3 steps to more efficient meetings

Laura Sugden
Well-being & Health Coach

Nine out of 10 of us admit to daydreaming during meetings (who’s betting jobsworth #10 just wouldn’t come clean?). And anyone who’s tried to lead a productive meeting will doubtless agree that 25% of meeting time is wasted on irrelevant subjects. No big surprises there. 

Meeting productivity is a prolific issue—with more and more of our workdays being eaten up by meetings where very little seems to be achieved. But the act of having meetings is seen as essential.

According to Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science, management and psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, it’s down to the leader to make a meeting a productive success. 

Here are some science-backed strategies from his book, The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, to help you to boss your way out of a miserable meeting rut, and lead the way to meeting productivity.

1. Adopt a value-add mindset

When you call a meeting, think of yourself as a caretaker of people’s time. This will help you to value it more, consider who actually needs to be there, and hone in on what really needs to be discussed to make it a truly valuable and productive experience.

2. Create your own time constructs

According to Parkinson’s Law, tasks will find a way to fill the time given to them. Scheduling apps exacerbate this problem by defaulting to time slots of 30 minutes or an hour, and automatically suggesting meeting times to match. So, you end up forced into time constraints that might not necessarily make sense for the task at hand. Be a rebel—set a 17-minute meeting that starts at 2.11pm. People will be scandalised. But wait and see how productive those meetings are.

3. Stop talking (sometimes).

Rather than filling meetings with constant talk, leverage the minds in the room by using quiet group activities like brainstorming to get higher quality and more creative ideas that ultimately, make your meeting more productive.

“If you actually have people brainstorm ideas on paper (or on virtual hubs like Miro), as opposed to verbally, you will get nearly twice as many ideas,” says Rogelburg. “Brainstorming in silence allows people to be more honest. They don’t filter based on what the boss just said. And it allows for everyone to speak at once because you’re not waiting for that one person to finish their idea.”

You can hear the full interview with Rogelburg here, on the Knowledge@Wharton podcast.

Keen to make an impact on your work day? Here’s how to be a better communicator.