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12 Secrets To a Super Productive Meeting You Should Know

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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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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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