For many of us, meetings are a normal part of life. Whether a recurring daily act in a job or an occasional appearance for something like a parent-teacher conference, almost all of us are going to experience a meeting at some point. As a species designed to collaborate we experience a lot of positivity when we come together, meaning meetings are not inherently bad. However, they are one of the largest contributors to chronic inefficiency and wasted time.
Since time is a limited resource, with no room to waste, consider the following best practices to make the most of your meetings.
Make sure every meeting has a PAL. This acronym is a great reminder that a successful meeting has a Purpose, Agenda, and Length. Making a PAL a requirement for all meetings will significantly change gatherings from meandering time-sucks to highly productive collaboration bursts.
Don’t default to a 1-hour meeting. Somewhere along the way, this became the norm for a lot of professionals and it’s time to stop this routine. A lot can be done in 30 minutes! Consider Parkinson’s Law which states that work expands to fill the time allocated for it. Set a shorter timeframe for your standard meetings and expand when necessary.
Send digital reinforcement in the form of an email or digital calendar invite. Even when meetings are set through verbal communication it’s helpful to confirm that everyone is one the same page and a ‘paper trail’ exists. This is also a great opportunity to confirm the meeting has a PAL and it’s shared with all attendees.
Batch meetings into set days or times each week. Instead of reacting to meeting requests and sporadically scheduling meetings, consider grouping them into the same 1-3 days each week or set hours each day. For example, only accept meetings on Tuesday & Thursday, or after 1:00 pm. This will move meetings from disruptive to controlled and leave significant blocks of time for you to make traction on other non-meeting tasks.
Make sure it should be a meeting. Before accepting an in-person meeting, confirm it cannot be an email, phone call, or short video chat. Everyone has different communication styles and some people love to meet. Beware of requests to meet that indulge a personal preference more than an actual need for face time.
Although meetings are often the target of office venting or viral memes, they do play an important role in collaboration and communication. Instead of letting meetings wreak havoc on our days, use the tips above to manage your meetings with intention and efficiency.