Life & Work Skills

6 Things to Stop Doing in Your Routine Meetings


Whether it’s a weekly catch-up session or a daily team huddle, all of us have some sort of meeting that sets the tone for the workday—and it’s where we need to dazzle! Yet it’s easy to fall into a rut, and you might be doing a few things that get in the way of having a successful and effective meeting. So here are six things to stop doing during those routine meetings, and you’ll find yourself much more engaged and productive.

1. Sitting Against the Wall

You know the drill: You head into the conference room and even though there is a near empty conference table, you grab a seat in the row of chairs lining the wall. Sheryl Sandberg has a great story about encouraging women to physically sit at the table and notes that often, because of our seating choice, we can look like spectators instead of participants at meetings. If you’re invited to a meeting, you have just as much reason to be on the front lines as anyone else.

So next time, challenge yourself to switch up the seating chart a bit and head straight to the main table. You’ll find youself even more engaged and ready to contribute!

2. Listing Only Your To-Dos

Your meeting may go many different ways, but it often includes voicing your current project list and what you are working on. When possible, consider shifting focus and instead contribute either the impact of what’s on your to-do list or what you need from others to complete the project. These discussion points come off as much more collaborative, and also make the best use of colleagues’ time.

In practice this might look like tweaking your normal to-do list rundown. Instead of saying you have a meeting tomorrow with the marketing team, add a bit more about why this matters and who is contributing. It may become something like this: “Tomorrow Diana and I are meeting to wrap up the last details of the ad campaign. We think we can save the company about $5,000 on this project, and would love to have someone from accounting sit in to contribute.”

3. Thinking Short-Term

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day office mania, so we often don’t allow time in our meeting to address long-term issues. It can be tempting to add a separate strategy or long-term planning meetings to our already full calendars. Instead, see if there are smaller objectives in the larger goals that you can break up and tackle during the weekly (or daily) meeting. Setting aside a few minutes for this makes strategic issues more actionable and keeps momentum up on long-term projects.

4. Leaving Without Action Items

Ideally, meetings should change how you view your workload for the day or what’s on your objective list for the week. These changes don’t have to be dramatic, but one way you can determine your meeting’s value and productivity is leaving with action items—but this doesn’t mean your to-do list has to grow exponentially. It does mean that you get creative with ideas about new initiatives or people to collaborate with.

If you don’t find yourself with any action items perhaps you’re not finding value in the discussions occurring. Try to engage as much as possible and think about innovative ways to turn what was reviewed into specific actions for you to work on.

5. Skipping Personal Connections

When we’re busy sometimes it feels hard enough to arrive to a meeting on time! So we often rush through the meeting’s content and dart back to our desks as soon as possible. What we miss, however, is the opportunity to personally connect with our colleagues. Perhaps make it a point to meander a bit after the meeting is over to ask a colleague how her weekend was or what’s on her project list. This goes a long way in building rapport! Remember, some of the most productive conversations happen on the sidelines of the main event.

6. Prolonging Unecessarily

Somewhere along the way, it was decided that one hour was the magic amount of time people needed to have a productive meeting. Not so! Some of the most productive morning meetings are those that happen as “huddles” with folks actually standing around together a few times a week to catch up on the essentials. Guidelines for an effective huddle include starting on time, limiting it to fifteen minutes, and saving problem solving for other specified meetings. Perhaps this may help your team focus!

But if a quick daily huddle feels a little too bold for your office culture, you still might benefit from shaving a few minutes off the longer weekly meetings. Instead of an hour, propose a time limit of 45 minutes. Setting the expectation for an even slightly shorter meeting can help create a sense of urgency and focus that makes the whole team more productive.

What are some ways you keep meetings productive for you?