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5 Ways to Optimize Your Meetings

by Jasmyne Moody

Ah, meetings. Necessary for connections, planning and strategy, but a serious time-suck if you don’t do them right. The higher you get on the company roster, the more meetings you’ll be asked or need to have — but the jury is still out on how many are actually optimal for productivity.

Several studies have shown that taking too many meetings is a productivity killer. According to one source, half of all work-related meetings are considered time wasted (that’s millions of wasted hours!) That’s not to say that meetings are bad, though. Meetings are great times to make important decisions and move forward on action plans. For many solopreneurs, meetings are also a great time to help people understand your product.

We’ve come up with a few ways to make sure you find the sweet spot between keeping personal productivity high and still getting to the meetings you need to have.

Make the purpose clear

Let everyone attending know the topic of the meeting ahead of time . This will minimize tangents and time spent. If you can, send an agenda and needed materials ahead of time and stick to it. Once you make it down the agenda, at least you’ll know you covered everything you wanted.

Invite as few people as you can (here’s how many!)

It’s common practice to extend an invite to others who may have something to add to the meeting but aren’t “officially” involved — or actually necessary. If the meeting is about a partnership deal, you probably won’t need to invite anyone but the potential partners. Keep the invitee list as short as possible, and you’ll find that you’ll cut down on extra information and input that may not help the final decision get made. As the saying goes, too many cooks in the kitchen isn’t always a good thing. 

What is the right number for internal meetings? To make a decision, stick with 8 or less. For a general brainstorming session, 10-20 may be fine.

Have set meeting times

“Well, I’m in the middle of balancing my books but sure you can swing by for coffee and a chat.” If you’ve ever made a statement like this, you’ve been a self-victim of a productivity decrease. Have specific days and set times where you meetings and try your best not to budge. If you set aside a day for your business financials, taking a meeting that day probably isn’t best. If you’re pitching to potential investors, don’t choose that day to onboard a new employee. In fact, the average worker spends a whopping two hours a day recovering from distractions.  When you pull yourself in too many different directions, you’re making it harder on yourself to complete tasks.

Nix status updates

“Status updates” are meetings where those tasked with a certain project meet to discuss how much they’ve completed. Nothing outside of the status update is completed. According to a survey, of those who attend “status update” meetings, one-third of those say that they’re a waste of time. A whopping 46 percent of average Americans would do some other unpleasant activity over attending a status update meeting, including the 18 percent who’d rather take a trip to the DMV (and that’s a real nightmare!).  

For this one, we’d suggest taking it to email or a project management tool like Trello.

Stand up!

Believe it or not, groups in stand-up meetings come to decisions 34 percent faster, according to a study by Stanford professor Bob Sutton. Stand-up meetings come with an expectation that the meeting will be brief, because no one expects to stand for an hour discussing the same issue. If the decision is pressing and the agenda is short, give it a try. You just might get some of your time back.

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