There are very few things I hate more than emails but meetings are one of them.
I know we all need to have the occasional meeting to discuss project specifics or brainstorm new ideas — and this really isn’t an issue.
The problem arises when you’re constantly being pulled into countless (and pointless) meetings, where everyone sits around talking about doing stuff but nothing of substance gets agreed or there are no real action points follow.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a few pointers that should hopefully make your meetings more productive, even without your co-workers knowing.
Take meeting notes
Have pen and paper to hand, take notes, but don’t waste your time doodling.
Summarize key points being shared and also write down actions points for yourself.
If you want to go one step further and you’re working remotely, get yourself a whiteboard.
Think of your whiteboard as your safe space — quite literally a blank canvas — where you can jot down your own agenda, ideas, thoughts, and concerns.
My advice would be to write down everything you need to get off your chest once the meeting is called and then use your whiteboard to take notes and write down thoughts as the meeting progresses.
Having a visual representation of your agenda, your talking points, your views, and action points will help you focus during the meeting and should make your thought process a lot smoother so you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time.
Your time is yours
Do you do your best work in the morning or are you considerably more productive at the end of the day?
There’s really no right or wrong answer but it’s important to think about how meetings can impact your workflow and if possible try and make them work around your schedule.
Be open with your team and who knows you may even be surprised by how many people think the same way you do.
If you want to go the extra mile, block out chunks of time in your shared calendar so that colleagues know not to book meetings during those times.
You could even block out specific days so that you only have meetings on the same day or days every week.
Become a problem solver
When a meeting is suggested, assess the need for it.
Think about the issue at hand, what the causes are, what the potential solutions look like, and what key stakeholders should be involved in this process.
Is it actually necessary to set aside a set amount of time to discuss this or could a discussion on Slack or email ultimately resolve the issue?
There’s nothing more frustrating than going into a meeting and realizing that no one’s done the legwork — so don’t be one of those people.
The person who calls the meeting should prepare an agenda — if there isn’t one, ask for one.
Gather your thoughts and think about what key issues you’d like addressed and how.
You can — and should — multitask
My next point is perhaps a little controversial, but I’m a big advocate of doing work in the background while the meeting goes on, if that’s at all possible.
Say you’re joining a weekly team meeting that usually lasts an hour and you have to sit through everyone’s status updates. By all means listen, but also use your time wisely if you’re working remotely and if you can, type away in the background.
You’d be surprised how many emails you can get through or how many proposals you can write while also still listening to what your colleagues are saying and actually taking it in (and it’s sure as hell a lot better than mindlessly scrolling through social media). Just make sure you mute yourself and turn your camera off so as to avoid distracting others.
This isn’t about being dismissive or inconsiderate of others’ time — if anything, it should mean you can actively participate in discussions without losing steam on your other tasks and projects.
If you work from home you already have a huge advantage over your peers working in offices as you’re not restricted to a desk, or a room.
So, why not join a meeting from your garden (if you have one?) or tune in from your sofa?
You can literally use the excuse of the meeting to move around your household and break up the monotony of your day.
You will, of course, have to make sure that your internet connection and sound don’t suffer as a consequence.
Realistically, meetings aren’t likely to go away any time soon and as annoying as they can be it really is in your power (and interest) to make them work for you.
How do you keep meetings on track? What mistakes should others avoid? Share your expertise and insights with our readers.