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While it might be of value to meet, it’s only the super high value meetings, the ones that contribute directly to your company’s bottom line and your well-being that should happen first thing in the morning. If those aren’t your meetings, then rather schedule them for late morning or better yet, later in the afternoon.
While making the shift might be tricky, you might be encouraged to know that it is certainly possible. While some companies I work with have implemented ‘meeting free’ days (an alternative to ‘no morning meetings’) others have limited their meetings to twenty minute time frames or implemented protocol to start their meetings at ten past the hour as a rule to minimise time stolen to pleasantries and grabbing another cup of tea. To help you and your company find your meeting mojo and massively boost productivity as a result, check out the following crucial tidbits of advice.
Get the team to reserve the first 20-60 minutes of every workday for your highest value, highest reward tasks. It’s non-negotiable. This will automatically shift meetings, and email checking, out to either a little later in the morning or better still to the afternoon.
Note: While this shift might not be the easiest to implement, my clients who used to save the afternoon for their #powerhour type tasks in the belief that afternoons are quieter with less chance of being disturbed, and have now shifted to tackling these tasks earlier in their day, have reported that they’ve gained the equivalent of an extra workday a week, as well as increased turnover, better focus, greater sense of accomplishment, less guilt and no need to take work home. All good. So give it a try.
PS: If meeting is truly of utmost importance, then that is your #powerhour for that day. Just don’t make it a habit and don’t compromise your time management by attending low value meetings first thing in the morning.
Alternatives to meeting in person
Working with an international team and from a remote office, I was kind of bullied into exploring alternatives to the traditional sitting down over a coffee, eye-to-eye, in-person meeting. Frankly, it takes some time getting used to, but then so does any change. Once mastered though, you won’t look back. Promise.
Contrary to popular belief, (and my father would be shaking his head and pointing his finger at me right now saying “In my day …”) and assuming you have your senses intact, you don’t actually have to be able to see, touch or smell the people you are meeting with. While I find that most people prefer meeting in person, with practice, alternative meeting options become as effective without wasting any time. And yes, you can build a relationship with someone, even if you haven’t met them in person.
Consider platforms such as Skype, task management systems like Binfire, Teamwork, and Huddle, WhatsApp groups (my least favourite but appropriate for emergency last minute checkins) and conference calling with GoToMeeting or AnyMeeting. Provided you incorporate good meeting practices as the basis of these sessions, you’ll quickly find your groove, save loads of time, get more done and be happy you did.
Meeting ‘best practice’
Regardless of whether you get numbers 1 & 2 above right or not, to shift from your ‘meeting first thing in the morning’ mentality, you might need to know what constitutes a good meeting (or not). Putting these ‘best practice’ ideas into action could be the catalyst for shifting your morning meetings out till later. Unless you actually like spending your day in dull meetings, resulting in more work and more meetings, scan this list for ways to get your meetings to work better. See if you can jiggle things up a bit.
Before even calling a meeting make sure you are clear about the aim of the meeting. What do you want to achieve? Send this objective out to your colleagues in an agenda before the meeting so that they know what to prepare or if indeed they are even the right person to attend.
The Chairperson is the person who is setting up/inviting and usually running the meeting. This person is responsible for generating an agenda that should be submitted to each delegate prior to the meeting, preferably at the time of setting the meeting and as an attachment to an electronic meeting request. Every meeting should have an agenda, even if it is only a couple of bullet points and a statement of the objective.
Invite the right people:
This doesn’t require rocket science, but how many times do you get this wrong? Inviting the right delegates to reach your meeting objective means you aren’t just calling a meeting for the sake of calling a meeting. If you need more than two people to make a decision then it warrants setting a meeting, otherwise go straight to the people concerned or work via email. If a key decision maker is required and can’t attend, rather postpone to a time that they can be present.
Besides a start time, make sure your attendees are also well aware of your intended finish time. Ideally you are aiming to reduce your meeting length; in most cases, twenty minutes is optimal.
I can’t tell you how many meeting rooms I work from that don’t have a clock. If yours is one of them, change that today. Besides including start and finish times on your agenda, include allocated times for each agenda point so you will be better able to keep the meeting moving. While your chairperson/facilitator drives the meeting, the time keeper keeps the meeting er, on time. You can rotate this role amongst your team.
Just cut to the chase and document a policy once and for all. Do you allow them in or don’t you? I’d suggest not, or at minimum on silent, no vibrate and stored in the centre of the table or turned upside down. A ringing or vibrating phone, or a colleague texting during a presentation, is a distraction to everyone and results in longer, less productive meetings.
Ideally everyone should be able to see everyone else with the possibility to speak freely and minimise hierarchy. While this might not necessarily be possible in your current set-up, it is something to work towards. For less formal meetings or small team gatherings, try standing in huddles, have a couple of strategically placed cocktail height tables, or having meetings on the go … “walk with me”.
Some people call this a ‘parking lot’; I like referring to it as ‘the hanger’. If you already have your agenda but things still go off track, your chairperson/facilitator can keep things on track by recording the thoughts that are not related to reaching the current meeting objective on a separate flipchart sheet or note. Think of it as a way to park/hang the idea or comment up for later, without interrupting your meeting or losing the idea.
Except for longer meetings, outcomes-based meetings are not for tea and muffins. These refreshments make you relax more, resulting in wasted time and longer meetings, it’s also not good for the budget. While we are on the topic, as one that travels a lot between companies and their various meetings and training interventions, high sugar and carb. snacks don’t do much for boosting employee engagement either. Think out of the box a little here, presenting your delegates with high protein and healthier options to sustain energy, instead of dragging them into a post-tea time-snooze.
Like the agenda, the minutes are usually arranged (but not necessarily collated) by the Chairperson. Instead of a meeting transcription, think of the minutes as a record of actionable items that an individual is accountable for. They should include specific outcomes and completion dates. It is the individuals’ responsibility to feed back to the chairperson (or whomever appropriate) as to what action has been taken, when.