How to be productive in a day of endless meetings

Most of us try to prioritise our time at work by limiting the number and duration of meetings we attend. However, sometimes the organisational culture, or nature of work, can make back-to-back meetings unavoidable.

To help you make the most of your working week, here are our top six tips for keeping meetings productive, action-oriented and relevant.

If you're only needed for part of a meeting, check with the meeting organiser ahead of time that you can excuse yourself after you're required.
  1. Are you needed? First and foremost, make sure you’re really needed at each meeting by asking what the intended purpose or outcome of the discussion will be. If a meeting is going to be more relevant to another team or colleague, your time may be better spent working on other projects.

    If you’re only needed for part of a meeting, check with the meeting organiser ahead of time that you can excuse yourself after you’re required.
  2. Is the meeting necessary? A meeting doesn’t necessarily need to be the default means of working as a team. In fact, sometimes key team members may be able to achieve the same outcomes through an email or phone conversation. If you’re short on time or trying to reduce the number of meetings you need to attend, check if the meetings you have scheduled are actually required.
  3. Share the responsibility. If a meeting really only requires one member from your team to attend, take turns in sharing the responsibility. Not only will this free up everyone’s time, but it can also be a great way to give junior staff some extra responsibility and help everyone raise their profile in meetings.

    Prior to each meeting, have the assigned team member collect points or issues that need to be addressed. It is also important that they report back with a summary of the relevant topics discussed.
  4. Set an agenda. When a company’s culture is to have meetings for the sake of routine, a good method of staying productive is to ensure that each meeting has a clearly defined purpose and agenda.

    -  Decide upon the priorities for discussion beforehand
    -  Ensure pre-reading and background information is provided in advance
    -  Agree to ‘park’ topics that can’t be addressed in your timeframe for follow-up later

    Focus also on actionable points – that is, objectives that can be achieved sooner rather than later to keep the cogs of productivity turning. When the conversation begins to digress, gently steer the meeting back to those agreed topics.
  5. Set a time limit. Setting time limits for meetings may seem pedantic, but they can really help you stay on track and focus on the most important priorities. If you schedule your weekly team meeting for an hour you’re likely to fill that time even if it’s not really required. If you set aside 20 minutes – and stick to that time limit – you’re far more likely to address the most important issues first, be more productive, and achieve a good result.
  6. Prioritise punctuality. Encourage everyone in the office to get into the habit of being punctual to meetings. If team members are waiting five or 10 minutes for tardy colleagues, that wasted time can certainly add up over the course of a day or a week. If everyone makes an effort to get to meetings on time, your overall productivity will be much higher.