Do you find yourself spinning your wheels week in and week out and realize that you’re not getting the maximum return on your time investment? To be quite frank, we don’t always know what the return will look like, but we definitely understand the limited amount of hours available in any given week. Since we don’t always control the return part, the only part we can control is the time invested. As such, it’s really important to evaluate the amount of time we are willing to invest on the front end regardless of the potential return.
If you’re like me, my week is typically driven by a few standing meetings that account for approximately 10-20% of my available hours. Then there are monthly meetings that eat up another 25% in any given week. Add in preparation, drive time and meeting minutes and I can pretty much kiss 50% of my hours away that week. Sound familiar?
The reality is I cannot do much about these standing meetings as there is some value; however I can control how much time I spend in them. The busier we get, the more strategic we have to be with our time.
Here are a few tips on what I strive to implement into my weekly meetings:
- Take a hard look as to whether you really need to be at a meeting in person or whether you can just conference call in. If you attend in person, then work hard at influencing the agenda to get the high value items on the table right at the beginning in case someone needs to leave early.
- Show up a couple of minutes early to the meeting. That way, you can set the pace for the meeting and if you need to leave early (or on time), you can do so without any regret.
- Minimize the chit-chat. I like a good story as much as the next guy, but anything more that 5 minutes on the front end of the meeting is simply too much time. And the death knell is waiting until the end of a meeting to catch up on some personal story.
- Respectfully transition dead-end conversations by saying something like “It sounds like we’re not making much progress on that item. Given everyone’s busy schedule, let’s table that for now and move on.” You’ve done two things with this statement – first you got the meeting moving and second you let people know you’re busy and not to waste time on non productive topics.
- If you’ve covered everything in the first hour of a meeting that’s scheduled for two hours, then close out the meeting. Don’t bring up additional topics or feel compelled to fill the entire two hours if one will do.
Time is one of our most precious commodities. We need to use invest it wisely to gain the best return.