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How much time do you waste in meetings?

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Who hasn’t been stuck in a long meeting wondering why you’re there in the first place, or when it’s going to end so you can get back to some proper work?

Done well, meetings are a crucial way for teams to gather, collaborate and solve problems.

But a new book, ‘Kill bad meetings’, suggests that people spend an average of two days every week in meetings, with up to half of that time wasted.

Ring any bells? Here are seven ways to transform your organisation’s flabby, lethargic meetings to lean, mean productivity machines.

1 Decide if you really need a meeting

Don’t just arrange a meeting for a meeting’s sake.

If you absolutely need to get everyone in the same room, it’s valid. But if you can cover a topic with an email or Google Docs update that everyone contributes to, you may not need to hold it after all.

2 Have individual chats instead

Rather than getting the whole team into a meeting room, think whether you’d achieve more with a few one-on-one conversations instead.

When it comes to getting feedback on an issue, often an individual chat with someone can work better than a group free-for-all.

3 Pick your time of day

There are certain times of the working day when people are more likely to get distracted, like just before lunch (because they’re hungry) or late afternoon (because they’re tired).

Studies have shown that people are most productive in meetings between 9 and 11am, or 2 and 4pm.

4 Set a strict time limit

Twenty minutes is about as much as the average person’s attention span can take before it starts to wane, so keep meetings short.

Having the pressure of a strict time limit means you’ll probably be more productive in that time, anyway.

5 Stick to an agenda

If your meetings kick off with no clear sense of purpose, you’re in trouble. That’s why it pays to stick to an agenda – whether you write it on a whiteboard, list it on a printout or cover it verbally at the beginning of the meeting.

It’s key that all your participants know why they’re there, and what needs to be achieved.

Plus, an agenda gives you a way to steer the conversation back onto what’s important if things veer off course.

6 Stand up

One way to make meetings naturally shorter without sacrificing their efficiency?

Ask everyone to stand up. Apparently banning chairs can cut meeting times by 34%.

When people are on their feet it keeps them engaged in what’s being talked about, as well as more alert in general.

7 Or just take a walk

If you’re planning a brainstorming meeting or general discussion that can do without paperwork or connectivity, think about taking a walk rather than being cooped up in a conference room.

A change of scene can be liberate people from the usual hierarchical work relationships.

Plus, getting moving outside meetings are a way for everyone to boost their energy and activity levels. This is especially important given that research by Public Health England highlighted the health risks of sitting down for long periods at work.

As we know at HR GO, small changes can make a big difference. So if you can weave in some extra exercise to your day while having a valuable catch up with a co-worker (and ditching the meeting room), why wouldn’t you?

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