5 Principles to cut your meetings in half and still make them more productive

organising worthwhile meetings

Many businesses, organisations and leaders have created a ‘meeting culture’ whereby they need a meeting to decide what they are going to be meeting about and then another meeting to prepare for the meeting itself and another to de-brief after the meeting.

Wow, that’s a whole lot of meetings going on.

Meetings are the killer of productivity and part of being a ‘productivity ninja’ is centred on valuing your time and the time of others. Small businesses tend to understand this better than big business, simply because resources are tight and time is scarce, but I have no doubt we’ve all fallen into the ‘meeting for meeting sake’ trap.

Now, if you’re in this trap and not sure how to get out of it follow these five simple, but effective, guiding principles on how you can halve your meetings AND reduce the time they take whilst still making them productive.

1. Challenge whether the meeting REALLY needs to take place 

How many times have you walked away from a meeting and said; ‘that was a complete waste of time!’

Maybe if you’d have challenged whether it was needed in the first place you could have got back a valuable hour or two. Start questioning whether meetings actually add value and need to happen at all.

2. Learn to say ‘NO’ to the unimportant things

OK, some meetings need to happen but do you need to attend? Can one of your team or colleagues attend and de brief you afterwards?

Sometimes in life it’s about learning to say NO to the unimportant things, so you can say YES to the important, value adding things.

Four questions I always ask myself when I’m invited to a meeting;

  1. What’s the purpose and objective of the meeting (this is linked to tip #1 and does it need to happen in the first place)
  2. Do I need to attend, what is my role / contribution?
  3. What value am I going to add?
  4. What value am I going to get from it?

Too many people fall into the trap of feeling like they are going to miss out if they don’t attend a meeting; ‘what if there is something I need to know?’.

They become a meeting junkie, always present physically but mentally somewhere else thinking about all the things they could be doing which are more important and add more value.

If you don’t attend a meeting and don’t get the de-brief you would expect that is not your failing. That is a weakness in the meeting governance.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone by attending every meeting and ending up being nothing to anyone because you have no time to do the important things.

Learn to say ‘NO’.

3. Always meet to an agenda

How many times have you turned up to a meeting and nobody is quite sure what it’s about or what you’re hoping to achieve? How do you know if you achieved what you set out to achieve if nobody knows what the objective is from the outset?

Without an agenda, you certainly won’t be able to implement tip #1 or #2, so before you accept a meeting ask for an agenda or include in the meeting request if you’re the meeting organiser.

In addition to an agenda, a ‘chairperson’, whose role is to keep the meeting on point, and a ‘time keeper’ to keep the meeting to time, should be appointed.

4. Meetings should always have a fast start and a tight close

This is simply about respect.

Being respectful and valuing your own time, but also valuing and respecting the time of others.

Put the meeting in your diary 10 minutes before it is due to start. That way you turn up, have time to get in the right head space and hit the ground running on time at the start of the meeting.

It is so easy to fall into the camp of ‘I’m always late!’ By adopting the 10-minute rule you take all of these ‘excuses’ out of play.

If the meeting is going to over-run, call it out early and give people the option to close on time with specific points still outstanding or agree a continuance. Just try not to make it a habit, reduce the agenda points if its occurring regularly.

5. Always ‘Close’ the meeting

I’ve attended a number of meetings where a discussion point came to a close and that was the end of the meeting. No summary, no next steps, no agreed actions. Everyone leaves and makes their way back to their desk…or their next meeting!

Now, if you haven’t been strict with tip #4 then the ‘close’ or summary will always be the first thing to go. Don’t let this happen.

The close is one of the most important stages of a meeting.


It’s where you ensure everyone is on point in terms of what you’ve achieved, what you’ve agreed and any agenda items outstanding. It’s also the point where next steps and actions are confirmed with action owners taking responsibility to deliver.

Depending on the type of meeting, Minutes and an action log may be appropriate as a follow up, but at the very least an email summarising the outcome and next steps. This removes any ambiguity as to what was discussed, what was agreed and what the next steps are, PLUS it helps the meeting junkie wean themselves from attending every meeting (see Principle 2).

Implement these guiding principles and reap the rewards of quality time in your diary for productive, big ticket, high value activities which will catapult you forward in realising your personal and professional goals.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Royston Guest, a global authority on growing businesses and unlocking people potential. He is CEO of Pti-Worldwide, author of #1 best-selling business growth book, Built to Grow and founder of livingyourfuture™. Follow his weekly blog at RoystonGuest.com/blog/

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