As a freelancer who has gone back to traditional employment, I have realised one of the most frustrating parts of returning to “office life” is not the lack of freedom. No, the most annoying part of the job is all the meetings!
When I started back in the corporate world I found that for every meeting I attended my to-do list would get longer. It took more time to get back into whatever task I was working on before the meeting. This wasn’t just irritating, it was costing the business I work for in productivity.
Whilst I’m all for building connections and attending meetings that are necessary, it made me miss the meetings I had as a freelancer. There was a mutual understanding that time equals money when meeting with a customer. Both parties can ill afford much time away from the work that moves their business forwards, so the meetings were more productive.
So, whilst I couldn’t turn down the meetings I was expected to attend at work, I did try to adopt a few tactics from my freelance days with my own meetings. I adopted various tactics to make them better, and, where it was appropriate, try and make small changes to the ones other people had set.
Whilst it didn’t always work (some meetings have a mind of their own!) it has made me hate them a little less and helped them be much more productive.
If you’re bogged down in meeting overload, or just want to get more out of those you’re having (whether employed or self-employed) try some of these tactics:
1. Define the purpose
If a meeting doesn’t have a purpose, it’s in danger of going on for too long and you not getting out of it what you need.
The best solution I’ve found to this is to set and circulate an agenda in advance and spell out the reason for holding the meeting. Try to limit the agenda to a maximum of three points of discussion. Any more and you’re at risk of veering off course.
It sounds rudimentary, but having an agenda isn’t that common but it will make a world of difference. If you’re attending someone else’s meeting without an agenda, ask for one.
2. Limit the frequency
Meeting overload is real. If it can be done over the phone or discussed in a short email chain then why wouldn’t you do that? Think about the reasons you’re having the meeting (see step one, above) before you have it. If there’s not a clear reason, think twice before you send out that calendar invite or accept an invitation.
Consciously keeping the frequency down will mean the meetings you do have are much more meaningful and productive.
3. Keep it small
I’ve found that the more people that are invited and attend a meeting, the longer it goes on for. Everyone wants a chance to have their say, or have an opinion, which can be time-consuming. Try to get the vital people in the room and have them either bring concerns, opinions or ideas from others with them and share the notes and actions to the wider team afterwards.