4 meeting time-wasters to avoid at all costs

Time-wasting elements are common to many unsuccessful meetings. Save time and money by tracking down and eliminating these four time-wasters:

1. No clear-cut objective

If you head down an ambiguous route to get to an unclear goal, there’s a good chance the whole team will be lost before the meeting ends. Even a basic agenda, along with supporting documents, can go a long way toward keeping everyone focused.

But beyond the agenda, can the purpose of your meeting be clearly stated in one sentence? This article from Forbes claims that you can save 17 minutes whenever you state your objective at the outset. Then gently remind contributors of the objective if their comments go too far wide of the mark.

2. Attendees with no reason to be there

Even effective meetings that accomplish their objective are time-wasters for people who didn’t need to be there. You can save one hour by declining an invitation to a one-hour meeting—if you know that your presence will not influence the outcome.

Are you the meeting organiser? The more people there are, the less productive most meetings will be. Cut the attendee list to absolute essentials. Business Insider reports that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a “two pizza rule.” Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn’t feed the entire group.

3. Disregarding breaks

Schedule breaks in lengthy meetings and stick to that schedule. Nellie Akalp, writing for Mashable, points out that our brains simply do not cope well with extended focus for long periods without a break. An hour or two of concentration will reduce most people’s mental sharpness, and the effectiveness of the meeting.

Avoid the mental fatigue by taking a break which is completely unrelated to the meeting itself. If could be a call to a loved one or a walk outside. Don’t just continue the meeting informally with a colleague.

How long and how frequent should the breaks be? That will depend on the gravity and length of the meeting.

4. Digital distractions

Career Builder reports on a survey where more than 2,000 hiring and HR managers blamed digital distractions as major productivity killers. 52% put most of the blame on mobile phones. So a meeting of, say, 12 people is likely to have in the room 12 phones, and likely one tablet or laptop per person.

Some organisations have gone so far as to ban electronic devices from meetings. People communicate better, and so the meeting doesn’t drag.

Perhaps the devices themselves are not the problem, but rather the urge to multitask. Fast Company’s Kathleen Owens writes that despite what workers say, they’re not getting real work done or taking notes during the meetings. The devices are often a means of escape from a meeting which they may deem unnecessary, or perhaps just uninteresting. When the meeting is concise, engaging, and collaborative, the devices will demand less attention.

Once you’ve identified and eliminated time-wasters in meetings that you convene, you will have prepared the ground for effective, engaging, and productive meetings. It just may be that you and your team will start looking forward to the next one.