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work meetingThis may not surprise you, but work’s biggest time waster is almost definitely… MEETINGS.

They are dreaded by managers and their teams alike, and they almost always outstay their welcome.

An estimated 40 million meetings take place in the US every morning. I’m sure any of us who have sat through such meetings can testify that – more often than not – the meeting is ineffective and time is wasted.

So when it’s up to you to hold a meeting with others in your organization, it’s essential you don’t add to the problem, but rather put time and energy into setting it up right, ensuring the meeting delivers value and an identifiable outcome.

But how do you do that?!

I’ve heard of managers holding meetings where everyone was to stand the entire time, keeping things brief. It’s an interesting idea – but no matter what you do, sticking to a strategic meeting plan and schedule is the key to success.

Here are 5 simple meeting steps to follow to make sure you’re not wasting anyone’s time.

  1. Prepare
    Clarify the purpose of the meeting and have an objective. If you won’t be the one running the actual meeting, make sure you identify who is and make them part of the process. Develop a doable agenda, resisting the temptation to pack your meeting with things that don’t have any urgency. Select a time, meeting place and eventual outcome of what you want from the meeting. Then distribute the agenda and/or any pre-work so others can be prepared, too.
  2. Begin
    Start the meeting ON TIME! Those running late will get the picture quickly. Reward promptness by sharing the key information at the beginning of the meeting. Review the purpose of the meeting with the group and introduce any new guests. Then review ground rules and clarify roles if needed.
  3. Conduct
    Address one topic at a time while maintaining the focus and pace of the overall discussion. It’s important to manage discussions so that you keep the meeting moving forward without being rude. Often you can do this by saying something like “thanks for that idea or thought, I’m writing that down to discuss more fully at our next meeting,” or “this is some good dialogue, do you think we can continue this conversation offline after this meeting?” Make sure you have someone record the minutes for reference.
  4. End
    This is when you find out if you achieved the purpose of your meeting. Publicly summarize decisions and follow-up actions regarding who is responsible to complete tasks. Then develop the agenda of topics for the next meeting and thank everyone for their time and input. And most importantly – end on TIME! If you want collective success, it’s all about respecting each other and the workloads each carries.
  5. Follow-up
    Distribute meeting minutes promptly, file agendas, notes and other documentation, upon which everyone should complete follow-up actions.

It’s so easy to waste time with meetings because we do want to create dialogue and discussions in order to move projects and the organization forward. But the key is realizing how to manage those discussions and stick to the schedule for the betterment of the meeting, the individuals, and the organization.