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Last Updated on June 26, 2019

12 Secrets To a Super Productive Meeting You Should Know

12 Secrets To a Super Productive Meeting You Should Know

In my forty years of work, I always complained about long, boring and unproductive meetings, so join the club! Yes, old style meetings have negative effects on morale, productivity and motivation.[1]

“He (Warren Buffett) doesn’t let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings.”– Bill Gates

So, why can’t meetings be shorter, more productive and even, dare I say it, fun?

The good news is that many companies are now leading the way in managing their meetings.

Here are 12 secrets to a productive meeting. If you are a manager or team leader, you may want to implement these. If you are a member of a team, you can always make suggestions so that meetings really can become super productive.

1. Time Is Not the Real Issue

Most people complain that they have not enough time and meetings can rob them of this precious commodity. Another way of looking at it is to simply concentrate on the energy levels you have.

Plan in breaks so that productivity levels are kept at the maximum.

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“Manage your energy, not your time.” – Tony Schwartz

2. Make Meetings Shorter

Setting a time limit of 10 or 15 minutes can really help. Some managers actually get a timer so that it goes off when the meeting is finished. It is no accident that TED talks have a maximum limit of 18 minutes.

The reason is that all the research shows that our attention span goes into a progressive decline, if meetings or talks last longer. Studies done at Texas Christian University show that students remember more information after shorter classes.[2]

3. Plan Meetings Only When Needed

Most companies have a set time and day for meetings. This means that productivity is slowed down, just because of a set schedule.

It is much better to meet when things need to get done, decisions made and action points finalized.

4. Meet Standing up or Somewhere Else

A very interesting research shows that sitting down increases the territorial issues.[3]

People feel comfortable and also want to assert their position or authority. This is not so easily done when standing up.

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Participants feel less at ease and want to get things done more quickly. There are other innovative ways of having meetings.

“But wherever you are, be innovative with your space. Try a stand-up meeting, or leave the desks and head to the park. Get out of your everyday environment.”- Richard Branson

5. Plan the Agenda in Advance

A short meeting still needs an agenda and this should be circulated before the meeting if possible. It helps people to prepare and focus on the issues that needs to be discussed.

Here’s How to Construct a Killer Meeting Agenda That is Simple and Effective.

6. Create a Smartphone Free Zone

Ask people about their colleagues using smartphones or tablets during meetings. The majority resents this as it shows a lack of respect and also displays that full participation is patchy or absent.[4]

It is much better to make the meeting area a smart phone free zone and encourage people to leave phones outside in a basket, with post its attached. The White House is already doing this.

7. Limit the Number of Attendees

This is one of the recommendations mentioned in Kristen Gil’s post, ‘Start-Up Speed’.[5] She is VP of Business Operations at Google.

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If you limit the attendees to those directly involved in a project or procedure, it leaves the others more time to get on with their work.

8. Run the Meeting like a Clockwork

Chairing a meeting is a really skilful task. Ideally, you need to do some or all of the following:

  • State the purpose of the meeting, e.g. – “We are meeting today to finalize the auditors’ visit”.
  • Keep off-topic interventions off the agenda. They can be put in the ‘parking lot’ if there is time at the end.
  • Encourage everybody to pitch in.
  • Discourage the show-offs.
  • Stick to the time allocated.

9. Take Away Action Points

The person running the meeting has to keep the whole thing on track, within the short time span.

In practice, this means that at the end, people have a list of action points and that these are tagged to the DRI (Directly Responsible Individual).[6]

10. Allow Transit Time

Make sure that enough time is programmed in before the meeting so that people can actually get there on time.

Allowing ten minutes before and after other engagements helps people to get their act together and plan their absence, even though it is a very short one.

A record is kept of the decisions and these can be emailed as reminders to all participants.

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11. Outline Outcomes and Plan for the Next Meeting

Assuming that the action points will produce the necessary results, it is always a good idea to outline what the next meeting should cover.

This does not need to be set in stone but should fit in with the business and marketing plans. It also helps to highlight long term objectives.

12. Encourage Meeting Skills Training

Delegating some meeting tasks both before and during the meeting is a great way to approach meeting skills training.

Decide who will be responsible for noting down action points, timing, and agendas. This can be done in rotation so that you will still have overall responsibility for running the meeting. To help you write meeting minutes effectively, take a look at these tips: How to Write Great Meeting Minutes So Nothing Gets Lost in Translation

More About Productivity At Work

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Guardian: Bored meetings
[2] Carmine Gallo: The Science Behind TED’s 18-Minute Rule
[3] SAGE Publications: Standing up gets groups more fired up for team work
[4] Forbes: Why Successful People Never Bring Smartphones Into Meetings
[5] Think with Google: Start-Up Speed
[6] The Muse: Links We Love: Mastering the Art of the Meeting

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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