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Why Meetings Are a Waste of Time

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Too long. Too boring. Too unorganized. Oh, and that one guy, he talked for too long. The reasons we find meetings wanting are many and The Wall Street Journal recently did us the favor of pointing out what many of us already knew deep in our bones--meetings are often a waste of time and a drain on productivity. 

Robert Pozen, the author of Extreme Productivity, writes that most meetings are not necessary--saying that a phone call or email can often suffice. In his op-ed on WSJ.com, he argues that a meeting meant to share information is rarely needed. Rather, meetings are most effective when they're about debating issues, developing new processes for solving problems and (extra emphasis here) short. Here are a few of his key tips:

1.    Don't attend every meeting to which you're invited. If you have a looming deadline, point it out and use it as an excuse to bounce out early. 

2.    Keep meetings small and succinct. According to Pozen, research shows that a group of five to seven is more effective at making decisions. As for time, he says there's never a reason to go longer than 30 to 60 minutes for a meeting. One way to keep it short, he advises, is to take all the chairs out of the room. People get down to work faster when they're standing. 

3.    Agendas are vital. Send preparatory materials out a day in advance. Give folks the opportunity to review the agenda and use the agenda to keep the meeting focused. If folks don't come prepared, make sure they know it’s unacceptable. 

4.    Who, what, by when? No meeting should end without assigning specific, actionable tasks to an individual--with a crystal clear deadline. Don't let anyone out the door until they're clear on what the next steps are. 

Pozen has more tips in his article at WSJ.com.

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(Image via Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com)

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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