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How to save time in meetings

Time is our most precious resource and yet we waste an incredible amount of it in unproductive meetings. By creating good habits and processes you can make your meetings more efficient, productive, and help your team stay accountable. Learn 4 ways to help you save time in meetings.

1. Meetings need to have an agenda.

Meeting agendas should identify the purpose and goals of the meeting and set expectations for what will be discussed. The agenda needs to be sent out ahead of time so attendees have time to prepare for the meeting and know what is expected of them (e.g. if there is something they need to report on). They can also add any additional items to the agenda instead of having them come up unexpectedly in the meeting. The agenda also gives the meeting moderator a structure to follow to help control the flow of conversation so the discussion doesn’t go too far off-topic and the meeting can stay on time.

2. Recurring meetings need to run on a rhythm. 

This means that meetings are set on a particular day, at a particular time, and booked in everyone's calendar (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc). There is no doing the “let’s schedule a meeting” dance of 35 emails over and over again. The meeting is on Tuesdays at 2:00 pm. There is no scheduling over it because there is an expectation that it has been in your calendar for weeks or months. These meeting rhythms also help reduce ad hoc meetings that might happen between the recurring meetings. The additional ad hoc meeting is unnecessary unless the topic is urgent since there is the regular recurring meeting for the topic to be added to.

3. Meetings need to be primarily future-focussed. 

Too many meetings focus on updates about things that have already happened versus discussions about things that need decisions and action for the future. Instead, provide reports on past items as part of the agenda package so people are up to speed, but set the expectation that they should read the reports before the meeting. This is often called a consent agenda which groups routine business and reports into one agenda item, instead of several separate ones. It takes a ton of time to go over something that everyone could have read ahead of time. If there are discussion items that require a decision or action that come out of the reports, add them to the agenda as a separate item.

4. Meeting minutes need to be recorded and action items need to be assigned a person with a due date on the spot.

No one will remember decisions or who agreed to do what in four weeks unless it is documented. Meeting minutes should capture they why and what of discussions and decisions. Action items need to have a person assigned with a due date for completion as soon as they are discussed and recorded. Then you are not wasting time at the next meeting trying to remember what was said and who committed to what. Action items will actually get done because people are being kept accountable to the things they committed to. Meeting minutes can also be sent to anyone who couldn’t attend the meeting so they are kept up to speed and time doesn’t need to be spent on this at future meetings.

Summary

Meetings don’t have to be soul-sucking time-vortexes. With a little structure and a little process, you can turn them into a positive, productive and efficient use of time. These are all things you can do on your own, or you can use Tadum to automate these processes so you can save even more time and look like a meeting pro.

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