I was asked recently how I created daily margin, or space within my day to fit so many things I’m working on. There are a few things that I’ve learned along my executive management career that help create margin to stay connected with individuals and allowing myself to tackle new challenges that come along.
Meetings have the ability to ramp up your productivity, or to kill an entire productive day. Here are some tips in how you create margin in your day by managing your meetings differently.
- Schedule them for an hour, but run them until they are done – Most of us use an electronic calendar and when we schedule meetings with others we generally get the choice of a default 30 minute meeting or an hour meeting. Most of my meetings I schedule 1 hour, HOWEVER the vast majority of my meetings never last the hour. They end early, sometimes 30 minutes early, which means I now have margin! Just because you’ve scheduled an hour for a meeting doesn’t mean you need to sit there and fill that hour up. If you get fully productivity for the entire hour – AWESOME, but if you are done working through the list in 40 minutes then you both get 20 minutes of margin (that’s 40 productive minutes free!!!).
- Create an agenda PRIOR to the meeting – It doesn’t need to be a formal agenda, but put down a list of topics that you need to cover. Without developing a plan of what you are going to talk about it is almost guaranteed that you will talk for the amount of time you scheduled your meeting for. Hit the easy items first and then the items that will go longer, or the “big” agenda item keep for last.
- Develop an action list of what happens after the meeting – The goal of a meeting shouldn’t be another meeting, it should be to get work done. If you are assigning tasks to one another, then ask WHO is going to do that task and ask WHEN it will be done. The more specificity you have in a meeting on tasks, the less meetings you will need for follow-up.
- Document decisions that are relevant – You don’t need to take “minutes”, but with the amount of decisions that are made on a daily basis it is hard to remember everything. Document the key decisions so you can reference them later (instead of scheduling another meeting).
- Finish with asking “What needs to be communicated” – When decisions are made frequently you need to communicate those decisions to others. Asking specifically who is going to communicate what from the meeting will help reduce the amount of follow-up meetings to communicate information. Lack of information flow creates more meetings.