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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 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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