Drowning in Meetings? How to Make it End!

At Miller Bernstein, we hear all the time from our clients that they are inundated with meetings. Their schedules are literally double booked, all day long, with meeting after meetin after meeting. Superficially, it might seem that these folks are incredibly busy. But are they actually productive? This blog post will explore how to prioritize your time and cut down on the number of extraneous meetings clogging up your calendar.

Determining if a meeting is necessary

Before you blindly commit to a meeting, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you trying to achieve with this meeting? What is the goal?
  • What would happen if you didn’t attend?
  • Could someone participate in your place?
  • What other priorities are currently on your plate and are they more, or less important than this meeting?

Once you have sorted through the answers to these questions, you can more thoughtfully determine if you should accept the meeting invite. Resist that knee jerk reaction and don’t accept without giving it some thought.

This discipline, however, won’t eliminate all meetings from your schedule. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to ensure that you embrace a strategic approach with those meetings that are indeed necessary.

Set aside designated meeting days

I have a colleague who will only take meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are meeting-free. This requires that you say no, from time to time, or insist that your colleagues work around your schedule, but if it is important for you to be at the meeting, they will accommodate.

If two meeting days a week is an unrealistic target, then flip the equation. Set aside two days per week that will be meeting free. Or one.

No matter the balance you strike, try to block specific times that under no circumstances will be interrupted by meetings.

Learning to say no

Often the people who are inundated with meetings are the ones who are people pleasers.

We tend to accept meetings because we feel a sense of obligation – to our boss, our colleagues, our customers. But saying no is critically important. It sets expectations and sends a message that your time is precious. Saying no to the meeting can sometimes mean saying no to the initiative, and often, that is warranted. You don’t want to become the person in your organization who is all things to all people.

Know your responsibilities, prioritize them, set meetings accordingly, and say no to the ones that simply don’t hit the list.

Preparing for your meetings

Ask the meeting organizer (if it’s not you) to send you an agenda in advance of the meeting, along with any presentations or decks. This allows you to review the materials ahead of time, which generally results in a much tighter and shorter meeting. This can be a huge time savings.

In fact, one CEO I know asks for presentations ahead of meetings, and then refuses to run through the presentations at the meeting. He simply digs right in with all of his questions. This is an incredibly efficient way to get through material faster and smarter.

If all else fails –

A few tips to keep meetings short and sweet:

  • Host ‘stand up’ meetings. Development teams have been doing this for years. When participants are physically uncomfortable, it helps ensure that only critical information gets shared.
  • Demand that all questions be reserved until the end of the meeting. And table anything that doesn’t apply to the full audience until after the meeting.
  • Schedule meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour (or 5 minutes before the half hour). This helps to provide some ‘off’ time between meetings.
  • Use IM tools like Skype and Yammer in your office to try and diminish the number of necessary meetings. Sometimes you can resolve issues with a quick text exchange or sharing of resources.
  • Be very clear about next steps post meeting. Don’t meet for the sake of meeting.

It can be very easy to get sucked into a black hole of meetings. Hopefully these suggestions will help you streamline your calendar and free up time for more productive activity. For more information about how to enhance efficiencies at your business, contact Miller Bernstein today.