Increase Productivity and Efficiency in Meetings

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Meetings take up a big part of our days, and they can be a real drain on our productivity and efficiency. Have you ever felt like you’re trying to squeeze in your “real” work around meetings? A pair of recent Forbes articles can help.

In Part 1 of her report on productive meetings, writer Lisa Rabasca Roepe explains how to tell whether a meeting is worth your time.

In Part 2, she explains how to make every meeting more productive. Both articles feature my tips.

Do You Really Need to Attend?

Forbes features Maura Nevel Thomas' tips on improving the productivity and efficiency of meetings.

Forbes features my tips on improving the productivity and efficiency of meetings.

As I told Roepe, my productivity training clients spend three to five hours per day in meetings. And that’s just scheduled meetings. We all have to deal with “informal meetings,” like phone calls or colleagues dropping by, too. So if you’re having trouble getting things done, there’s a good reason: You don’t have much time outside of meetings!

To protect your productivity and efficiency, reduce the number of meetings on your calendar. How can you identify the meeting invitations you can safely turn down? One red flag is that the organizer can’t give you a specific goal for the meeting. You should also be wary if the organizer has trouble explaining what he needs from you at the meeting.

Resist the Urge to Multitask

My tips and the others from Roepe’s first article should help you avoid meetings that aren’t the best use of your time. In her second article, she gives some advice on making the most of meetings that you still need to attend.

I know that it’s tempting to try to multitask during meetings. You might think that you can still pay attention even while you’re dashing off an email. But the best thing you can do for your own productivity and efficiency, and your team’s, is to be fully present. By giving the meeting only part of your attention, you’re less likely to offer useful input. The quality of your emails won’t be great, either. That’s wasted time all the way around.

Change Your Culture Around Meetings

Think about your own workplace. Does your staff schedule and structure meetings in a way that supports productivity and efficiency? Or are you entrenched in some bad habits (for example, a meeting that everyone knows isn’t effective but that stays on the calendar because “that’s how we’ve always done it”)?

If you’re a leader, I encourage you to collaborate with other managers to take a fresh look at how you handle meetings. Roepe’s articles can be a great starting point. And for a comprehensive guide to creating a work culture that supports productivity, you’ll want to pick up my new book, Work Without Walls: An Executive’s Guide to Attention Management, Productivity, and the Future of Work. 

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