Power to save time - Meeting Edition

While not quite as cool as the ability to stop time

The power to save time is a wonderful one. It always seems as there is never enough time to get to the cool things you want to do. The best way to get more time, is to stop wasting it.

Time wasting can occur in many ways and forms, and to be clear when I am talking about time wasting I am not referring to time that you need to recharge yourself. Some people need to get away and read books, or talk with their friends, or go dancing, whatever you need to do to recharge, you need to schedule time to do it regularly so you don't burn out. This isn't wasting time.

Wasting time is time spent on on productive things, that don't recharge or help you, or takes so much time away from your life you fall way behind.

A lot of time wasting can occur during personal time or indepdent time, and I will write an entry about how to deal with that as well.

However, if you are in work or school a lot of your time wasting can come from meetings.

While some meetings are useful and productive many are not.

You say "This isn't my fault, its not my meeting, how do I stop this time waste?"

There are two major steps

1. Figure out do you really need to be in the meeting (will you add value, will you get anything from the meeting, will your boss fire you or your teacher fail you if you skip?) - If none of these are true, don't go to the meeting, send a polite note declining it and get on with your important stuff

2. If you need to be in the meeting, you have the responsibility to make it as productive as possible.

A. Ask the organizer for the meeting agenda and goals before the meeting (you can also do this in the meeting but this is inferior because if you ask before and they provide the agenda and goals - A. you can see how prepared and organized they are beforehand and get a sense of the value of the meeting, B. If they don't have an agenda and goals, you are giving them notice they should prepare some, and if they don't you have a good reason to get out of the meeting (Time saved).

B. If they have Agenda and Goals - If they aren't clear try and have them clarified at the beginning of the meeting, that way everyone in the meeting is likely to know the purpose and goal and spend less time talking about their pet fish Bob, or some other item relating to something they think is important but is not relevant.

C. If someone gets off track, ask yourself - is this helpful for the meeting, is this a key digression. If not, politely interrupt with either

1. That is a key point but outside the scope of this discussion, maybe we can take this offline as an action item for you

2. What you are saying is XYZ, is that correct, glad we have confirmed that, now I think we need to talk more about {Goal of the meeting}

3. Something else polite that allows the team to get back on track

D. If someone is saying something important but is taking a long time to say it (i.e. a person has talked for 5 minutes without getting to the point but provides lots of detail) see if you can get them to summarize - Say something like, I am not sure I understand, are you saying XYZ and if not could you let me know your key point

All these activities will help you keep your meeting on track.

Remember not all meetings have to have a decision oriented goals, some very productive meetings are about sharing key data across your group or company. If you are in one of these, think about

1. What format would be most helpful to people
2. Direct your presenters to use that format - say "Everyone is going to have five minutes for an update, since we have a lot of people and not a lot of time, if each person could use those five minutes to summarize the three most important things they did this week that would be great"

Setting the format will help guide people to use that and provide information in a more useful fashion for those attending (so as not to waste their time) also it gives you a good execuse to jump in if someone gets on track. As long as you have set the guidelines before hand most people won't get insulted if you interrupt them and try and bring them back on track. And if they do, that's the kind of person to avoid working with.

Save Time!


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