking at the clock just to see time pass, thinking about all the other work that we could be doing instead.
If meetings are a reality we cannot escape, let’s look at what we can do to improve the quality of our meetings to bring more effective and valuable results. Below are 3 fundamental steps to increasing the productivity of meetings in the workplace.
Defining the necessities
Before you set up a meeting, first ask yourself these two questions:
- Does what I’m looking to achieve really require a meeting?
This question might sound like a no brainer, but truth is, just because you can hold a meeting doesn’t mean it’s necessary, or the best approach. Look at whether a meeting is indeed the best way to achieve your goal and what you’re trying to do. Consider if there are easier ways to approach the problem, in some cases, perhaps an email would be a better option. For example, instead of a conventional meeting, can you perhaps opt for a standup meeting or just a quick walk up to the key people involved?
- Who are the necessary participants?
Defining the key people necessary in a meeting is very important in keeping the discussion efficient and productive. Personally, I’ve excused others from a meeting or have excused myself from a meeting when the point of discussion does not involve me anymore. Of course, it’s important to take into consideration the context, as you do not want to appear disrespectful, but actually, giving people the option to leave when they are no longer required in the discussion is a great way to stay on track and, when done correctly, communicates your respect for their valuable time.
Meetings, especially poor meetings, are notorious for wasting time where one hour drags into another. Multiply that by the number of participants and you suddenly wasted 10 hours of work time that can otherwise be spent completing important tasks. By carefully thinking through who is actually required in a meeting, you can help make sure the meeting is more efficient.
Plan ahead and communicate your agenda to promote progress. By setting clear goals and an agenda of the meeting, you are able to better grasp the flow of the meeting, making it more productive. Communicate ahead of time to the participants what the meeting is about, this way you are priming them to think ahead of time about the topics to be discussed, which will help move the meeting along when the time comes.
In a great example by David Grady, he said, if one day you went into the office and found that someone took your chair away for no reason, you would not have it and either ask for a reason or request the chair back, as it is taking you away from your work. If that is so, then in the same manner, when we are invited to a meeting without an agenda or reason, we should not mindlessly accept but instead demand a reason.
Through informing others and being more informed ourselves, we may have more productive and effective meetings, all the while encouraging others to follow suit and conduct themselves more efficiently.
Stay on track
Just like a car in a race, you want to stay on track during the actual meeting. This is when the goal of the meeting and agenda comes in handy, as they help you navigate around the conversation, making it easier to come to a conclusion.
As a rule of thumb, you should be punctual to a meeting as it helps set the tone. Being punctual not only means showing up on time, but also ending the meeting on time. A productive and well planned out meeting should not go on and on without a clear destination.
A great way to make sure your efforts don’t go to waste is to follow up with an action plan at the end of the meeting. This helps to summarise the points discussed and helps move the project forward.
At the end of the day, meetings are crucial and a necessary part of business. So, instead of dreading them and dragging them out, we should make them a more productive use of our time.
We end with an insightful infographic by Ted to help you figure out whether or not you’re ready for a meeting.