The Efficient Workplace: 5 Tips for Better Meetings (Part 1)

It's commonly known that Americans are workaholics. We leave the office late, check emails on weekends, and even eat lunch while reviewing spreadsheets. We claim this is due to our desire for productivity and commitment to a company, but what if the reason is much simpler? There are everyday occurrences that displace our normal workload, leaving us with hours and hours of work to complete and not enough time in a day. The culprit? MEETINGS.


Easily one of the most disliked parts of a person's job, meetings steal away valuable hours of worktime each week. In a Harvard Business Review survey among senior managers, 71% of them found meetings to be unproductive and inefficient, with a large portion of those managers (62%) saying they're also a missed opportunity to bring their teams closer together. If nobody finds them useful, what's the point?

We all know meetings aren't going away anytime soon – teams still need to be updated on projects statuses, and consensus must be reached on big decisions, but there are definite solutions to some of everyone's most common problems with meetings. We'll cover some here and finish up in our next post!

Send out an agenda.

Planning what you will discuss does two things: first, it prepares your team for the material to be covered, and second, it keeps you on task. If you and everyone in the room knows the time is half up and you've only gotten through 3 of 10 items, you won't dawdle for the remainder of the meeting. Plus, someone is less likely to bring up an unconnected project if they know it's not intended to be discussed.

Prepare materials ahead of time

Will there be a presentation? Send out the file prior to the actual meeting, giving people time to familiarize themselves with the material covered, and suggest they present any clarification questions beforehand. Day-of, refrain from an actual word-for-word dictation of your previously prepared presentation, and keep your employees engaged by asking questions and prompting discussion.

Pare down the attendee list.

Have you made sure to include only the essential people in this meeting? Being invited to a meeting you aren't needed for is just like being CCed on an email, except it wastes actual time and often can be avoided. Jeff Bezos famously adopted a Two Pizza Rule, which means he only attends meetings where two pizzas could feed the entire group. Any more than that, and you're in inefficient territory.

Divert longer discussion into follow up emails or meetings.

Keep it moving – a few minutes of friendly chatter is fine to warm up the room, but any sidetracking later on is detrimental to the focus and efficiency of the meeting. With certain teams, it can be tempting to let the team go in the direction that happens naturally, but trust us, your employees will thank you later for not letting the room get out of control.

Work with meeting blocks. 

"Deep thinking," or the time spent at work undistracted and uninterrupted, is too often cut short by low-value tasks like checking email or attending meetings. Plus, a person often halts their productivity at a good stopping point, regardless of how much time is left until a meeting begins.  Think about it – the ten minutes before a meeting is often spent preparing to sit in a room without coffee or a restroom for an hour, or killing time for a few mins rather than moving forward with a project (without having a large stretch of time to dedicate to it). Employees may even be gathering materials for the upcoming meeting – they spend up to 4 hours per week preparing for status update meetings (that's 10% of their workweek)!

Try limiting meetings to a specific time block each day or week, giving your team an expectation of solid work time outside of that block. They will likely be more productive without having to plan around constant work breaks throughout the day, and can easily transition from productivity mode to collaboration and discussion mode.

More tips coming in our next post!