How many hours do you spend in meetings, in a typical week? If you include the ‘proper’ scheduled meetings (including 1:1’s), and take a guess at the impromptu ‘Have you got a minute?’ conversations that always take longer than that, it probably adds up to a sizeable chunk of your working week. And despite technology promising fewer meetings, for most there’s no sign of that anytime soon.

Badly organised meetings can leave you despairing with the lack of progress, increasingly frustrated by all the ‘real work’ not started, and can even leave you wondering ‘what am I doing here?’ on occasions.

And yet it doesn’t have to be like that – a well planned meeting saves time, gets to the ‘heart of the matter’ to solve problems, and reaches decisions fast.

Here are Four Pointers to bear in mind as you prepare for meetings that’ll help you squeeze the most from the time you give.

 Challenge Whether A Meeting Is Necessary

Don’t just go to meetings out of habit or because you’re invited - only go if you know it’s going to be either really useful to you, or if you’re going to be really useful to others by being there.

The expression ‘time’s money’ is very true when you think of time spent in meetings – they can be very expensive or a great investment.

So do you really need to be there, all the time? Would it be possible for one of your direct reports (if you have a team) to represent you?

Is there some other way, perhaps using technology, to cover the information more quickly?

What outputs are expected? If it isn’t clear, with an agenda, why is there a meeting anyway?

 Be ‘On Time’

A prompt start shows you value and respect other people’s time. If you become known for arriving at, and starting the meetings you run, on time, it’ll encourage everybody to be there too. Don’t stop the meeting to bring late comers up to speed.

You may have back to back meetings so a late start or over-running can make you late for your next appointment, disrupting the whole day. If necessary, you may have to leave early to get to your next meeting so make sure the Chair knows this, so your contribution has been made by then.

Be realistic about how long it can take to get to the meeting venue – waiting for lifts, walking between buildings, collecting a coffee etc. can introduce surprising delays.

And if it’s a meeting you’re running – set a Finish time too. This helps others to plan their day around it.

 A Little Personal Organisation Can Go A Long Way…

For regular meetings (for example, with your team, a particular supplier, a project team) create a file folder for each. Relevant items that crop up between meetings can be added to the file so you remember to raise them or add them to the agenda. This avoids a last minute flurry searching for relevant information – you can just grab the folder and go.

Even a little preparation time will significantly improve your impact, even for an informal 1:1 with your Manager or a Colleague. Demonstrating obvious thought and preparation creates a great impression, speeds up the dialogue and increases the chance of a successful result for you both.

 Follow Through

Become known for doing what you’ll say you’ll do in good time for the review at the next meeting. And if you realise you’ll struggle to complete your action on time, make sure those affected know in good time.

If it’s your meeting, write up the actions agreed (just a simple ‘Who Does What When’ is fine) and circulate with the dates, location and venue of the next meeting quickly. People will know there is no escaping their commitments if it’s recorded and will be reviewed.

Meetings can seem to dominate our working lives, but you can really turn them round to be extremely effective investments of your time, whether you’re there as Chair or Participant.

Author's Bio: 

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About Rosie Gray;
Rosie Gray specialises in helping her Clients master Time & Pressure, to increase Personal Productivity. As a result, they feel less overwhelmed, back in control & achieve much more of what really matters. So if you never seem to reach the end of your ‘to do’ list, return every phone call & even sacrifice personal time to catch up, download your free copy of her e-book ‘Seize Back Your Time!’