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How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates)

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How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates)

All meetings have a purpose. Some meetings are brainstorming sessions. Other meetings are strategy sessions to achieve a particular goal. Some meetings are debriefs from still other meetings. Whether you are gathering to fill in your employees on the stunning third-quarter results or to practice a pitch for a new client, your meeting will run more smoothly, efficiently, and productively with a meticulously crafted meeting agenda.

In this article, you will learn how to create an effective meeting agenda and host productive meetings.

The Importance of a Meeting Agenda

A Meeting Without an Agenda Is like a Road Trip Without an Itinerary

As a busy professional, you lose patience when you feel your valuable time is being wasted. This happens more often than you may realize. For many executives, meetings take up two of the five days of the workweek.

All the more reason to make sure that every meeting is essential. Ask first if the topics can’t be covered another way — through email, perhaps, or via a phone call with the key players. If you determine that a face-to-face meeting is imperative, write a meeting agenda to outline the discussion points, and assign times for each speaker.

You know the frustration you feel when a meeting falls ten minutes behind schedule while everyone politely waits for Susan to finish gushing about her trip to Bermuda? Meeting agendas act as gentle reminders to everyone assembled that time is valuable and to please stay on point.

Well-Crafted Agendas Are Inclusive

Scheduling a staff meeting signals to coworkers that their input is needed, or that assignments need to be made. When you follow up the meeting invitation with a detailed agenda, participants know to prepare. Workers actually say they enjoy participating in meetings if there is a clear objective and pertinent information is shared.

Smart Meeting Agendas Are Goal-Oriented

Meeting agendas set all topics to be covered. Choose different speakers for each topic, and ideally, allot times for each speaker. If it’s a brainstorming session, consider an agenda that lists expected outcomes. For example: “Outline the plan for developing our mentoring program; set timelines; make staff assignments.”

Agendas serve as a guide for the meeting facilitator, keep everyone in sync, and provide a format for the person taking the meeting minutes to follow.

How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda

So, how do you go about crafting this all-important meeting agenda? Apply these 8 useful tips:

1. Solicit Feedback Ahead of Time

Your bosses and colleagues will be more engaged if you ask for their input. Getting their buy-in will make it more likely that they will attend the meeting and champion its outcomes.

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A week before the meeting, make it a point to visit with some of the key players at your company and simply ask, “Would you like to include anything on the meeting agenda?”

2. Follow Proper Meeting Agenda Etiquette

After you’ve drafted the agenda, be sure to run it by your supervisor, your supervisor’s boss, and each person cited on the agenda. Never include a speaker on the agenda without first taking this precaution. Avoid listing workers who are out of town or attending other meetings.

If the key player on a particular piece of business is away, ask another staffer to fill in for her. As a courtesy, be sure to let them both know you have taken this step.

Once the meeting agenda is approved and the speakers are set, email the agenda to all meeting attendees in advance. Take care to get RSVPs to the meeting. You want to avoid any surprises.

3. Respect the Timeline

If you have reserved the office conference room for an hour, that is the longest your meeting should last.

At some companies, other groups will have reserved the conference room directly after your group leaves. So ideally, draft your meeting agenda so that your team will have left the room at least five minutes before the next meeting starts.

4. Find an Organizing Principle for the Meeting Agenda

Streamline your agenda so that the attendees will leave having a clear sense of the outcomes. You may want to prioritize, listing the most important projects that must be discussed first.

Sometimes, it makes sense to organize these projects by their deadlines. Other times, it makes sense to list these projects by their importance to the firm.

5. Consider the Number of People Who Should Report

Five minutes of uninterrupted time is often long enough for an update on a particular meeting. It’s the interruptions that add time!

If your senior V.P. of marketing tends to get flustered or veer off track when interrupted, consider a meeting agenda that leaves Q&A for the last ten minutes of the meeting. Then, be sure to enforce it. You can gently interrupt the interrupter and say, “As you know, Paul, we’ve left time at the end for questions. Right now, let’s let Rick finish his update.”

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6. Pay Attention to the Order of the Speakers

In some companies, senior management speaks first. In other companies, junior associates do. When figuring out the speaker order, be sure it aligns with your company’s culture.

That said, never include anyone on a meeting agenda who does not need to report. Doing so will just make the meeting run long. When listing speakers on the agenda, deciding whether to include their titles will again depend on your company’s culture.

In a more casual environment, you might just list first names. In a more formal environment, you might list first and last names and include titles.

7. Format Meeting Agendas in the Same Way

A meeting agenda should be made on the organization’s letterhead — or at a minimum, include the company logo. Place the title for the meeting and the date at the top of the agenda, along with the meeting’s projected start and end time.

A meeting agenda should be in outline format in a readable type size. Find a clean design for the agenda, and use it each time for consistency. The font should be easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Geneva or Arial. If a template already exists for meeting agendas, simply use that. If one does not exist, create one. (See the next section)

8. Include a List of Documents Needed for the Meeting

Oftentimes in a meeting, the group will be asked to react to a report or proposal, and it is helpful to list these documents at the bottom of the agenda.

Additionally, it will save time if you send the documents together in advance of the meeting so everyone attending will have time to review them.

If laptops are required, be sure to let attendees know in advance.

Meeting Agenda Templates

As long as there have been meetings, there have been meeting agendas. So chances are, someone in your company knows of a clean, easy-to-read meeting agenda template that you can use. But in not, consider one of these:

Agenda Template #1 – Planning

Mentor Program Planning Meeting Agenda

Location: First-floor Conference Room

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Date: November 18, 2019

Time: 1-2:30 p.m. ET

Agenda

  1. Background on Purpose of a Mentor Program, Cheryl Smith, Director, Human Resources (1-1:15 p.m.)
    • a. Evidence regarding employee engagement
    • b. Need to groom rising stars
  2. Recruitment of Mentors/Mentees, Max Marcus, Associate Director, HR (1:15-1:35 p.m.)
    • a. Other corporate models
    • b. Brainstorm criteria
  3. Mentor Program Requirements, Seth Walsh, HR Intern (1:35-1:55 p.m.)
    • a. Pros and cons of structured mentor meetings
    • b. Brainstorm requirements
  4. Implementation, Cheryl Smith (1:55-2:20 p.m.)
    • a. Timeframe for department heads to identify participants
    • b. Pilot program rollout
      • i. 1st participant training session
      • ii. pilot program rollout
      • iii. quarterly debriefs
    • c. Program evaluation
  5. Next Steps, Max Marcus (2:20-2:25 p.m.)

Agenda Template #2 – Information

WXYZ Meeting Agenda

Objective: To create a viable list of businesses to cold call

Meeting Lead: Mary Starsky

Date: November 20, 2019

Location: 16th Floor Conference Room B

Time: 4 p.m.-5 p.m. ET

Call-in Number/Code

Agenda Items

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Introductions 4 p.m.-4:05 p.m.

  1. John Smith—Presenter 4:05 p.m.-4:20 p.m. Companies contacted
  2. Marianne Legit—Presenter 4:20 p.m.-4:35 p.m. Potential leads
  3. Sylvia Stretch—Presenter 4:35 p.m.-4:55 p.m. New canvassing techniques
  4. Q&A [Only if time]

Preparation for Meeting

  • Please read: [List and attach documents]
  • Please bring: [i.e. Laptop, suggestions, supplies]

Agenda Template #3 – Presentation

ZZZ Company Agenda

Date/Start and End Time: Nov. 21, 2019; 9 a.m. ET-10 a.m. ET

Location: Cafeteria, 12th Floor

Meeting called by: Steve Parks

  1. Welcome/Introduction – [Steve Parks, 9 a.m.-9:10 a.m.]
  2. New Product Line Overview – [Paul Aria, 9:10 a.m.-9:20 a.m.]
  3. Demonstrations – [Claire Ringis, 9:30 a.m.-9:40 a.m.]
    • a. Whitening toothpaste
    • b. Toothpaste that strengthens gums
    • c. Toothpaste that fights plaque
  4. Product Marketing – [Steve Parks, 9:40 a.m.-9:50 a.m.]
  5. Discussion and Q & A [9:50 a.m.-9:55 a.m.]
  6. Next Steps – [To be distributed after the meeting]

Bottom Line

When you write the meeting agenda, you control the meeting

Your aim should be to run a tight meeting. An intelligent agenda will help you do this. Leave enough time for discussion, but not too much time. Also, be sure to start your meetings on time.

When you take charge of crafting the meeting agenda, you are directing what course of action needs to be taken. Your ability to draft an effective meeting agenda will increase both meeting and follow-up productivity. These are two extraordinary feats.

Run the tightest meetings at your company, and your team’s performance will soar.

More Tips for Hosting Productive Meetings

Featured photo credit: Štefan Štefančík via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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