June 4, 2010
How to keep meandering meetings on track
I've blogged about ways to avoid time-sucking, soul-quashing meetings before.
But how about those meetings you can't wriggle your way out of? How do you ensure these conference room confabs stay on track?
[Photo courtesy of Bring TIM! inventor Brad Johnson]
After working at a firm that started each Monday with a four-hour management meeting, Brad Johnson invented Bring TIM! (short for "time is money"), an office clock that calculates how much cash each aimless assemblage costs a company in frittered-away wages.
To use this device, you enter the average hourly rate of all employees in the room, multiple by the number of employees present, press the start button, share a few nervous laughs as the seconds (and dollars) quickly whip by, and then enjoy breezing through the most efficient meeting of your life. (Cost: $24.99 + shipping and handling.)
But you don't need a novelty clock to reel in such runaway engagements. Dan Markovitz, president of TimeBack Management, a time management and productivity consulting firm, offered these tips for keeping meetings short and sweet:
Set a timer for each speaker. It doesn't matter if it's an hourglass, a stopwatch, or a 4-foot-high image of a timer projected on the wall (as Google has been reported to use in meetings). "Seeing a countdown timer tends, like the proverbial executioner's axe, to focus the mind -- and the mouth," Markovitz says.
Think like a shrink. "Psychiatrists charge for 60 minutes but only see you for 50 (or 45 in New York City)," Markovitz says. "Slicing 10 minutes off of the meeting tends to keep people closer to topic by eliminating much of the verbal fluff."
Track meeting metrics. "Factory managers track the performance of a production line. Why not track the performance of meetings?" Markovitz says. To do so, he suggests using a simple spreadsheet to record meeting start and end times (actual, not scheduled), number of rabbit holes fallen down per meeting, number of agenda topics hit and missed per meeting, and so on. Highlight on-track metrics in green, problematic ones in red. The idea is to see where (and perhaps with whom) your meeting inefficiencies and overages lie. That way, you can take steps to rein them in.
How about you? What tricks for keeping meetings on point have worked for your team or organization?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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