There isn’t a manager I haven’t met who hasn’t rolled their eyes at the mention of scheduling a “meeting,” from time to time. Some are essential and others not so much. How does one optimize meetings then (more tips from some of the world’s productive people as found at fast company.com)? Ask yourself next time if you really need to schedule that meeting or if it’s just a quick phone call or a drop-by-the-office kind of one-on-one query. Meetings should address some kind of call to action and highlight new and important information requiring the attention of all.
Some of my most productive meetings came about when the team was called to kick-off a project or to start off the quarter. Following that, what worked well was breaking into one-on-one phone conversations or paired collaborative meet-ups as needed before the team reported in mid-point and end of the project.
Setting expectations helps immensely. This tip works for both collaborators and clients. I schedule and let my meeting partners know that it will only be for 20 minutes or 1/2 an hour and this takes care of any hums and haws. The onus is then on the person who calls the meeting to be tactfully direct, stay on topic and to prepare thoroughly for the meeting. Ideally this should always be the case, but for many without the idea of having a 20 minute clock stare at them to finish up (think TED speaker style), some meetings can go unproductively long.
Dressing down the pretense of the meeting also helps as a lot of meeting goers feel nervous, be it the uncertainty or the formality. Why couldn’t they all be like brain-storming sessions? Fun, engaging, collaborative and productive, shouldn’t this “unmeeting” be the model for getting together with your colleagues to “make it happen?”
This is not to say that you shouldn’t spend time relationship building with your teammates, clients and stakeholders. On the one hand keeping it brief is showing respect for their time, as well as yours. On the other hand, there are other ways and times you can build a relationship other than to have a meeting. Enter coffee breaks or lunch, killing two birds with one stone is always appreciated, you’re going to need to take a break at some point during the day, may as well make it a fun and productive one.
Whatever your style of engagement, maximizing time, being mindful of preparation and staying focused will return some free space back into your schedule. Using your time wisely will pay out in dividends.