When you look at your day, and all of the things that you do during it…can you quantify how much is done out of habit and how much actually uses brainpower to determine the next step?

Habit has great power over our daily lives…some good and some bad. There are many studies that go into the science behind habit.  A favorite book of ours, The Power of Habit by New York Times writer, Charles Duhigg looks at the patterns that shape our actions, why they exist and how they can be changed.  His stories and examples showcase how businesses have found millions of dollars of success by identifying a pattern and shifting the behavior to their benefit to make them a fortune 500 company.

Meetings are no different.  What are the habits, the repeated actions that create your meeting culture?  Are they productive? Are they working for you? How much of what takes place in a meeting is habitual? According to FinancesOnline.com, in the U.S. alone, there are over 11 million business meetings each day.  It is stated that the average professional attends 61.8 meetings per month…many reporting that over 50% of those meetings feel unproductive.

As a way to think through your meeting norms, we gathered a list of 7 habits that can evolve your meeting to make the most of everyone’s time, efforts and expertise.

1: PREPARE: Set a clear and concise objective for the meeting. Set the goals in advance and ideally provide any background information needed for the attendees in advance.  Perhaps you already do this (corporate meetings 101) but now is a good time to reassess and determine if this habit is a good one.  How can it be tweaked or evolved to work better?  What adjustments can be made to throw new life into the meeting?

2: FEWER, BIGGER, BETTER: Invite the minimum necessary attendees.  While inclusion is nice, wasting people’s valuable time is not.  Invite only the stakeholders that need to be involved to the meeting.  Smaller groups are typically more agile, it is easier to speak up and share ideas and attendees are better able to define responsibilities and next steps.

3: DO NOT MULTITASK: Leave the smart phones outside and limit distractions. Off-site meetings help to keep things focused because the change in environment is a constant reminder of the purpose.  In the office boardroom, one slight distraction often throws the meeting tumbling in the wrong direction and difficult to correct.

4: SET & KEEP TIME LIMITS: The best way to do this is to be disciplined in starting on time, keeping things moving and ending the meeting as quickly as possible. Setting time limits helps to keep the meeting on track and keeps distractions at bay. Additionally, people feel like their time is valued and often feel accomplished & energized when the meeting wraps up rather than drained and overwhelmed.

5:   CHANGE IT UP: Utilizing a new location such as an off-site meeting space, meeting outdoors, a new area in the office/building or rotating offices is a great way to keep the environment fresh. When the same space is used day in and day out, the messages begin to blend together and the purpose/objective may blur.

6:  ASK THE QUESTION- DOES THIS REALLY REQUIRE A MEETING? Avoid status meetings or team updates.  That is information that can be sent in a different way. If status meetings are really required, invite only the pertinent people to avoid wasting important time.  If the answer is…this can be sent in an email, do so.  If in-person time is needed for decision making purposes, adjust the objective of the meeting accordingly.  Let’s repeat, avoid status update meetings.

7: REVIEW THE RESULTS- When the meeting is complete, review what was accomplished and any next steps.  While this might seem obvious, it is one of the things that is missed most often. It helps the attendees to summarize what was accomplished and easily reminds people that their time was worthwhile and needed.

 

Those in the meeting business may look at this list and think of it as basic…but that is just the point.  Sometimes we have created bad habits around the basics of our meetings and they need to be adjusted from time to time. When listening to a podcast around the New Year, I heard the hosts ask the audience for new habits that they had created using their previous year’s resolutions.  One of the most powerful responses was a woman who simply changed her habit of hitting the snooze button in the morning.  She used to hit the snooze button on average 3-4 times each morning (this probably seems quite familiar to many people).  While her main goal was to just simply feel better when waking up because her 30-40 minutes of additional SNOOZE sleep was stressful, spotty and not good sleep.  When she started, she simply realized that waking up the first time made her feel less groggy and more energized.  That simple step led her to eating a healthier breakfast.  The healthier breakfast led her to feeling more energized and wanting to move her body and get exercise.  She started a regular routine at the gym during the same time she used to be slamming her alarm clock repeatedly.  One small change of a bad habit led to three new good habits (eating better, exercising more and waking up at a regular time).  What small tweaks to habits at our meetings can change the direction for a room full of people?