On her way from her ten o'clock to her eleven, Lisa stopped by Mike's office to use his phone to check her messages. After the sixth message, she hung up — there were too many, and she couldn't do anything about them until 5 PM anyway. She wondered how she could ever get anything done.
Lisa is caught in meeting madness. Every day, her backlog of To-Do's builds, as she sits in one meeting after another. To do any work at all, she has to start before 6 AM, or stay until 8 PM. Neither is possible.
Lisa isn't the source of the problem — many of her meetings are mandatory. Rather, the problem is organizational. Many of us have days packed full of meetings, including the working lunch, the power breakfast — even the working dinner.
If you lead an organization, and people are mired in meeting madness, you can end it. Here are a few tips that can free everyone to finally get some work done.
- Focus the agenda
- Make sure that every invitee has a keen interest in every agenda item. Items that interest only some of the attendees belong in another meeting. Move FYIs to email.
- Start on time
- If you lead an organization,
and people are mired
in meeting madness,
you can end it
- If some people are late, cancel immediately. Waiting around for someone wastes everyone's time, and if you can start without someone, why were they invited in the first place?
- Start at ten past the hour — or later
- For some reason, we're unable to end meetings at ten minutes before the hour, but if we start at ten past, everything somehow gets done. Agreeing to start all meetings at ten past (or later) gives everyone a chance to check messages, make phone calls, or just take a break. Start short meetings even later.
- Have enough conference rooms
- If conference rooms are scarce, people schedule weekly meetings just to hold onto their conference rooms. Make sure that there are so many conference rooms that one or two good ones are always available. You'll make up for remodeling costs by eliminating meetings.
- Eliminate lunch meetings
- People need lunch hours. Most of us are more productive if we've had a decent break. Working through lunch is neither work nor lunch.
- Split long meetings
- If you expect a meeting to run long, split it into two, separated by a long break, to give people a chance to deal with accumulating To-Do's. Tying people up for too long is an expensive hindrance to those who need their attention.
We have so many meetings, in part, because people are hard to find. And they're hard to find, in part, because we have so many meetings. To end this cycle, don't convene a meeting to discuss it. Just end it. Top Next Issue
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For other tips for making meetings more effective, see "First Aid for Painful Meetings," Point Lookout for October 24, 2001.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- First Aid for Painful Meetings
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a long, painful affair and finishing early. If you're the meeting organizer, develop and manage the
agenda for maximum effectiveness.
- Time Management in a Hurry
- Many of us own books on time management. Here are five tips on time management for those of us who don't
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III of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.
- What Measurements Work Well?
- To manage well, we need to know where we are, where we would like to be, and what we need to do to get
there. Measurement can help us achieve our goals, by telling us where we are and how much progress we're
making. But some things aren't measurable, and some measurement methods yield misleading results. How
can we use measurement effectively?
- Solutions as Found Art
- Examining the most innovative solutions we've developed for difficult problems, we often find that they
aren't purely new. Many contain pieces of familiar ideas and techniques combined together in new ways.
Accepting this as a starting point can change our approach to problem solving.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
- And on March 6: A Pain Scale for Meetings
- Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
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