Time Management

Be Better at Meetings: My Favorite Tips

Want to get better at hosting meetings and driving more engagement? Try some of these ideas:

 

PREPARE

Determine the length.  Ask yourself: is this a Strategy or Operational meeting? Do we need to troubleshoot an issue, or do we need to check-in, get on the same page and create next steps? An operational meeting should be no more than an hour - to the point, confirm responsibilities, create next steps and finish. Strategic meetings need more time (1-2 hours) because people need to actively think, listen, reflect, manage disagreements, and build consensus.

Get the right people in the room.  Determine who needs to be there. Decide what action needs to happen as a result of the meeting, then don't hold the meeting unless the right people are in the room.

Develop noun-focused outcomes. Instead of verb-focused outcomes like,

  • "We will brainstorm solutions to increasing cross-team communication."

Try focusing on an output you will have by the end of the meeting:

  • "We have a list of 5 potential solutions by the end of the meeting."

By focusing on a tangible output, it becomes easier for all to measure progress toward the goal during the meeting.

Create the agenda.  Smaller is better. Once you have determined the meeting outcome, develop a pathway of people and discussions that will get you there. Organize possible agenda items by “Must Haves” and “Nice to Haves”. Try getting your agenda down to 1 or 2 items for some meetings. This will keep conversations on track and on time. If there is extra time, throw in a “Nice to Have”, or finish the meeting early. Participants will thank you for it and look forward to future meetings.

Define roles.

  • Who will get the video conference working and arrive 15 minutes early?
  • Who will take minutes and send them out after?
  • Who will facilitate and have authority from the group to politely interrupt conversations when things get off track? How can you ensure they get the buy-in from others (senior management) to do so?
  • Who will manage the video conference system, chat windows, and questions and input from remote colleagues?
  • Who will report out on next steps and follow-up actions, and who will follow-up with those people?

ADDITIONAL TIPS: 

  • Depending on the size of your team, the same person may have multiple roles in the meeting. However, it is unreasonable to expect the project manager, meeting leader or facilitator to do all of these well. The more roles you can divvy up to other meeting participants, the more engagement you will get in the meeting.
  • What roles can you assign remote colleagues to keep them engaged?
  • What roles can you rotate weekly/monthly so that the same person isn’t always taking minutes or setting up technology?

 

DURING

Facilitator, manage the meeting!

  • Confirm the ground rules (next week I will post an article, “Create Groundbreaking Ground Rules for Meetings.” Click below to get notified when this article is posted.
  • Get the energy up.  Do a lightning round of quick wins/progress (1 minute per person).
  • Create a Parking Lot or a written list (whiteboard is great for this) of discussion topics that take the agenda off track. These are topics that are important to follow-up on either outside of the meeting or at another meeting. 
  • Stick to the time you set.  Do NOT go over, this creates lowered engagement and trust for future meetings. If anything finish early to give people back their time for mingling, additional conversations, or getting back to their work. 
  • Check-in with remote colleagues frequently.  Ask remote colleagues for their input and questions before asking people in the room. Remind participants to be mindful of remote colleagues, remembering that microphones usually pick up shuffling papers and side conversations.

 

AFTER

  • Celebrate!  You ran a successful meeting!
  • Send out the minutes and next-steps (designated role person will do this). 
  • Document lessons learned.  Collect input from participants. What went well? Document it. What could be tweaked for next time? Document it.

 

TO GET MORE...

Check out these additional resources for more tips on running effective meetings:

 

Cut out some chaos

Let's face it, we all have chaos at the office. Not enough hours in the day, too many priorities, never ending to-do lists, and colleagues and clients who don't respect your time.

The Bad News:

We can't control external factors. People knocking on our door, asking questions they can solve on their own, sending emails that are not relevant to us or are not clear... the list will go on for quite a while. You can't control other people's behaviors, language, and attitude. 

BUT the Good News is:

You can control your own chaos. Here are is a 10 step process to:

  • Help you create structure.

  • Set boundaries to manage your time better.

  • Protect yourself from the chaos that surrounds you.

Take the time to write down your responses to these questions. Reflect and decide is there anything you would reprioritize or change about how you manage your workload?

1. Imagine your IDEAL DAY.

2. Okay, NOW imagine your ideal WORK day!

Really! If you could be working on anything, what would it be and how much time would it take you to accomplish? Think BIG. This is an exercise in getting out of your known reality.

3. If you only had 2 hours a day to spend on work, what would you do? 

4. If you only had 2 hours a week to spend on work, what would you do?

5. If you had to remove 4 out of 5 of your most time consuming activities what would they be and why?

6. What are 3 activities that you do to “fill” time and make you feel AS THOUGH you are being productive?

7. Out of your colleagues and supervisors, who are the 3 people who contribute the MOST to you achieving your goals? Are you spending at least 70% of your time with them?

8. Out of your clients/vendors/customers who are the top 3 that contribute to MOST of your frustration? Are you able to reset expectations with these partners or cut them out?

9. If there is only ONE thing you will accomplish today, what would give you the MOST satisfaction?

10. Based on your responses create 1 or 2 goals for yourself. Ensure your goals are: 1) actionable; 2) have a deadline; and 3) are motivating to you. 

Now, get started on creating your most productive, successful day!

Increase Your Concentration

If you find concentrating hard, try these tips:

CLEAR EVERYTHING

  • Clear your desk.
  • Turn off email/phone ringer/alerts/texts.

  • Put on your headphones. Even if you don’t listen to music, you will prevent [most] people from approaching you.

  • If someone comes over, know what you will say: “Hi Joe, I am heads down working on an urgent deadline right now [this may or may not be true]. Can we have this discussion in 2 minutes or less? Or, how about sending me an email with the request and deadline and I will respond by 3 pm today.”

  • Set a timer (20-30 mins) to focus without distractions.

DO IT

  • Do the task.

  • If you can concentrate longer than the time, keep going as long as it doesn’t take up time you scheduled for another task.

  • Once you find yourself getting distracted, STOP and refresh.

EVALUATE & ASK

  • Did you concentrate for the whole time? If not, what distracted you? How can you prevent that next time? Do you need to set smaller amounts of time to concentrate for, or maybe find a quieter less distracting space to work in?

  • How far did you get? Determine what of the task is left to do. Decide if you can take a short break and continue working or if you need to revise your schedule.

REWARD!

  • Figure out your reward system: do you take a 10 min break, watch hilarious cat YouTube videos, check your email, go for a walk, call a friend…?

  • Reward yourself and/or take a break.

  • Start the cycle over again.

Multi-tasking: A necessary evil or just plain evil?

We all do it, and sometimes even job descriptions or interviewers say we should be awesome at this in order to succeed in the job. During my next interview I will remind those interviewers that multitasking reduces task efficiency by 60%, reduces IQ by 10 points, and damages working relationships (How and Why Not to Multitask, Harvard Business Review).

But, if you have to do it, here are some DOs and DON’Ts:

  • DO batch similar tasks together and complete them using a streamlined process or template. Then before finalizing make small customizations for each. Ie. You have to crank out 10 prospect emails to various clients. Create a template and then customize. Limit your customization to 5-7 minutes per client.

  • DO schedule time in your day to scan emails in your Inbox. Respond to any that will take less than 3 minutes of your time. This usually entails “Yes/No” responses or forwarding onto someone else. For anything else, defer it and block out the task in your calendar.

  • DON’T multitask when you are speaking with someone. This means one-on-one conversations, phone calls, and meetings. If you can’t focus on what they are saying kindly request that you reschedule or reconvene at a time when you can focus. Otherwise you are damaging your credibility and relationship.

  • DON’T multitask with items that you have identified as urgent or important (I will be posting a follow-up blog on tips for prioritization and concentration next week).

  • DON’T multitask with items that require creative thought, brainstorming, research, strategic or deep thinking.