Making the Most of Meetings

In most offices, a day with just two 30-minute meetings is considered a day uninterrupted. But more likely, your meetings take up about two hours – that’s 25 percent of your workday. Now, include the time you spend preparing for meetings and getting back to the grind afterwards, and think about your hourly billing rate. The amount of time and money spent on meetings quickly adds up, and if your meetings aren’t productive, that’s a lot of wasted resources.

Collaboration is important in most work environments, so you probably can’t cut out meetings entirely. But once you’ve determined that a meeting is essential, you need to strategically plan how to get the most of every minute. Here are five ways to make your meetings quick and effective:

Bring an agenda – and not the spiral bound kind. Don’t use your meeting just to put more meetings in your calendar. Instead, have an agenda that clearly outlines all goals that you hope to achieve by the time you return to your desk. Circulate the plan ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect, and once you’re gathered, stick to the outline – and the timeline. By requiring an agenda, you’re likely to cut down meetings just because many people won’t take the time to create one.

Be exclusive. This isn’t the playground at recess – you don’t have to include everyone. Make sure that every participant needs to be in the meeting, and then ask yourself whether they all need to be there for the duration. If not, begin with the items that apply to everyone, and release people as you narrow the focus. This saves time and prevents wandering minds since the content will matter to everyone in the room.

Cut yourself off. Plan to finish your meetings ten minutes before they’re scheduled to end. Even if you don’t wrap up with time to spare, you’ll be less likely to run over time. And when you do finish early, the cushion time between meetings will be much appreciated.

Step away from the phone. When you have to be in a meeting, be there. I mean completely there. If the previous three tips have been followed, you can assume your presence in the room is essential. So turn off your phone, and leave your email alone. By focusing on the meeting, you avoid repetition and make the time more productive.

WWW. This isn’t an unfinished hyperlink. It stands for “who, what and when,” and you shouldn’t leave any meeting without it. Everyone in attendance should have no doubt about who is going to do what task by when. Designate one person who’s in charge of delegating action items and make sure your team knows what’s expected of them.

Meetings are here to stay, so learn to make them work in your favor. You may walk away with fresh ideas or new updates that you didn’t know about, and that’s not something to dread. Instead of groaning about the reality, make meetings shorter and more productive, and soon you’ll find that they’re not so bad after all.

This article originally appeared on smallbizdaily.com