I was asked recently how I created daily margin, or space within my day to fit so many things I’m working on. There are a few things that I’ve learned along my executive management career that help create margin to stay connected with individuals and allowing myself to tackle new challenges that come along. In my previous post, I talked about managing email; this piece will focus on meetings.
Meetings have the ability to ramp up your productivity, or to kill an entire productive day. Here are some tips in how you create margin in your day by managing your meetings differently.
Schedule them for an hour, but run them until they are done. Most of us use an electronic calendar, and when we schedule meetings with others we generally get the choice of a default 30 minute meeting or an hour-long meeting. I schedule most of my meetings for 1 hour; however, the vast majority never last that long. They end early — sometimes 30 minutes early, which means I now have margin! Just because you’ve scheduled an hour for a meeting doesn’t mean you need to sit there and fill that 60 minutes. If you get fully productivity for the entire hour, awesome. But if you are done working through the list in 40 minutes, then you both get 20 minutes of margin (that’s 40 productive minutes free!).
Create an agenda prior to the meeting. It doesn’t need to be a formal agenda, but you do need a list of topics to cover. Without developing a plan of what you want to talk about, it is almost guaranteed that you will talk for the amount of time for which you scheduled your meeting. Hit the easy items first, and save the items that will go longer —the “big” agenda items — for last.
Develop an action list of what happens after the meeting. The goal of a meeting shouldn’t be another meeting, it should be to get work done. If you are assigning tasks to one another, ask who is going to do that task and when it will be done. The more specificity you have in a meeting on tasks, the fewer meetings you will need for follow-up.
Document relevant decisions. You don’t necessarily need to take “minutes,” but with the amount of decisions that are made on a daily basis, it is hard to remember everything. Document key decisions so you can reference them later (instead of having to schedule another meeting).
Finish by asking “What needs to be communicated?” When decisions are made frequently, you need to communicate those decisions to others. Asking specifically who is going to communicate what from the meeting will help reduce the amount of follow-up meetings to communicate information. A lack of information flow, on the other hand, creates more meetings.
If you follow these tips, you should notice a big difference in meeting efficiency.
[This piece was written by Steve Huffman, former CIO at Memorial Health System of South Bend and Beacon Health System. To view the original post, click here. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveHuffman_IN.]