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How to Stop Wasting Time in Meetings


3/13/2012 2:18:38 PM

How to Stop Wasting Time in Meetings By Angela Rose, BioSpace.com

A recent survey by Doodle, an online scheduling company, found that professionals spend nearly five hours each week scheduling meetings. That figure doesn’t include the time actually spent in meetings. An estimated more than 25 million meetings take place in businesses across the U.S. every workday, so we can assume the total time spent in meetings represents a significant productivity loss to the businesses in question. How do you put an end to meetings? The only certain way is to quit your job. All kidding aside, you can minimize the effects of meetings on your productivity without resorting to that extreme.

1. Stop trying to accomplish so much.
Lumping everything into one general meeting only causes chaos. It’s also likely to waste people’s time. Not everyone needs to hear about computer issues in the accounts payable department, or Bob and Mike’s ongoing project, or possible caterers for the vendor open house next week. If you’re the boss, consider short, impromptu briefings with staff members on the agenda items that relate directly to their jobs rather than one mass meeting. If you’re an employee, request the meeting agenda and ask to be excused if there’s no real reason for you to attend.

2. Stick to the agenda.
Of course, this requires actually having an agenda –so put one together. Determine the topics to be covered in the meeting and allot a set amount of time for each one. If you’re calling the meeting, don’t request the attendance of coworkers who do not need to contribute. During the meeting, if things begin to get off track, stop and redirect. Note new issues to address at a later date and get back on task as quickly as possible. If you’re an employee, don’t contribute to conversational chaos by asking questions that do not pertain to the topic at hand.

3. Leave technology out of it.
In order for a meeting to proceed quickly and efficiently, those in attendance need to pay attention. If you’re the boss, request that your employees leave laptops, blackberries and cell phones at their desks. If you’re attending a meeting, don’t allow text messages, phone calls or emails to distract you from the task at hand. If the meeting is going to be a long one, schedule short periodic breaks so everyone can stretch their legs, refresh and respond to urgent messages.

4. Know who will be doing what.
End each meeting by reiterating the action items discussed as well as what needs to be done and who is responsible for doing it. Rather than holding another meeting to follow up on progress, try emails to the group instead.

5. Show some enthusiasm.
Better yet, show lots of enthusiasm. Whether it’s your first interview or your thirteenth, you must appear enthusiastic about the opportunity. Smile, laugh (though not nervously), shake hands with gusto. And when the interview is over, don’t neglect to ask about next steps. This will show you’re eager to continue with the hiring process.

Other suggestions for minimizing time wasted in meetings include holding meetings while standing up (which has been shown in some studies to decrease meeting time significantly) or reducing the length and frequency of meetings and communicating by email instead. Whatever your company decides, reducing the number of hours spent in meetings each week will yield increased office productivity.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for BioSpace.com.

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