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Productive meetings

When was the last time you walked out of a meeting and said, “Now that was time well spent!”? In the U.S., there are approximately 25 million meetings held each day. And collectively, organizations spend about 15 percent of their time in them. Is all this time being put to good use?According to executives, the answer is no. They reason that 67 percent of meeting time is not useful. Further, an estimated $37 billion is wasted each year on unproductive meeting time. Certainly, there is still a place for team assemblies and meetings; however, there seems to be room for improvement. Here are some tips on putting your nonprofit’s meeting time to good use to ensure its precious time, is time well spent.

Get the most out of your meetings

Organizations and participants alike can do their part to get the most out of meeting time. If you’re the organizer, provide an agenda in advance so participants know what to expect and how to prepare. Be sure to include and abide by start and end times. Also, be clear about which participants are optional and which are required—nobody wants to waste their time sitting in a meeting that’s not relevant to them or their work. And finally, be a good facilitator by keeping everyone on point. Worthwhile conversations that stray off topic can be put in a hypothetical “parking lot” and discussed at a later time. Consider keeping track of “parked” issues on a dry-erase calendar, displayed in meeting rooms, for easy recall.

Here are a few additional tips that can help participants focus and get the most out of meeting time:

  • Practice mindful listening: Psychology Today® describes mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present.” In other words, being fully engaged in the moment rather than daydreaming or succumbing to distractions.Students, teachers, judges, business leaders and more are practicing mindfulness to reduce distractions and improve focus. Whether learned through formal workplace training, YouTube® videos or apps, it’s easy to dedicate a few moments as it can be exercised anywhere. Consider practicing mindfulness ten minutes prior to meeting time—provide ear buds and cord wraps imprinted with a link to an instructional app, like Omvana® or Calm℠, and experience the difference in focus.
  • Quit multitasking: According to survey data, 92 percent of meeting participants multitask during meetings.Close to 70 percent check email, and almost half perform unrelated work, altogether. This is even more so for remote attendees, perhaps even more so, as they report difficulty following along, staying engaged and keeping focused.  If you’re in the office, try simply shutting your laptop and leaving your phone at your desk. If you’re remote, you may want to conference via video instead of just phone alone. Adding video reduces the likelihood of multitasking from 57 percent down to 4 percent.
  • Listen more than you talk: Time is a precious commodity—make sure you’re using yours to listen and understand. And, on the contrary, when you talk, you’re using everyone else’s time wisely as well. Beth Kanter recommends doing “meeting math” to compute your “air time.” Simply divide the number of people present by the length of the meeting to determine how much time you should take up with questions or comments. You may even want to hand out timers or stopwatches to keep contributors in check and to stay on task with meeting agendas.
  • Contribute with care: If you have something to contribute, be clear, concise and to the point. And of course, be relevant. If your point of discussion doesn’t relate directly to the meeting, it’s likely best saved for another time—perhaps even a one-on-one discussion.

Practice these tips and leave your next meeting with a sense of accomplishment. Give it try!

Dockweiler, Scott. “How Much Time Do We Spend in Meetings? (Hint: It’s Scary).” The Muse. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 25 Sept. 2015.

Cincotta, Craig. “6 Ways to Make Sure Every Meeting Is a Productive One.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 11 Feb. 2015. Web. Retrieved 25 Sept. 2015.

“Mindfulness.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 25 Sept. 2015.

Matta, Christy. “New to Mindfulness? How to Get Started.” PsychCentral. N.p., 01 June 2013. Web. Retrieved 26 Sept. 2015.

“7 Mindfulness Apps To Help You Refocus.” Time.com. Time, 04 June 2014. Web. Retrieved 26 Sept. 2015.

Kanter, Beth. “The Secret Sauce for Productive Nonprofit Meetings That No One Talks About.” BethKanter.org. N.p., 03 Sept. 2015. Web. Retrieved 25 Sept. 2015.

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