• Deanna Perkins, Solutions Manager

4 Questions to Prevent Mind Stray in Meetings

We’ve all been there: sitting in a meeting that may or may not be necessary, but our mind is 1,000 miles away, thinking about the mountain of ‘real’ work waiting for us once the meeting is over. There may be some truth to the old saying, “If you want to kill time, the meeting is the perfect weapon.” Yet there are times when meetings are productive and valuable, and you do need to be there – mentally and physically. Before you send or accept your next meeting invitation, ask these four questions.

Is it necessary?

A 2014 piece from Harvard Business Review made a case for three fundamental reasons to hold a meeting (outside of general relationship building):

  1. To inform and bring people up to speed.

  2. To seek input from people.

  3. To ask for approval.

If the meeting serves none of these goals, it probably doesn’t need to happen.

Who needs to be there?

Every person in attendance at a meeting should be a resource, able to contribute through knowledge, experience or both. Some people are prone to falling into the trap of attending meetings just to feel important, but ask yourself this question, “If I was sick, would this meeting have to be rescheduled?” If the meeting could go on just fine without your presence, you probably don’t need to be there.

What’s on the agenda?

If the agenda is in someone’s head, it’s a problem. An agenda should be set in writing and shared with all participants. The more detail, the better. Consider allocating a set number of minutes to each agenda item, and make sure to stick with it during the meeting.

When participants know what’s on the agenda before the meeting, they have time to prepare for the meeting, can choose to attend only sections that are vital for them, and are more likely to stay engaged and present.

How long does it need to be?

Consider this: TED talks are inspiring, educational, informative and never last longer than 18 minutes. The short length is one of the reasons behind their success. We have a tendency to schedule meetings in hour-long blocks – maybe it just looks tidier on our calendars. But remember Parkinson’s law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Change the default length of all meetings to 15 minutes, scheduling longer when necessary, and you may be surprised at how much gets accomplished in a much shorter period.

Once you’ve determined the necessary length of time to fulfill the meeting’s purpose, make sure you start and end on time. This simple rule will help you gain favor with your colleagues because it shows you respect their time.