Business Advice Blog

Save Time with Fewer (and More Productive) Meetings

 

For most companies, there’s no way around having meetings as a way to conduct day-to-day business. At the same time, it’s hard to find any CEO or business owner who doesn’t experience frustration at having to participate in so many meetings, or who feels stymied by the lack of concrete results that come from these meetings.

The problem becomes even more deplorable when you think about the time lost in this particular activity. Whether it involves a small group of your senior executive team or a company-wide gathering, there’s just no excuse for taking up precious minutes or hours and having little to show for it.

Here are tips for maximizing the value of the meetings you request and/or participate in. (First hint: Reduce the number of meetings you take part in on a regular basis.)

Be sure there’s an agenda. Just because a once-a-week meeting pops up on your calendar doesn’t mean you should attend if nothing pressing is being addressed. Ask the person organizing the event to provide a meeting agenda beforehand, complete with any materials needed to review in advance and a time-limit attached to each agenda item. This way, you can determine whether or not your presence is absolutely necessary.

Don’t invite anyone who doesn’t need to attend. When individuals attend with no real stake in the matter at hand, a significant amount of time can be squandered when these people choose to weigh in at length. Meeting organizers should invite only those people who can provide helpful input and move the process forward.

Appoint a timekeeper. How often does a meeting participant share his or her input at such length that a 30-minute meeting drags on for another half-hour or longer? It’s understandable. People want to share their insights and knowledge (or, sometimes, a simple opinion), but allowing them to speak indefinitely eats up time better used elsewhere. One simple solution is appointing a meeting participant to act as timekeeper. This person pays close attention to the time specified for each agenda item; when that time expires, his or her job is to politely cut off conversation (offering alternative options for further discussion) and keep things moving forward.

Explore different types of meetings. There’s no law stating that every meeting must take place in the company’s conference room. Look at different venues for a meeting setting, such as a brisk walk outside. “Not only will a bit of fresh air and sunshine wake up colleagues and get the blood flowing, but it will also stimulate creative thinking,” notes Small Business Trends.

Determine a “no device in meetings” rule. By now, it’s a fact of life that employees (and executives) are closely attached to their mobile devices. But allowing the use of devices in a meeting only encourages participants to become distracted and not contribute to the topics under discussion. Establish guidelines under which it’s permissible (or not) to text, check emails or otherwise look at devices during a meeting. A three-minute break to check for messages during a long meeting might be a viable solution.

As you establish new policies or guidelines for conducting meetings in your organization, outline your proposals in a way that clearly is advantageous to all involved. “The key is to frame your advocacy not as purely self-interested (“I don’t have time for this nonsense”), but instead as a manifestation of your commitment to the company and your shared mission,” states Harvard Business Review. For most people, “that’s a hard message to resist.”

Want to learn more about the effective use of your time? Sign up for this free webinar presented by time-management expert Steve Davies, “Using a To Don’t List to Manage Time.”

 

Differentiating Between “Urgent” and “Important” Saves You Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urgent? Or important? Take a moment to look back on what you did today in your role as business owner or CEO. How much time was spent reacting to an urgent issue or crisis someone brought to you, which (according to them) demanded an immediate response? Alternatively, how much time did you spend working on an important project or strategic initiative that would move your company forward?

A business leader’s honest answer might be that he or she used up too much of their precious time putting out fires that, in the long run, have little or no bearing on the company’s strategic goals. The problem is, too many leaders see this as an essential part of their job. They assume that whatever they do during the work-day (and, often, well beyond the work-day) is, in and of itself, “important” because they’re doing it.

But as leadership and management experts from Stephen Covey to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower can attest, there’s a huge difference between “urgent” and “important.” Knowing that difference, and acting on it, can save you a great deal of time.

Adding Value

What constitutes an “urgent” situation? In many cases, urgency involves the phone ringing in your hand or a new text or email message that demands your attention. But after taking that call or responding to that text message, what do you have to show for the time spent? Often, very little of value has resulted from that particular activity.

Of course, “urgent” can also mean attending to tasks with a hard deadline. And the sense of urgency increases the closer you get to the deadline.

“Important” actions, on the other hand, rarely come across as time-sensitive. These activities relate to the company’s well-being and long-term growth—activities that, because they don’t appear urgent, can be put off time and again.

As Entrepreneur notes, important tasks “are those that, once done, will add significant value to your organization.” What have you done today to add value to your business and move things forward?

Get Your Team Involved

Quadrant 2 of Covey’s time-management matrix is a useful guide to what’s “important, but not urgent.” In a past TAB Blog post, we offered this approach to determining what’s of most importance and value to your company:

• Put your important tasks and projects on a spreadsheet.
• Distribute the spreadsheet to your leadership team and ask each of them to prioritize. (Don’t use a simple “rank 1 to 5” approach. Instead, give each executive 100 total votes to
allocate across the tasks as they see fit.)
• Collect and tally the results.

With this approach, a handful of priorities will rank significantly higher than the rest. This provides both business leaders and their teams a distinctive set of Quadrant 2 activities to focus on.

Delegate!

By and large, the “urgent” tasks coming across your desk every day can be handled by others on your team. Hard as it may be for some business and entrepreneurs-turned-CEOs, it’s vital to that you delegate these tasks as much as possible. Not only will this result in significant time savings for you, it also helps build confidence in your team and in its problem-solving capabilities. This way, when the next “urgent” crisis arises, they may elect to address it themselves, without pestering you.

Differentiating between “urgent” and “important” may, at times, feel like a subjective process. Generally speaking, however, most business leaders know in their gut that what they’re doing at any given moment falls into one or the other category. Taking steps to focus on what’s genuinely important will prove to be the most beneficial to your organization.

How do you compare to other business leaders when it comes to productivity and time management? View our latest infographic from the TAB Business Pulse Survey on Productivity.