How To Keep Meetings From Becoming Unproductive Time Sucks

How To Keep Meetings From Becoming Unproductive Time Sucks was originally published on Ivy Exec.

How To Keep Meetings From Becoming Unproductive Time Sucks

Meetings are an undeniable part of workplace culture. It takes people coming together to make great things happen, and meetings can be incredibly effective ways to communicate with a group of people. However, this is only true if they are done correctly.

Poorly managed meetings can actually detract from productivity. In fact, a study at the University of North Carolina that surveyed Senior Managers in a variety of industries found that bad meetings could cause a range of issues:

  • 65% of Senior Managers said meetings kept them from completing their own work
  • 71% said meetings were unproductive and inefficient
  • 64% said meetings came at the expense of deep thinking
  • 62% said meetings missed opportunities to bring teams closer

This highlights real challenges to conducting meetings in the workplace, as well as poor potential outcomes. 

So how can professionals keep a meeting from being unproductive? How can you keep meetings focused and efficient?

This article will provide a range of tips to keep meetings from becoming unproductive time sucks.


1️⃣ Determine if The Meeting is Truly Necessary

The first step to a productive meeting is determining if it’s even worth scheduling. Without specific intent or purpose, meetings can easily become a waste of time for everyone involved. In a corporate environment where asynchronous communication and technology allow people to be more efficient with their time, it’s important to fully consider if a meeting is truly necessary.

Before requesting a meeting, ask yourself:

  • Would an email suffice?
  • Do multiple people need to be included? 
  • Will a meeting provide clear action items?


2️⃣ Create an Agenda

If you determine that a meeting is necessary, then it’s important to create a structure for the meeting so that the most pertinent points can be addressed. Agenda items don’t need to be overly detailed, but a few important items and stated objectives can help make a meeting much more productive. 

Here are a few meeting agenda tips:

  • Share the agenda when the meeting is requested so that participants know what to expect and can prepare
  • State desired outcomes and identify how people will be expected to participate
  • Be concise, but detail the most important aspects of the meeting


3️⃣ Moderate the Conversation

While an agenda can help provide an anticipated structure for a meeting, it’s just as important to moderate the conversation to ensure that the discussion stays on topic. It may be necessary to explore an issue in greater detail, but it’s important to avoid irrelevant tangents or excessive negotiation, particularly for low-impact decisions.

Assign someone to moderate the meeting and help guide the conversation toward the most important items laid out in the agenda. Put time limits on sections of the meeting and do your best to keep things moving along in order to avoid wasted time.


4️⃣ Identify & Follow Up on Action Items

Even if a meeting is well-structured and focused on important issues, it will remain unproductive if there are no clear action items or decisions finalized. A successful meeting should pursue specific outcomes, reach conclusions on open items, and then set focused action items to move forward.

A follow-up email or reiteration of these tasks can help keep everyone accountable and ensure that the next steps are followed. It’s also crucial to ensure that it is abundantly clear who is responsible for completing the next task so that there is no confusion or delay after the meeting.


5️⃣ Only Include Necessary Participants

Transparency and information are valuable assets within the workplace. However, meetings that include too many people or irrelevant participants do not help promote transparency or share information. People who do not need to participate in a meeting in any meaningful way will quickly lose interest in the conversation while losing time that could have been better spent elsewhere.

If a person does not have anything meaningful to bring to the meeting or any specific outcome to take away from it, then it’s simply better not to include them. If the information on the outcomes of a meeting needs to be shared with a team, then this can be done by sharing a recording, email update, or meeting notes after the fact.


Looking for more ways to improve your leadership qualities? Check out IvyExec’s Online Classes for actionable advice!

By Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec is your dedicated career development resource.