Make Meetings Quicker, Efficient And More Effective

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Closeup of businessman's and businesswoman's legs on the floor

A guest post from @htcoaching.
Meetings can be essential and productive, while often being unnecessary and a waste of time.

There are a few ways to ensure that they are the former as much of the time as possible.

Firstly, recognise that the time allowed for them is not always appropriate. It’s usually too long.

Meeting times tend to be scheduled in 15 minute blocks e.g. thirty, forty-five or sixty minutes. Ask yourself if there is any real reason for this, other than it fits nicely in Outlook or your Google Calendar.

As we looked at last week Parkinson’s Law ensures that however much time is allocated, it always gets used up. So ask yourself, how short can I make this meeting?

Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Secondly, when preparing for an a 60 minute or 90 minute meeting, you’ll notice that people like to get comfortable. They make sure they’ve got their hot drink and biscuits, or the cakes that birthday boy or girl kindly brought in. This in itself often means a late start to the meeting because of the queue at the coffee machine, or refilling the kettle.

The more comfortable people are in a meeting the longer it will last. So do reconsider the benefits of allowing meeting members to ‘get comfy’.

I’m aware that this might sound mean. But that’s because I can be quite mean.

Stand And Deliver

Thirdly, and this is to do with comfort again, why does everyone sit down at a meeting? At the end of a long day, when you’ve been on your feet since 8am or earlier, maybe it’s impossible not to sit down. But my suggestion here is to consider stand up meetings. (I told you I can be mean.)

It encourages swift, decisive actions while actively discouraging questions or comments that don’t inform or progress the meeting. Stand up meetings rarely go past the allotted finish time.

Does It Work?

These tweaks won’t work for everyone. And they’re guaranteed not to work for anyone who doesn’t give them a go! But for those who do try it out, what do they say? This is an email from a school where they implemented ‘stand up meetings’ after my Time Management For Teachers course.

“It was a very successful afternoon. Yesterday there was a buzz in the air and staff constantly referred to the practical measures that they had put in place; desks were clear; conversations short; our stand-up SLT meeting was swift (we all gained fifteen minutes from one meeting); many people realised they had measles and took to filing and being more organised; we’ve all eaten many frogs; emails were brief apart from a very long winded one which came from a member of staff who felt she was a good time manager and didn’t attend. The key point of interest seems to be is that we all have the same 24 hours in a day, how effectively we use it is up to us. Barack Obama is now our role model!” – Sarah Hair, Headteacher

This article was originally published in Iain’s email newsletter which you can sign up for here. Get get a free coaching mp3 when you sign up!

Who Is Iain Smith Anyway?ian-smith

My mission is to help great school leaders stay in the job and accomplish their career goals, without burning out.

I empower busy Headteachers and senior school leaders by coaching them, helping them to manage their mindset, energy and time. This ensures they can have lasting, fulfilling careers and meaningful influence on their pupils and staff.

I also write and deliver INSETs for whole staff, focusing on the evergreen areas that underpin the success of great teachers; skill sets and ways of thinking that don’t change with every general election.