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Published on August 26, 2019

How to Kill Endless Meetings and Stay Productive

How to Kill Endless Meetings and Stay Productive

We’re in the middle of a meeting epidemic. Executives now spend an average of 23 hours a week in meetings, with 71 percent reporting that those meetings are generally unproductive and inefficient.[1]

Despite their drawbacks, meetings remain an integral part of any modern workplace. The rise of office silos and remote workers make regular check-ins an absolute must for keeping everyone on the same page. Meetings aren’t going away anytime soon, so how can we work to cut down on their time and productivity drains?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. While it’s impossible to take one simple step to eliminate meeting waste, you can start considering your meetings not as routines, but as investments. Instead of regularly planning and attending meetings thoughtlessly, think beforehand about how you can get the greatest ROI on the time you spend effectively meeting with others.

If you’re looking to put an end to endless meetings and start having productive meetings in your workplace, here are a few places to start:

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1. Optimize Your Meetings in Advance

The single biggest cause of meeting overload isn’t ingrained habits or bad office policy; it’s bad meetings. Most meetings begin without any agenda to speak of, and directionless meetings are hardly meetings at all.

A meeting that accomplishes nothing is bound to simply lead to more meetings down the line. You can put an end to this cycle by scheduling valuable, productive meetings for your team.

Start by focusing on the purpose of a meeting. Every meeting you have should be necessary for your success, as well as your business’s and employees’ success. Moreover, meetings that cover too many topics or areas are likely to go over their planned time and alienate participants.

Remember, productive meetings only last as long as they absolutely need to. To train yourself to shorten meetings, you can use tools like “speedy meetings” if you learn more about google calendar. This allows you to automatically shorten your scheduled meetings by five minutes so you have time to get things done in between meetings.

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2. Make Your Meetings Democratic

Who schedules meetings in an office? Generally, executives and upper management are the ones who call meetings and set their agendas. While it’s important for those in charge to get their directives across to other employees, meetings that come directly from above aren’t going to be very engaging for everyone else.

Instead, try planning some meetings from the ground up. Deciding on a direction or general topic for a meeting before asking for concerns or questions from your employees goes a long way toward keeping people engaged in meetings, and meeting engagement is one of the best ways to keep meetings short but meaningful. Even something simple like an anonymous Google poll can give attendees the freedom to make their voices heard.

3. Invite the Right People

We’ve all been there — sitting in a meeting and silently wondering why we’re even there in the first place. Every minute someone spends in a meeting they don’t belong in is a minute wasted, and it even has the potential to drag down the efficiency of the meeting itself.[2]

One way of figuring out who belongs in a meeting — and who doesn’t — is to go back to the meeting’s focus. With the topic of the meeting in mind, think about who either would directly benefit from hearing that topic discussed or would have something meaningful to add to the discussion.

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Meeting attendance goes both ways, however. If, while deciding on the makeup of your next meeting, you leave out someone who should’ve been there, a significant amount of time could be wasted trying to catch that person up.

Make sure to think a bit outside the box when it comes to who really belongs in a meeting. If your design team is meeting, for example, it would probably be best to have a product manager and software engineer sit in to make sure that everything discussed is in line with other teams’ goals, too. Trends seem to support this theory.[3] The right guest list for a meeting now could save several future meetings later.

4. Use Digital Tools Instead

Technology like video conferencing has made meetings easier than ever, regardless of where participants are or what they’re doing. The proliferation of technology has also produced a new wave of apps that make it increasingly possible to drastically cut down on the number of meetings in your office.

Communication platforms like Slack let you create separate channels for people to chat. For some of your meetings, consider creating a dedicated Slack channel for that topic instead of hosting an in-person meeting. Ask the relevant questions you want answered, or start a discussion. Watch as a digital meeting takes place without anyone needing to fully stop working.

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Other collaboration apps like Trello let everyone see exactly what everyone else is working on, eliminating the need for constant check-in meetings. If there’s a certain type of meeting you’re looking to cut down on, search for software that can transfer the function of that meeting to a digital space.

Bad meetings are eating away at company revenue the world over, so it’s important to do what you can to get your office’s meeting schedule under control. By thinking about meetings as assets for your business, you can make the most of one of corporate America’s favorite pastimes.

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Featured photo credit: Maranda Vandergriff via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: Stop the Meeting Madness
[2] Harvard Business Review: How Working Parents Can Get the Most Out of Calendar Apps
[3] Hotjar: CX trends for 2019

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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