Some companies have more money than others, some have a bigger number of employees, others have better tools, a couple of the good ones have more impactful ideas. All of these things can serve to give a business an upper hand when trying to beat the competition. But there’s one thing that you just can’t get more of - time. There are 24 hours in a day, for big global multimillion-dollar corporations and small 5-person startups alike. That’s why it’s how you use that time that very often distinguishes successful companies from those less successful ones.
There are, naturally enough, many obstacles in this pursuit for greater efficiency of business processes, but one of the most commonly cited ones are definitely ineffective meetings. Now, of course, they can never be totally done without, but very often they waste more time than they should. And usually with no valuable results at the end to justify it.
This is probably the reason why you see more and more productivity tips that go along the lines of ‘cut down on meetings’. This is a pretty good piece of advice, but how can you do this without taking anything valuable out of the decision-making process?
That’s exactly what this article is here to help you discover. We’re going to give you five actionable tips on how to make your meetings more efficient and more effective, including what you should do to prepare, how to get a hang of the time you spend in them using a time tracking app, and a couple more.
So let’s get right on to it!
1. Have a Clear Objective
The biggest problem about managing meetings and not letting them take up too much of your time is the fact that they’re a habit for so many teams. You have a day in a week, for example, when it’s just meeting time. It’s all under the guise of needing to ‘catch up’, ‘review the strategy’, ‘see where we’re at’, etc. But the truth is, in many cases, you don’t need a meeting.
So, the first thing to do is devise a new management strategy - only have a meeting when there’s actually something to discuss. For instance, there’s a problem that you need several employees in order to solve, something is radically changing and you need to get everyone up to speed, there’s a new project that you have to plan and organize, or something along those lines. Everything less pressing than this can probably be shared one-on-one, in a group text, or in an office memo. The point is - every meeting should have a clear objective that needs to be worth spending multiple man-hours on.
2. Limit Meeting Time
If you let your meetings run their course indefinitely, or for ‘as long as it takes’, they’re almost always going to take more time than needed and there’s a very real possibility that you’ll eventually go off-topic (provided you had one in the first place). This time can be much better used for working on tasks. So, the second tip is to set a clear timeline for every meeting and stick to it.
Time tracking app, as you may know, is primarily used for computer-based tasks, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it to track your non-billable hours as well, like time on meetings in this case, since you can manually fill in offline time or simply define meetings as one of the tasks. Start the software and see how long each meeting takes. When you set the end time, try to stick to it as closely as you can. Periodically, you can review your time tracking app data in order to see how much time you spend in them and analyze whether it could be less.
3. Get Participants to Prepare
The next useful tip for having efficient meetings is to get all of the people who are going to participate in it, including you, to prepare in advance. This means that you should all take some time before the meeting, maybe even designate that prep time as a task in your time tracking app, to come up with ideas and solutions. Jot down your suggestions, do a little bit of research if necessary, and come to the meeting prepared.
This way, meetings will revolve around concrete and researched suggestions, so they will be better structured and more likely to stay on topic. You also won’t need to waste time trying to brainstorm ideas and then shaping all of them, just to end up discarding half of it. You’ll see that coming to the meeting prepared will cut the time it takes dramatically, while still enabling you to get valuable takeaways out of it.
4. Only Call In the Necessary People
A common mistake when it comes to organizing team meetings is calling in too many people. Just because you need to talk about the content strategy of a certain project, it doesn’t mean that backend developers working on it need to attend the meeting as well. Only call in the people who absolutely need to be there - the ones who can provide value and/or get value out of it.
If you cut down the number of people attending the meeting, you’ll both save the ‘uninvited’ people a lot of time, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time because you’ll only get the input from the people that the topic actually concerns.
5. Schedule Meetings at an Unproductive Time of Day
This advice might sound a bit odd, but if you decide to adopt our tip to come to meetings prepared, you’ll see that it actually makes a lot of sense. If meetings are the time when you just present your suggestions, solutions and opinions, you don’t really need to be your most productive self to make the best of it.
Check your time tracking app to see what the least productive time of day is for the team that needs to meet, and schedule your meeting then. This is a part of the ‘organize your day according to your productivity’ strategy, which emphasizes that you should let your employees work on important and demanding tasks when they’re experiencing a peak in productivity. But when your time tracking app suggests that the productivity is slipping off, that’s when you can schedule a meeting and use the time that would be spent lazily browsing Facebook to discuss ideas.
Contrary to many people’s beliefs, meetings don’t have to be this time-wasting thing you just have to do, which ends up being totally useless 9 times out of 10. If you organize them properly, have a clear goal and structure, they can prove to be not only efficient but also truly valuable to everyone on your team.