How often have you approached the end of your workday feeling as if you accomplished next to nothing because you spent the entire day in back-to-back meetings? Walked out of an unproductive meeting wishing you could get the past hour back? Or cringed as you glanced at an over-scheduled calendar bloated with meetings?
According to a recent study, the average organization spends 15 percent of its collective time on meetings, and roughly 67 percent of meetings are considered a waste of time.
As entrepreneurs, leaders, and employees alike, time is one of our most precious, finite resources. In order to be successful, we need to be very strategic about how we spend it.
Here’s how to take back control of your calendar and have more productive meetings.
1. Take your meeting to-go.
I was rushing off to record the audio for my new book, but I had a lengthy list of updates to discuss with a member of my team. So I asked if she wanted to keep me company on my brisk ten-minute walk to the studio so that we could catch up. Who says that meetings always have to be held while sitting around a conference table anyhow? Multitasking by having walk-and-talk meetings is not only a great way to make the most of your spare time; it’s also healthier, too.
2. Schedule for half the time.
Too often people schedule meetings with their default calendar settings. Even if your meeting only needs ten minutes, your calendar is blocked off for 30 minutes, and so you somehow end up using all 30 of those minutes. Meetings are fluid—they adapt to the container that they’re in. If you schedule only 15 minutes for a meeting that you’d normally book for 30 minutes, then you—and everyone in that meeting—will be forced to make the most of every single minute.
3. Always coffee, never lunch.
There are plenty of op-eds out there about why you should “never ask a busy person to lunch.” But I’d argue, for the most part, a lunch meeting is a waste of everyone’s time. If someone asks you to meet for lunch, cut that meeting in half by asking them to grab coffee instead. Nothing can be discussed over a chicken salad that can’t be discussed over a cappuccino.
4. Always begin with a purpose statement.
Every meeting should have a purpose. And that purpose should be stated everywhere—in the pre-meeting correspondence, in the calendar invitation, and at the start of the meeting itself. At the close of the meeting, restate its purpose, along with decisions made and any next steps. This will keep everyone focused and on-topic and ensure that you walk out feeling accomplished. If a meeting doesn’t have a purpose statement? It doesn’t need to be a meeting.
5. Have the meeting before the meeting.
One of the reasons we have so many unproductive meetings is because we spend the majority of the time discussing what we want to accomplish, figuring out what deliverables are needed, and hashing out varying opinions. So what do you do instead? Have the meeting before the meeting. Schedule a quick pre-meeting chat to make sure that all participants are aligned. Meetings should be about reviewing deliverables, not figuring out what deliverables are needed.
CARRIE KERPEN is the co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, a global content studio that was named Crain’s sixth Best Place to Work in NYC. She is the host of the hit podcast “All the Social Ladies,” a columnist for INC and Forbes, and author of WORK IT: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business (1/9/18). Carrie has been featured by The New York Times, CBS Early Show, ABC World News Tonight, FOX News, and CNBC’s On the Money. She has keynoted conferences in London, Las Vegas, Mexico City, and New York, among others.