How to Get Time Back!

I was reading an older issue of the Harvard Business Review and found this article titled “Stop Wasting Valuable Time”.

It had a great list of things we can do to be more efficient at work and make better use of the most limiting resource we have: time. I spend a lot of time in meetings, managing a fair amount of them, and I thought this was a good refresher on things to keep in mind:

  1. Deal with operations separately from strategy
  2. Focus on decisions, not on discussions
  3. Measure the real value of every item on the agenda
  4. Get issues off the agenda as quickly as possible
  5. Put real choices on the table
  6. Adopt common decision-making processes and standards
  7. Make decisions stick

This list addresses a common issue with meetings, where agenda setting is unfocused and undisciplined, often being a hodge-podge of items that different participants wanted to bring up. When we stop and think about it, I think we can all realize that meeting agendas need to be thought though, and prioritized accordingly. Some items simply don’t need the full team’s attention, while others may be urgent.

This leads me to the next point – urgency often seems to set the agenda, which may be good for an operations focused meeting, but this may come at a cost to planning and strategic decision making. If we are always focused on the hot potatoe, we may not leave enough meeting time to preventing the future issues from occuring. Allocating time among these is key.

Another issue I’ve noticed has to do with making sure everyone in the room agrees on what was agreed on. At times, this may be due to the team simply going off-course in the discussion, and never formally giving thumbs-up or down to a proposal, even though everybody agrees on what the decision oughta be. At other times, no decision was ever actually made. Or, as I’ve often seen, as the meeting time expires and people start getting up to leave, somebody we’ll make a statement “ok, so we have decided that.. “.

While it may not be always easy to manage a meeting room, it’s important to leave enough time on the agenda for the actual decision making, and ensure the final decisions are clear and documented. I believe that managing the meeting time effectively, can both reduce the time we spend in conference rooms, and improve a company’s information sharing and decision making processes.